Had a great visit to the twin cities last weekend and ate at both of these for dinner.
Cafe Barbette--we had an 8 pm res on Friday night; it was pretty packed and noisy, but nice atmosphere. Unfortunately, due to the heat wave, the restaurant seemed uncomfortably warm most of the evening; I suspect this was due to the temp change between Th and Fri. Service was prompt and the waitress wasn't hesitant to provide an opinion, although ultimately I disagreed with it! We started with the cheese fondue, which comes with raw mushrooms, apple, and bread. The cheese is melted, seems like a mild gruyere, and is served in a coffee cup; it stays reasonably warm, but isn't hot, and gets tougher to dip in. It was pleasant, but not great. The mushrooms are kind of an odd dipper; the raw mushroom (unlike cooked mushrooms) just doesn't seem to work with the cheese either in taste or texture.
Entrees: there were three of us, and two had the lobster special and one the sirloin special. The waitress raved about the lobster special ($32), which included claw meet and a half of a tail, as well as some truffled gnocchi. The lobster was certainly fresh, and there was nothing wrong with it; but it just wasn't particularly tasty or interesting. Neither I nor the other lobster-orderer finished it. The sirloin was accomplanied by frites with a delicious saffron aioli type dipping sauce. The frites were excellent and the sauce was killer. The steak was also good and prepared as requested.
Overall, the meal was a bit of a disappointment although I would certainly consider returning if only for the frites.
The next night we went to the Heartland Wine Bar. We didn't have a res., and the hostess originally told us it would be about a fifteen minute wait. The wait was more like 3 minutes! We sat down and got an amuse of chicken liver pate with a sour cherry gastrique or compote, and some breads to spread it on. It was fabulous...so good we asked if they could make us a larger portion for one of our small plantes! They were able to do that, which was greatly appreciated. We ordered a variety of small plates, including the onion-apple soup, the goat cheese salad with a grilled seckel pear, the roasted spaghetti squash/black bean fritters, and the pork ribs. They were all terrific, especially the pork ribs, which were large and meaty but very sweet and delicious. The soup was good, although the apple component was pretty much undetectable, and the salad and the fritters were both very solid. For dessert, we shared a three part chocolate pot de creme; also very good. We ordered a bottle of Lemberger from Steele in Washington state; this is a new varietal to me, but the bottle was very good, kind of smoky and pleasanlty dry. Service was good at the HWB, although a bit disjointed, with our original server disappearing for a while and being replaced by someone else, and then reappearing. Still, they went out of their way to get us the special dish we requested, which was great. We were very happy with the meal at HWB, which ran (w/o tip) about 110.
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