112 Eatery — June 12, 2010

14 06 2010

112 Eatery
112 N. 3rd Street
Minneapolis
www.112eatery.com

Jim’s parents were up for a weekend visit, and we had been saving the 112 experience for their arrival. Stepping into the small, softly lit space on a cool evening, we noticed most of the tables were full and wondered where our reservation would place us. Luckily, the cozy ground-floor nook is just part of 112’s dining area, so – though it required a disjointed journey down a narrow hallway, up an old elevator, and around a corner where we had to flag down the hostess – we were seated on the second story in a room very similar to the one below.

An open ceiling baring wooden rafters, exposed brick walls and a second-floor view of downtown’s older buildings on a rainy evening provided a comfortably modern ambiance. Our table was small enough to be intimate, which was important for conversation in a noisy room, while leaving us just enough elbow room. And though the charming, uneven, wooden floor caused our chairs to wobble, we chalked it up to the room’s character.

Sipping cocktails, we munched on sampler dishes of soaked olives and coated almonds while debating what to order. The menu changes regularly, though slightly, so each printed listing serves as the nightly features. To focus on variety, we decided to share multiple appetizers and entrees in order to taste a good helping of 112’s menu.

So many dishes were worth raving about that a list is the only way to appropriately acknowledge them all.

Lobster in front, lamb at the top, and gnocchi on the right

Three appetizers

  • Lobster Dish: The chilled lobster with a slight hint of citrus was delectable, sitting over a mixture of a cream and cheese and sprinkled with microgreens. While the cheese portion lacked flavor, the fresh-tasting seafood alone made the plate a winner.
  • Lamb Scottadito: These small portions of lamb on the bone, slathered in a delicious  yogurt sauce with herbs and spices to enhance the already seasoned meat, lived up to the recommendations we read ahead of time. Normally three portions, the waiter added a fourth for our party… and we let none go to waste.
  • Pan-fried Gnocchi with Parmesan: Listed as a side, this plate was a delightful appetizer – the best gnocchi any of us have had. The dumplings were soft but not mushy, flavorful but not overly salted, and filled the dish — allowing all four of us an ample taste.

Two entreesa surf and turf combination, suggested by our waiter

Beef on the left and halibut to the right

  • Nori-encrusted Sirloin with Ponzu: Juicy pieces of steak were covered with edible seaweed and drizzled with an Asian citrus-based sauce. The meat was served alongside a dollop of wasabi, which was a strong, but awesome flavor pair when spread in small quantity.
  • Halibut with Green Fried Rice: By far the table favorite and evening winner, the flaky halibut was unlike any fish usually served at a restaurant: a flavorful filet that was crispy on the outside and tender in the middle. A small dish of creamy cucumbers added a cool crunch and flavorful herbs, and the rice fried with basil and various spices was not just an added starch, but a strong contributor to the overall dish.

Two appetizers, to finish

  • Asparagus with Tonnato: The only plate that I would gladly forget featured asparagus cooked to an ideal texture, but drizzled in a mayo-based tuna sauce that pooled on the platter. Atop the spears were lightly fried anchovies that only bolstered the fishy taste of each bite.
  • Boston Bibb with Herb Vinaigrette: Ordered to compare with a family version that’s hard to beat, this salad was different than what we expected. But the tangy dressing and cold, crisp lettuce were a fabulous way to end the flavorful and filling sampling we’d enjoyed all evening.

In summary, everything was done well: expert execution, tasteful presentation, and creative concepts that didn’t go too far for the sake of being unique. Our waiter was helpful; he knew the menu well, provided excellent recommendations, and carefully monitored our table’s activity so as not to interrupt our conversations. The small venue proved itself to be the prime spot for a special night out, a casual-yet-gourmet late-night nosh, or a pleasant evening to share with family or friends over some of the cities’ best nibbles. With every bite, 112 Eatery earned itself a place at the top of our list.

RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Ambiance/Environment: ♠♠♠♠
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠♠
Service: ♠♠♠♠

Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠♠1/2
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠♠

Total bill: someone else’s treat!

112 Eatery on Urbanspoon

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