As Jfood drove up route 100 to Victory 44 he kept thinking he had the wrong address or his garmin was playing games. Located in very northwest Minneapolis, this “neighborhood” restaurant offers some of the best and most imaginative food in MSP. It will definitely qualify as an “A-Lister” for Jfood and is worth the additional driving time from downtown or the south side.
The restaurant has two rooms. The left room contains a lengthy bar with a TV and some high tables, and the second room contains 10-12 square tables that, when combined, could accommodate larger parties. As a solo diner Jfood assumed his normal position at the bar in front of the TV, opened his book and waited for the fun to begin.
Chalkboard menus are located on walls throughout both rooms. The prices are an affordable $8-15 per course and the average age of the patrons when Jfood visited indicated that many 20’s and area residents view Victory as their go-to local watering hole. There are various beer offerings both on tap and in bottles/cans.
But Jfood was there to sample the food so many Hounds have raved about. Jfood was approach by a young lady behind the bar who asked what he would like for dinner. The 5-course tasting menu for $30 made for an easy decision. Then the young lady retreated to the open kitchen and began to prepare Jfood's dinner, she was the chef. How cool is that? During the course of the next hour Jfood watched as she approached each dish with calming, almost zen-like attitude, no sudden motions, just fluid and confident movements. She also brought each dish over to Jfood and spent time describing each component. After Jfood finished each course, he had a brief discussion with one of the other chefs and developed a nice rapoire with each.
Course 1 – Smoked trout dip with rhubarb onion sauce, capers, pickled onion and salted crackers. The first course was a great way to start the evening. This salty adventure included two small scoops of smoked trout atop two salted crackers. Perched on one side was half of a pickled onion and the capers were placed on the other side. Three drops of the rhubarb onions sauce circumvented the plate. The saltiness of the trout dip, the salted crackers and the capers were complemented by the acidity of the pickled onion and the sweetness of the rhubarb. It was a very nice balance of salt, sour and sweet components plus the smoothness of the trout and the crispness of the crackers gave the dish complementing textures. Jfood loved the onion and he cut it into smaller pieces so he could savor with as many different combinations as possible.
Course 2 – Beet terrine with beet puree, goat cheese, an orange slice, baby mesclun, with a drizzle of olive oil. Jfood has developed a fondness for beets over the last few years, truly enjoying their earthiness. The chef prepared the terrine by thinly slicing the beet and “stacking” the slices vertically, similar to a deck of cards on its side. You could peel several layers from the “deck” and design combinations of the other flavors on the dish. The chef added a small amount of salt to the mesclun and the single orange section allowed for a sweet component. This dish was also a hit for Jfood as he tried various combinations
Course 3 – Scallop with risotto, carrots, puree of carrot, puree of red pepper, peas, pea tendrils, string beans, and a touch of lemon. Let’s start by stating that the scallop and the risotto were prepared to absolute perfection. The single scallop was pan seared on one side allowing for a crisp texture and a moist texture on the other. The risotto had the perfect amount of bite to its texture, the carrots and string beans maintained a crispiness to both while the two purees lent a flavor and smoothness to the dish. As you combined the earthiness of the vegetables and the sweetness of the scallop, you added some the tanginess of the lemon. The flavors worked tremendously together and this was Jfood's favorite dish of the evening.
Course 4 – Sliced sirloin steak with papardelle with a garlicky butter sauce, fried shitake mushrooms and fried garlic. Perfection in the first three dishes was met with disappointment in this course. Although perfectly cooked to a medium rare doneness, the toughness that sirloin can bring to the plate was present. It was a struggle to cut the meat with the butter knife. On the other end of the spectrum, the pasta was overcooked and mushy. In addition the sauce was not a pleasant al fredo interpretation. The only part of the dish that was enjoyable was the deep fried shitake mushroom. Jfood would recommend that this recipe undergo a major revision. One of the other chef’s approached Jfood when he finished and they discussed the steak and Jfood felt that his feedback was not a surprise to him.
Course 5 – A mélange of small pieces of sliced cookie dough, brownie, citrus meringue all in a swirl of marshmallow fluff. The two itzy-bitzy sized pieces of cookie dough and the chocolate brownie were excellent, and the citrusy meringue was a nice palate cleaner. The swath of marshmallow fluff was a bit overwhelming and a little less would have been a little more from Jfood's point of view. It was a very pleasant ending, so he thought, to an extremely pleasant meal.
As he started back to his book he thought he may detour to Izzy’s for a nightcap, maybe some coffee heath bar in a waffle cone to finish the evening. But the chefs had a different plan in mind. Why? He really does not know, maybe it was the various discussion Jfood had when each course was presented or the discussion and feedback he gave after each course, but as Jfood was about to ask for the check an 8” by 18” plate was placed in front of Jfood and it carried enough dessert samples for a table of four. It looked like Jackson Pollack meeting Ace of Cakes.
Course L’Extra – The plate contained samples of tres leches cake, lemon squares, diced rhubarb, sticky chocolate mousse, a brownie, some deconstructed strawberry shortcake, lemon curd, and a before/after cake that was presented as a slice of cake batter plus a cooked piece.
The highlights of the dessert platter were the sticky chewy chocolate mousse which was a piece of heaven and the deconstructed strawberry shortcake. The latter was comprised of shortcake biscuits with sweet whipped cream and sweet strawberries. Jfood also liked the before/after cake and the rhubarb gave the whole platter a different level of sweetness. What an end to a meal and thoughts of Izzy’s exploded from Jfood's near term desires.
Jfood first trip to this section of MSP was a great success. The calm and interactive staff was fantastic, the food was great, the people that surrounded Jfood at the bar were relaxed without any tension or pretense and the value was better than any restaurant Jfood has visited. After the first three courses, Jfood was ready to give Victory 44 the “great” accolade, but it had some issues after the scallop course. Based on the first three courses, Jfood would definitely place Victory 44 as one of the Top 10 he has visited in MSP, and he will re-visit in a few weeks because he thinks this restaurant should be a Top 10, if not Top 5 addition to Jfood's rotation.
photo of beet, scallop and sirloin
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
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