–By Rosa Smith
Do yourself a favor.
Take a drive down westbound Franklin Avenue, past Lake of the Isles and turn left. Nestled between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, you’ll find Chef Don Saunders’ newest concept, The Kenwood.
With seasonal ingredients and rapt attention to detail in both the kitchen and dining room, Saunders and his staff have created a stimulating zig amongst zags in the Minneapolis restaurant scene.
Designed by Jim Smart (Smart and Associates) the addition to the Kenwood neighborhood has all the romantic charm of an East Coast bed and breakfast (minus the fireplace). The décor features walls covered in plaid fabric, hardwood floors, reclaimed wood tables, and button tufted banquettes.
Paned windows offer a view of the Kenwood Elementary School playground. While not a particularly picturesque view, the windows do allow natural light to bathe the cozy room. In the evening, overhead lighting is dim and accentuated by candlelight, making the space even more intimate.
If you’re looking for a full bar, you won’t find it here. However, the venue does offer beer, Dogwood coffee, and Tea Source tea, as well as a wine list that would make any sommelier proud.
My group walked in to a bustling dining room at the height of brunch. The lounge area is in the dining room, but not intrusive. You can order beverages while you wait for your table. We were quoted a 20-minute wait, but ultimately waited less than 10 minutes.
With an assist from Pip Hanson (Marvel Bar) the bloody mary is re-imagined. Made with red wine and garnished with cornichons and prosciutto, it’s perfectly seasoned. The red wine complements the tomato juice and other spices, giving it a unique floral note.
The namesake burger on a Patisserie 46 brioche bun topped with an over easy egg was a favorite at the table, as was the huevos rancheros, (which my friend wolfed down in — seemingly — one felled swoop after reluctantly giving me a bite). The salmon benedict on ryebatta was a bit of a disappointment. The amount of dill in the salty hollandaise could have been considered felonious assault on the senses.
We moved on to the cheese plate, garnished with mixed greens, cranberries, strawberries, and marcona almonds. It features a truffled pecorino, a Camembert-style triple cream, an aged goat cheese and delightfully strong bleu cheese.
Dinner was out of this world. Duck confit cigars wrapped in a crisped shell accompanied by figs and a light demi glace made for a perfect appetizer.
The savory pain perdu is a collaborative effort between Saunders and his Chef de Cuisine, Matthew Hughes. It is, by and large, one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. The pork tenderloin was cooked to perfection, accompanied by a bean ragout, serrano peppers and ham hock was also extraordinarily delicious.
If you have a sweet tooth, I recommend you indulge in the double chocolate stout bread pudding topped with coffee ice cream.
Food and service this outstanding does come at a price, but it won’t break your bank.
Now, please. Stop reading this, get out and take that drive down westbound Franklin Avenue. You’ll be glad you did.
–Rosa Smith is a WCCO-TV intern writing for the Curiocity blog. She is a senior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. You can follow her on Twitter @missikat