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[MSP] New Alma Report (long)

shameless | Sep 28, 200512:15 PM

Per the list recommendation I went to Alma last night and I have to say I was gravely disappointed. I thought the menu was imaginative, but the ingredients were not that high quality and the implementation was just plain poor. Sorry for the length of the post, but it seems like so many on this list have raved about it, that it needed a detailed account.

First course –
Mixed Green with Marinated Blue Marlin – fine but nothing special. The marlin was nice, but not that fatty and it came with a spicy mayo (really it said mayo on the menu. That’s fine if you are going for rustic or home cooking, but they don’t seem to be.)
Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Mozzarella – the squash was very good and it was a nice combination with the mozzarella, but the cheese really wasn’t that good quality (I think it was left open too long) and there was way more of it than the squash, so it was impossible to have both flavors together after the first few bites. It needed better mozzarella (I still haven’t had very good cheese in MN, which is both surprising and disappointing.) and either more squash or less mozzarella.
Mixed Greens with gorgonzola in a lemon vinaigrette. – they tried to tell us they had run out of the gorgonzola and were subbing tortilla chips (after we ordered). This didn’t sound like an adequate substitution so we were going to pass and then they came up with more gorgonzola. Only there wasn’t very much of it and while the salad was fine, it wasn’t anything special.

Second course –
This was both the best and worst course. It was the best because it was the best. It was the worst, because to me it looked like the most interesting part of the menu, but ended up being nothing great.
Orzo with main lobster – This was the best thing we had all night. The orzo was creamy and the lobster wasn’t too chewy. I wouldn’t call it too heavy on the mascarpone, but texturally you could feel it.
MUSHROOM & FARRO RISOTTO - braised pancetta & duck gizzards, rosemary, mushroom broth – This was relatively flavorful although nothing jumped out at me. This was part of the specials rather than the main menu and I think they changed it from the website where it is part of the main menu. I do not recall it having pancetta at all, which it could have used. Also, our waitress was new and I do not think she mention that it was in a broth, which I did not find particularly flavorful.
GNOCCHI ALL ROMANA – Mission figs, gorgonzola fondue and caramelized (spelled incorrectly on the menu) onions. I barely remember this dish. Nothing spectacular.

Third course –
Pan Seared Kobe Beef – two people had this. The cuts of beef where good, but nothing all that great. One of them had a stringy vein of fat through it. Their flavor was ok but not that robust. They were seared, but the outer layer was too crisp (or chewy might be the better word). I think this is a result of a pan that is too hot, but I am not sure. I just read on the menu that it was supposed to have a black truffle hollandaise. I am not saying it wasn’t there, but it made such a minor statement, that I don’t even remember it. (My wife says she has no recollection of it either, I think they left it off, which is VERY unimpressive) I do remember the consume, which was fine, but again, nothing stood out.
Duck Confit – Duck skin is supposed to be crispy, but this was hard to chew. The duck was overcooked. It was served with hen of the woods mushrooms (more on this in a minute) that were both chewy and overcooked at the same time. Unless your mushrooms are really fresh and really good, you have to cook them with some liquid. These were neither. The lentils were ok, but probably could have been cooked longer. I almost sent this dish back.

Deserts –
Chocolate tasting plate – This was relatively well done. The cookies were crisp and chewy, the truffles were a little hard but good and the dark chocolate terrine was very rich. The caramel ice was good although I would have liked a bit more, but I am not complaining about that.
Chocolate Coconut Tart – This was good although a little overpowered by the coconut. I like it just fine, but the crepes I had at Pop! a couple of weeks ago were much better. (a $50 meal just shouldn’t compare to a $250 meal, but it did.)

One thing that really stuck in my craw (is that the correct expression?) about this meal. They speak of fresh local ingredients all over the web site, but as I go through the menu, I don’t really see much of it. I can understand this in February, but its harvest time! Two dishes were citrus based, which will not be in season in the northern hemisphere for months. We are getting into fall, so I guess the butternut squash was ok, but pretty early if you ask me. There were lots of Mushrooms. Maybe mushrooms come into season in the Midwest (remember I am from California) at the end of summer, but considering they like it cool, very very moist and have a very short growing time, most places have them in mid to late spring. Again, I am no expert on Midwest growing seasons, but I thought it odd. I understand that you only work with what you can get and I am not in Northern California anymore, but ingredients should be in season somewhere. I wrote in my review of Pop! that I thought Minneapolis might be able to do the $9-$12 entrée better than SF because you don’t expect the quality of ingredients that you do on the higher end and you can likely get better line cooks for cheaper here, so the preparation might be better. If this is what Minneapolis has to offer in terms of the higher end, I’ll save my money and splurge when I go back to SF. I hope I don’t come across as a Bay Area food snob, but Alma wouldn’t last six months in San Francisco (or New York, LA, Boston (ok maybe Boston), Portland, Seattle…)at half the price.

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