I hope you all were able to get out and enjoy Restaurant Week this past week! For the uninitiated, Restaurant Week is a quarterly happening promoted by MSP magazine wherein many places in the Cities and the surrounding suburbs offer a prix fixe menu for dinner and sometimes lunch. Most places offer three courses, but some offer only two and some offer four. Dinner ranges from about $25 – $35, lunch is usually $10 – $20. It’s a really great way to check out somewhere you’ve never tried without breaking the bank.
This time around I only made it to one place, Cedar + Stone Urban Table at the JW Marriott at The Mall of America. Cedar + Stone touts itself as a farm to table restaurant that showcases Minnesota’s local bounty. According to JW Marriott’s press release, all the ingredients come from within 200 miles of the restaurant.
A lot of places during Restaurant Week will do smaller portions and abbreviated dishes from the regular menu, but Cedar + Stone seemed to provide diners with the exact same dishes they could order from the regular menu. My regular Restaurant Week buddy (shout out to Caroline) and I walked away actually full, which is not always common during Restaurant Week.
Before I dive into the dishes themselves, I feel like I should mention two things. Firstly, Cedar + Stone looks like hotel restaurant. This surprised me because it doesn’t really advertise itself that way. I was expecting it to look maybe like an upscale Birchwood Cafe, but it really looks like any hotel restaurant in any fancy-ish hotel you’ve ever seen. Secondly, it did not smell nice when I walked in. I have no explanation for this because ultimately I had a really nice meal, but it smelled like an old restaurant that hadn’t been cleaned in a long time. Strange for a very new restaurant that appeared quite tidy. I was seated where I could see into the kitchen and nothing I saw raised any red flags. Maybe Monday night is the night before they clean the grease traps? I was relieved when my food arrived and was as tasty as it looked.
My first course was the Crispy Fingerlings. They arrived on a bed of chickpeas and a harissa aioli, and were topped with excellent Spanish style chorizo. I did not expect the individual elements of this dish to jive as well together as they did, but they worked perfectly. If I were to quibble, I would say that the potatoes could have been a little crispier.Regardless, I would happily eat this again.
My main dish was the chicken confit, which was perfect. It melted off the bone and into what Cedar + Stone call a sausage and white bean ragu, but is really more like a cassoulet. There was also a small potato croquet, which maybe could have been left out of the dish, but was delightful nonetheless. Everything was seasoned perfectly. I really love confit anything and nothing irks me more than when it isn’t done correctly, so hats off to Cedar + Stone for doing the thing and doing it well.
For dessert, I had this Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee with sea salt and creme fraiche. This was satisfying in that way chocolate is satisfying, but the sea salt didn’t really come through and the creme fraiche didn’t stand up to the intensity of the chocolate. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed, don’t get me wrong! I just think the flavors could be tweaked a little.
I also had a couple of cocktails. Grapefrukt (pictured at the top) was basically a French 75 with grapefruit and some ginger, though not enough. There is never enough ginger, in my experience. I neglected to take a picture of my other cocktail, Cedar Ave, which was a summery gin/rosemary/lemon affair that made me wish I was sitting by Lake Nokomis in July. Both cocktails were good, but not necessarily anything to shout about. That said, if you are at the Mall and find yourself in need of a cocktail, there are worse options than Cedar + Stone.
Overall I was very impressed with my meal and the service. The staff is attentive and pleasant, our water glasses were diligently filled, and our food came out quickly. I wish this place were closer to my stomping grounds in downtown, but it is a boon for the Mall. If you, like many Twin Cities residents, have out of town relatives who insist on making the pilgrimage to Bloomington, take them here. In addition to the dishes I had, there are also some great looking pizzas and a burger on the menu, so everyone should find something to their satisfaction.