Sanctuary

 August 29, 2012

903 Washington Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN | www.sanctuaryminneapolis.com

To be frank, my passion for culinary exploration has been the only reason for me to willingly venture into the glass and metal forest of downtown Minneapolis. This is not to say that I have anything against the area in particular, but as my wife will attest I do abhor the traffic and parking fees that come with a trip to downtown in any major city. I can, however, be persuaded to put these personal nuisances aside for the promise of a great dining experience – a promise that Sanctuary delivered on.

Located on the fringes of downtown Minneapolis near the Metrodome, Sanctuary resides on the bottom level of a small building occupied by several eateries. Parking is conveniently located in the building’s own lot, although there is a fee to be paid. Stepping into the restaurant takes you away from the feel of downtown and transports you to a private, cozy atmosphere. The feel of the restaurant is decidedly fine dining, but in a more relaxed manner.

Sanctuary features a special five course tasting menu from Monday through Thursday for $35. Having come on a Monday we opted for this tasting menu to sample a broad scope of Chef Patrick Atanalian’s food. Despite being classically trained in French cooking, Chef Atanalian’s food mixes together influences of French, Asian, and Latin cuisines. This is a unique combination of styles which was intriguing to me.

We placed our order with our server and prepared for the meal to come. Shortly after ordering we were greeted by one of Sanctuary’s co-owners, Naomi. We chatted briefly about the restaurant and the décor. It was very nice to have met Naomi and her personal attention to the diners at the restaurant was a definite plus to the experience.

House Bread – Toasted almonds, edamame hummus

While waiting for our meal to begin we snacked on some of the house bread, which is served with edamame (soybean) hummus and toasted almonds. The edamame hummus was light, sweet, and flavorful. I applied a healthy portion to each piece of bread. The toasted almonds were savory and slightly charred, adding a nice earthy contrast to the hummus.

Tequila Braised Short Rib Taco – Overnight braised short rib, salsa verde, queso fresco, yuzu coleslaw

Although we ordered the 5-course tasting menu, seeing the description of this taco on the menu led me to order it as a pre-tasting appetizer. In this we see the merging of Latin and Asian cuisines. The braised short rib was tender and delicious, full of great savory notes and just a hint of tequila. The salsa verde and queso fresco added a spicy, sharp bite to the taco. The yuzu coleslaw was an excellent refreshing element to help balance out the rest of the flavors.

1st Course: Heirloom Tomato Salad – Tiger tomato, mozzarella cheese, volcano sea salt, mustard seed oil

What appeared on the plate as a simple tomato salad atop a crostini unexpectedly burst forth with flavor. The sweet tiger tomatoes are fresh and delicious on their own, but the addition of sea salt and mustard seed oil really made this course. The contrasting salty, tangy, and sweet favors played well off the palate. The crostini underneath was superbly crisp, adding a nice textural element to the plate.

2nd Course: Chilled Strawberry Soup – Strawberry puree, honey, crème fraîche

After two very savory plates of food this sweet, refreshing chilled strawberry soup was a welcomed course. The sweetness of strawberry and honey pair nicely together but did not overwhelm. The slight sour note from the crème fraîche balanced out the soup quite nicely.

3rd Course: Mussels – Green lipped mussels, green peppercorn

Designed to showcase the flavor and freshness of the mussels themselves, this dish was delicious yet simple. The mussels were dressed in a slightly buttery broth, adding a light richness and fattiness. The green peppercorns added bursts of spiciness to the dish. While an enjoyable course, I did find myself wishing for an added texture – perhaps a sliver of crostini or a crumble – to balance the softness of the mussels.

Sautéed Herring – Green bean, wax bean, dragon bean, lemon pressed olive oil

The final savory course of the evening was this piece of sautéed herring with an assortment of beans. The herring was perfectly cooked, tender and flaky with a wonderfully crisp skin. I enjoyed the addition of the lemon pressed olive oil, which added a slight citrusy bite which brought the fish and beans together.

Raspberry Tart – Ginger whipped cream, chocolate rice puffs

For our final course we were presented with these raspberry tarts. The tarts were sweet, tart, and just slightly savory with the addition of the ginger whipped cream. The chocolate rice puffs gave additional flavor depth and a crunch to the plate. Although I did enjoy the dessert as its own dish, my only criticism is that it was a little reminiscent of the 2nd course of strawberry soup.

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My wife also ordered the wine pairings along with her tasting menu. Although I did not snap any photo of the wines, I can say that the pairings were well conceived. Each course came with an appropriate wine pairing which enhanced the flavor experience of the dish.

I’ve had Sanctuary on my radar for quite some time now, and after this experience I can honestly say I was disappointed that I had not made the time to come down sooner. My wife and I felt that the restaurant delivered admirably in all aspects of a complete dining experience – from atmosphere to service to food. I enjoyed the flavor combinations put together by Chef Atanalian throughout the tasting menu.In short, Sanctuary affords diners the opportunity to sample the fusion of various cuisines in a well-conceived, thoughtful manner.

Sanctuary
903 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415
612.339.5058

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  • http://twitter.com/WhiteBearGift Shawn-WhiteBearGift

    Once again, another stellar post! My god that food was beautiful!