Nicollet Island Inn — July 24, 2010

27 07 2010

Nicollet Island Inn
95 Merriam Street

Summertime Gnocchi beat us to the punch last week when it listed Nicollet Island Inn as one of the most overrated restaurants in the cities. We’d agree. But while the food was overpriced and the service quite disappointing, we were happy to experience the classic atmosphere and gaze at the Mississippi River while enjoying above-average food. Besides, we had a Groupon, which made the Inn’s errors easier to swallow (or, at the very least, pay for).  

As we headed in to meet our 8:30 reservation, much of entire metro area was lining the bridges in anticipation of the 10 p.m. Aquatennial fireworks show (life changing, we’d heard). With more than an hour for dinner, we aimed to leisurely take in dinner before ambling toward the water for the big show. Entering the large stone inn, we stepped into a stately waiting area with fancy couches and handsome wood furniture. Peering through to the dining area, we saw large windows that opened to the river and the historic St. Anthony Main district. Modern and sleek? No – but more timeless and bold than the old-folks vibe feel we’d gotten from the website.  

Bouillabaisse and Duck Confit


At 8:30 we were told it’d be about 10 minutes before our reserved table was cleared and ready, so we headed to the lounge to listen to the live pianist serenade the bar. Nearing 9:00, we were still waiting for someone to take our drink order and show us our table. Thirty minutes after our reserved time, we were led to our seats.  Jim ordered the most popular glass of Pinor Noir and I opted for a Merlot. We were both pleased with our choices, and split an additional glass of the Pinot when our entrees arrived. When it took another 15 minutes to actually get our wine and a tiny basket of bread, we warned our waiter that fireworks would be in our future – despite the late start (implied = their late start) to dinner. But as service dragged on, we’re not sure he understood.  

To begin, we split the outstanding gnocchi starter plate. The potato dumplings were made with cornmeal instead of flour, so they had a more textured feel and savory taste. Mixed with fresh vegetables, such as brussel sprouts, carrots, onions and asparagus, it was a light but filling summer dish. It set the bar high for the rest of the meal, though it turned out to be the evening’s top feature.  

Jim’s Duck Confit included a hefty leg of duck next to thinly shredded endive, a small strip of lardon – or fatty bacon – and a poached egg, while brioche baton (read: oversized crouton) added crunch to the plate. He enjoyed each part of the entrée, but it didn’t thrill – good, but not memorable.  

I ordered the Bouillabaisse, which came with an impressive lineup of mussels, several large shrimp and scallops, and pieces of fish all soaking in a tangy tomato broth. Though the parsley garnishes were over the top and the “baguette” on the side was a thin sliver of bread, the protein was deliciously prepared and the overall combination of flavors was pleasant. Compared to similar dishes offered at other upscale places in town, I’m not sure it could hold its own – though the price would make you think otherwise.  

At 9:55, we were one of the final parties still waiting for the check. After receiving another table’s bill and credit card, we finally signed off on our own ticket and briskly shot through the front doors. Within seconds, the light show began. Nicollet Island Inn wasn’t the big bang of the night, but we had great wine, a few good bites and great company. Overhyped? Yes … but oftentimes, so are fireworks.  

RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Ambiance/Environment: ♠♠♠1/2
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠
Service: ♠1/2

Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠

Total bill, including tip: $110  

Nicollet Island Inn on Urbanspoon




One response

28 07 2010
Azia’s (Possible) Second Chance and Morning Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

[…] status and possible salvation, Simple Good and Tasty is planning a pig roast and potluck Aug. 15, a mixed-to-negative review of Nicollet Island Inn, high marks from Teddy for the Seward Co-op turkey pepper melt, a thoughtful and often hilarious […]

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