Casserole gone contemporary

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June 7, 2010 // UPDATED 8:44 am - June 7, 2010
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar

Only in Minnesota. What we have here is a hybrid: Take grandma’s church supper casserole, deconstruct its elements and refashion them as fancy, fit-for-a-gourmand fare — Haute Dish.

In the art world, it would be like taking an idyllic Grant Wood landscape and letting Picasso have at it.

Yeah, right, you’re probably sniffing: I should spend my hard-earned money on some ego-chef’s experiments?

Yes, you should. The results are profoundly creative but not “art for the sake of art”— in other words, disarmingly yummy. And attractive. The four young partners behind the Warehouse District’s newly-launched destination (housed in the former Café Havana) are industry nouveaux, with more stars in their eyes than cash in their pockets — and that, in itself, is exciting. Clearly they haven’t called in an uber-architect to redesign the space, letting the architecture on the plate make the statement. Plus, those on the drinks list, which blissfully includes a number of craft beers on tap you won’t find up and down the avenue and a unique selection of Kentucky Bourbons, the largest (and only?) in town.

The talked-about menu item is the Duck in a Can, at $33 a little beyond our Monday night budget, so we steered to the many intriguing items at half the price. We started with Steak & Eggs, and I’d recommend you do the same. Instead of medium-rare and over easy, the beef is served tartare-style, ground, raw, and robustly seasoned, ready to slather on bread. The egg appears “in a hole,” U.K.-style, but here centered in beyond-rich and tasty brioche. The bonus on the platter is a shooter of tomato water with a raw oyster at the bottom. Alas, the critter came coated in chopped sweet pickles, a big mistake. We also shared the Med Platter, a meal in itself composed of elite veggies, olives, a lovely, custardy round of cheese and pita (apps $6–13).

Then on to the Middle Course. Unfortunately, our order of creamed peas on toast got lost in the byways of the kitchen, but next time: smoked sturgeon partnered with morels, pecorino cheese and herbs. We were also tempted by mac & cheese, here gentrified by stuffing crab into pasta tubes (somebody has too much time on his hands?) and topping the dish with taleggio cheese and truffle oil. Or General Tsu’s Sweetbreads, explained to us as just as “original” as the omnipresent General Tsu’s Chicken (in other words, not) —this time featuring fried rice mined with pate de foie gras and, um, sweetbreads (meal-size Middles $10–14).

Instead, onto the Lasts, which anyone else would call Mains ($15–33). Both our entrees proved winners. First, the Tater Tot HauteDish, composed of succulent, insanely tender short ribs in rich jus aside a mighty mound of haricots verts (those Supermodel-skinny green beans), forest-flavored porcinis and “tots” composed of white sauce with a lode of melty cheese in the center. Divine!

So was the chicken & dumplings —juicy breast meat surrounded by tender ricotta gnocchi (dumplings, get it?), bits of artichokes and, what’s this? Odd but welcome: a softboiled egg to flavor the whole darn plate.

(Editor's note: This story has been revised to correct the number of business partners involved in the restaurant.)

Haute Dish

119 Washington Ave. N.