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A Rebours - St. Paul: Review of Lunch

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A Rebours - St. Paul: Review of Lunch

D | Jul 21, 2004 03:12 PM

I had lunch at the much-anticipated A Rebours today. Despite having being open for only 10 days, I think the staff and kitchen are already executing a wonderful menu very well.

First the scene: The outside has a storefront-like look, identifiable only by "A Rebours" on the glass door -- easy to miss as you walk by until you notice people dining in the window. Inside is a combination of dark wood, off-white walls and two or three interesting pieces of art depicting what appears to be empty bistros and cafes in the early stages of construction. The images mimicked what I assume the restaurant looked like while being built. The floors are a simple white mosaic tile with black border. It's comfortable, tables are spaced nicely and understated.

The lunch menu is as imaginative as the dinner menu I looked at last week. I was thrilled to see a charcuterie plate being offered as an appetizer, something I love, but which is largely absent from the Twin Cities dining scene. It consisted of a duck pate' (loaf, not spreadable), serrano ham, an espresso cup serving of pork confit and some tasty black olives and cornichons (little pickles). The plate was very generous -- enough to make a lunch when combined with the bread; and a great bargain at $8! The whole plate was excellent, but the pork confit was especially decadent.

I wish I were more able to memorize menus quickly, but lunch specials that I saw pass by included an orzo with shrimp, mussels, chorizo and saffron and a slow-braised pot roast. Without being caught, I managed to spy on the orzo dish at the next table -- it looked wonderful, with about six mussels (in shell), large meaty shrimp and bursting with color. A few burgers passed by, also looked interesting, and definitely an "upscale" burger.

I ordered the soft shell crab sandwich, which was served with the tops of three roasted (or grilled) asparagus spears, a sauce (like an aioli) with sweet corn, a tomato slice and covered with a leaf of bibb lettuce on an oniony bun. The flavors were delicious and the crab had a nice, fresh taste, although a bit small (I lived out east for years so maybe I'm just tainted to believe the crab's legs should be hanging six inches out the side of the bun). My only criticism was the bun was more to the crumbly side than "chewy" -- it didn't strike me as having been baked that morning. But overall, it was a satisfying sandwich with some unconventional ingredients (asparagus, sweet corn and soft shell crab...but it worked). Oh...it was served with fries -- fairly average, thin like McDonalds, sprinkled liberally with kosher salt (or similar).

Desserts are displayed in a small case adjacent to the bar and semi-open kitchen. They had a cream puff, a chocolate "roll" with unsweetened cream filling, a strawberry layered sort of cake, and my choice, which was an apple tart. I enjoyed it, although it had a refrigerated quality to it.

The server was knowledgeable and fairly efficient, and Michael Morse's presence and oversight was evident. I got the impression that they are working hard to put their best foot forward right off the bat (it IS forward in my opinion). The menu is inventive, ingredients creative and the space is lovely. For a place barely in its infancy, they are already on the path to being a premier Twin Cities restaurant. I can't wait to go back (many times).

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