Piccolo

 August 14, 2012

4300 Bryant Ave. S Minneapolis, MN | www.piccolompls.com

Nearly two years ago, through the generosity of a friend, I was able to experience what I will always consider to be my first true foray into modern haute cuisine. That particular meal was an introduction into the greater world of culinary art. It sparked the interest to further develop my palate and broaden my understanding of food. Since then I’ve had the fortune of having several similarly revelatory meals. While I’ve eaten many a great plate here in the Twin Cities, my recent meal at Piccolo was the first in my new home to have that same spark.

Creative. Unassuming. Delicious – These are the words that I would choose to describe Piccolo. The restaurant is small, open, and inviting. No big fancy open kitchen, no eye catching lighting, no loud music. Just a simple dining room, a few paintings, and some wine bottles. The real allure of Piccolo is hidden in the kitchen. That is where Chef Doug Flicker does an incredible job of preparing creative, delicious dishes that make for an excellent dining experience.

Inside Piccolo – A small, simple dining room.

I could go into detail about the menu format at Piccolo, but I think that this blurb from Piccolo’s website sums it up beautifully:

More than any other restaurant in Minnesota, Piccolo’s cuisine is focused on quality over quantity, putting what is seasonal and creative ahead of what is safe and familiar. We believe in changing our menu frequently, buying locally and seasonally whenever possible, and putting a significant amount of time and devotion into each beautifully presented plate. The menu is designed to allow guests a chance to create a different dining experience with each visit, pairing risk with reward.

Just a few additional notes: Piccolo’s menu is structured as a presentation of “small plates”. As the menu flows from top to bottom, the plates generally go from light to heavy, ending with dessert at the bottom. The menu at Piccolo rotates frequently. The only dish that has remained constant since its opening is the Scrambled Brown Eggs & Pickled Pigs Feet (for good reason, which we will get into shortly).

After ordering a nice sampling of the menu, there was nothing more to do but wait.

Watermelon “Gazpacho” – Chèvre, radishes, chevril, olive oil jelly

Chef Flicker demonstrates his commitment to beautiful presentation from the very first plate that arrives. A somewhat deconstructed dish, this plate features segments of watermelon that have been compressed with the traditional flavors of gazpacho. The watermelon is fresh and bright. The sharp bite of the chèvre complements the watermelon very nicely. The olive oil jelly serves to add just the slightest touch of fat to the plate. While I did feel that the flavor of gazpacho could have been a little more prominent in the compressed watermelon, the overall dish was well executed.

Scrambled Brown Eggs & Pickled Pig’s Feet – Truffle butter, parmigiano

As mentioned before this is the only dish that has remained constant on Piccolo’s menu since its opening. The eggs were perfectly scrambled and luxurious in texture. The addition of truffle butter and parmigiano added another level of exemplary richness to the egg. The pickled pigs feet were surprisingly understated, but added just the right touch of acidity and bite to cut through the richness of the rest of the dish. I enjoyed this plate very much and will most certainly order it on subsequent visits.

Halibut Cheeks – Artichoke, Portuguese blood sausage, Manila clams, sea beans

With a protein as delicate as halibut cheek it is quite easy for a chef to go overboard with the accompanying ingredients and mask the flavor of the cheek itself. Chef Flicker allowed the sweetness of the halibut to shine despite pairing it with something as bold as blood sausage. The fish was cooked perfectly: crisp on the outside, tender and flaky within. The sea beans added a great crunchy texture to each bite.

Duroc Pork Hock – Swiss chard, chanterelle mushrooms, sweet corn hush puppy

With a crispy exterior and tender meat within, this presentation of pork hock was delicious. The slight fattiness of pork, earthiness of the chanterelle mushrooms, and sweet corn of the hush puppy all come together to form a mouthful of delightful flavor.

Wagyu Ribeye Cap – Colatura flavored celery gel, roasted beets, summer truffle and marrow vinaigrette

The most luxurious dish of the evening was this plate of Wagyu ribeye beef. The beef is perfectly prepared. The succulent beef is so tender and buttery it can stand alone when cooked properly. The colatura gel added some additional savoriness, while the beets introduced a slight sweetness. The summer truffle and marrow vinaigrette elevated the dish even further by giving it greater richness and a very slight tangy bite.

Smoked Whitefish “Mortadella” – Baby beets, sour cream, crackers, mustard

The final plate of the evening showcases a “sausage” of smoked whitefish. The fish sausage was slightly crisped on the edges and had a great, subtle smokey flavor. The sour cream and mustard played off nicely with each other against the smokey fish, adding some acidity to the palate. This was a beautiful and delicious end to a great meal.

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As I said in the beginning of this post – This was the first meal I’ve had thus far in the Twin Cities that had all the elements of modern cuisine that fuel my passion for food. The food is well prepared, creative, and undoubtedly well presented. I think that Chef Flicker demonstrates great skill and confidence in his decision to constantly rotate his menu. Everything that I had during this visit exemplified the statement I quoted earlier. The menu certainly does focus on the “seasonal and creative” above what is “safe and familiar.” I can see where the menu format might make a few would-be diners wary. But as Piccolo’s website says, it is done this way to “pair risk with reward.” After spending some time eating at Piccolo and gaining a first hand understanding of Chef Flicker’s cuisine, I can honestly say that the reward is most certainly worth the risk.

Piccolo
4300 Bryant Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55409
612.827.8111

Piccolo on Urbanspoon

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