Spoon and Stable

211 N 1st St. Minneapolis, MN 55401(612) 224-9850 •  spoonandstable.com

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The food scene in The Mini Apple has officially arrived. Not that there haven’t been gems here and there over years. But now the level of the game has risen so high, at so many restaurants, that I can safely say that Minneapolis can compete with almost any city I’ve ever been to.

Case in point, on a Monday friggin’ night, this place had an hour wait and not an empty seat at the bar. And for good reason. The chef, Gavin Kaysen, is James Beard winner and a former disciple of Daniel Boulud. But not only did he learn a thing or two from Danny Boy, judging from the décor, he picked up a few tricks from Jean-Georges as well, because this place is tres chic. On old horse stable from 1906 turned to gold with white brick walls, wrought iron details, a divided light wine cellar in the center of the dining room, and a long wood bar overlooking the kitchen as a unique twist on a chef’s table, which is where we sat.

Beyond having front row seats to an episode of Iron Chef, the other plus to sitting there is that you not only get recommendations from the waiter, but from the cooks as well. And to quote Quagmire “Giggity, giggity!” were they spot on with their suggestions.

The first reco being a dish we would’ve never thought to order in a million years, yet turned out to be the best of the night, the Autumn Vegetable salad. The centerpiece is an orgasmic disc of squash placed over a bed of spelt berries, pecans and figs that were marinated in red wine vinegar and cloves all pampered in a buttermilk dressing. Need to add this one to Ultimate Salad.

The other recommended starter was pretty damn great too. A bison tartar folded into a harissa aioli and topped with cilantro and radishes. Then served with socca chips as your utensil for piling on the remarkably seasoned meat.

For entrees I had to go with the lamb shank since wifey don’t play that, and while good, it was definitely the most mortal dish of the evening. Fall off the bone moist, and served with yellow eye beans, artichokes and an herb salad that was a bit junipery. The other entrée, however, was a marvel of pasta technological advancement. The Raviolo al Uovo is a single, softball-sized ravioli that contains a sunny side egg inside it! And its magnificence is only magnified by its preparation, with Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, pecorino and brown butter.

Even the side dish was wow-worthy taking an old staple like creamed spinach and making it new again with the addition of a Midwestern guilty pleasure, fried cheese curds.

And finally, the pumpkin custard dessert was an awesome seasonal finish to a meal that won’t soon be forgotten. The custard itself being just okay, but when you had with the apple cider sherbet and the candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds)- look out!

Just eat here already would you! So I don’t have to keep going on and on about it. And I’m not just saying all of this because of the Willet bourbon and Amarone are making me all lovey-dovey. Although it is helping.

5 teeth

Kabuk

Merkez Mh., Tilkicik Cd., 48990 Bodrum, Turkey • +90 252 385 5431 • kabukrestaurant.com

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Having read a glowing article about Kabuk, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to try something new, away from the scene (and the squawking parrots) that has become the Yalikavak Marina. And I have to say, box checked. The setting is tastefully done, set back from the waterfront, but still overlooking the sea with a beautiful trellis and strung lights overhead.

The attention to detail doesn’t stop there either with their starfish embroidered table linens, solid wine list and inventive cocktails such as their frozen, blended-to-order peach belini and an “interesting” wasabi martini made with Russian Standard and complete with a strip of seaweed floating on the surface.

Come the food, they start by offering up what appears to be an amuse bouche (more on this later) of grilled jumbo shrimp and a basket of bread with a wonderful herbed dipping oil. Not only does it make the bread sing, it makes the shrimp dance as well.

After that came the Kabuk salad made light and refreshing with the addition of fresh chunks of peach. Definitely recommend this as it is the only solace from shellfish on menu, between the bread and dessert.

As for the shellfish options, while extremely pricey, I also thought they were very good for being non-Turkish preparations. The tagliatelle with langoustines was nailed- granted the plural billing of this dish is a bit of an over-promise because there was only half of one langoustine. But at least it was perfectly cooked with a killer kickin’ red sauce.

So Italian done, but what about Spanish? Well, I’ve definitely had better paella’s but I’ve also had worse. And I hate to say it, but Kabuk topped the master himself, Thomas Keller, because the paella at Ad Hoc was pathetic. I also like the presentation, served in a paella pan (of course), but over an open flame with a giant wooden rice spoon.

For the grand finale, the pumpkin sorbet presentation is insane! Served as a flaming sorbet mountain, they carve each portion off of the summit for your amusement. And while all of this pomp and circumstance seems like it might’ve been with the agenda of distraction, the sorbet was actually pretty darn good.

Riding high now on the four knife express, suddenly things went off the rails. The check came. And while we knew the place was pricey (hell, the crab legs on the menu were 780 TL!!! That’s $275 US!!! ), the bill seemed a bit higher than our order, drawing attention back to the “amuse bouche,” which was ringing in at a whopping $9 per shrimp! Now, I’m not exactly one to wince at paying through the nose for food, after all, I’m used to dropping coin at Keller, Barber and Boulud restaurants, but when you present something as if it’s courtesy of the chef, you are misrepresenting things if you then intend to charge for it. Plus, to charge that kind of price for overcooked, under-seasoned shrimp that only tasted worthy with the help of the herbed oil (intended for the bread), then you’ve got some serious balls.

But not only did Kabuk go sleazy on this move, they doubled down on the sleaze when we brought it up to the manager, who made us feel like we were being cheapskates as opposed to taking any ownership in the miscommunication. So much for “the customer is always right.” And so much for four knives, because that definitely cost them one. It will also cost me ever going there again. Or recommending that you should ever go there either. However. to sandbag Kabuk with one or two knives is a bridge too far. I’d be pulling the amateur shit I hate so much about Yelp reviewers, so I refuse go there. I enjoyed the meal. Just not the ending. Sort of like the movie Heat, in restaurant form. So three knives it is… but with a ginormous asterisk.

3 teeth

Daniel

60 E 65th St. New York, NY 10065  (212) 288-0033danielnyc.com

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There are so many NYC restaurants that become so hyped that it is virtually impossible to live up to the expectations you have when you walk in the door. Fortunately for me, my expectations were kept in check by a few nay-sayers, which Daniel seems to have its share of.

That said, my experience lived up in spades. First, I actually found the decor to be quite a step up form many of its peers. The dining area is MUCH nicer than Per Se, Jean-Georges & Bouley. And the table we had was amazing, looking out over the entire room.

The canapes were just okay but four out of the six courses were excellent. From the unbelievable short ribs to the duck terrine to the Dover sole and lastly, to the finale, a chocolate, caramel, peanut volcano– Just incredible. Now, I know a lot of people expect that everything should be excellent at a place like this and for prices like these it probably should be, but that’s seldom been my experience and 4 of 6 is pretty damn good.

We also had the wine pairings which I highly recommend. The only one that seemed a touch off was the Dover sole, but so many were spot on and only made the meal that much more special.

And last but not least, the service. This might be my only major nit and I’ve seen other people say it too- The staff really comes off as if they are trying SO hard to be perfect- But they most certainly are not. Reaching across the table, dropping things, taking your plate before you’re done- They need to hire the guy who trains servers at Thomas Keller restaurants.

But apart from that- a must for high-end foodies. Easily one of the top ten meals in NYC.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Molten Lava Cake

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Daniel – New York, NY

I’m not sure how this managed to force it’s way onto my Ultimates list, because I really don’t like peanut butter desserts. Yet, despite my long-standing hatred for their kind, Daniel managed to show me the light. Granted, it certainly didn’t hurt that it was housed within a rich, gooey, chocolaty and caramel-y casing, but well played Mr. Boullud. Well played.

Sushi Roku – Santa Monica, CA

I have been coming to Roku for decades and for decades they have been serving up one of the finest ends to a meal anyone could wish for. So, all you molten chocolate volcano posers out there, listen and learn from the master of chocolate lavadom. To start, the shell of the volcano is paper thin. Too many volcanoes wind up bready and thick and so the cake part overwhelms the gooey “lava,” leaving you with a chocolate tear drop as opposed to the gusher it should be.

Now, if it was just a bunch of gooey liquid chocolate lava everywhere that wouldn’t exactly work either, so these clever little bastards also stick little bits of cocoa bean into the lava, and let me tell you, when you get a bite of one of those- you’ll wish you were a cow and had four stomachs so you could enjoy it 4 times over.

Then, they serve it with this terrific, creamy vanilla bean ice cream and a few berries as garnish. Both of which complement this dish like Jerry Mcguire to Renee Zellweger.