I was inspired by Dara Moskowitz's column in City Pages last week on Origami. I mean, how did she know to go back there? I had not been back in three years ever since it started going downhill, and I had no reason to think that the downward trajectory would change. By the way, I went back to Origami on her reco, and it was fantastic.
I wanted to discover the next big re-birth of a Twin Cities restaurant. My wife and I were going to the movies at the newly Landmarkized Edina Cinema last night (check out Spellbound if you get a chance, great documentary). Since we were going over there I suggested Tejas, thinking maybe there would be a similar story to Origami. Top restaurant, starts to go downhill, we go away for three years, and now it is very good.
It did not take more than a few bites through the appetizers to remember why we stopped going three years ago. I would even say that the downward slope has continued pretty consistently.
We shared two appetizers and one entree. The hot smoked salmon salad was the biggest disappointment. It was an overcooked thin piece of salmon without any of the delicious smokiness that I had in a similar dish at Auriga a couple weeks ago. To make matters worse it was served over an obnoxious potato salad that had too much mayonaise which was served over bland mesculin greens that were about a week past their peak. To shake things up a little, there was an olive dressing drizzled on the plate.
The other appetizer was a tuna ceviche with mangoes. There was nothing about it that reminded me of ceviche -- no limes, no cilantro, no red onions. It was tuna tartare 101, and a not very good version of it. It annoys me that because neuvo Latino food is big now, they decided to call something ceviche because "ceviche" was a word that would be a good marketing term to their consumer. If you are going to serve me tartare call it "tartare".
The flank steak fajita entree was only slightly better, but it tasted not much different than what you would get at a chain Tex-Mex place for half the price.
The place was packed. A lot of the tables had kids -- drawn in by the kids eat free promotion. Seeing how crowded it was and looking at the marketing materials on the table made me think of Aquavit (okay, all of my Aquavit talk is getting old for all of you, but this is hard for me to get over). One writer on the site said she thought Aquavit closed because they did not market themselves well enough. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against marketing food -- that is what I do professionally at General Mills -- in fact, I think you should all eat a delicious crunchy bowl of Chex cereal just like I am doing right now. However, I guess I do not like to feel that I am marketed to when I go to a restaurant. The "ceviche", the kids eat free deal, the ads all over Tejas for private parties in the "Santa Fe Room" made me feel like I was being marketed too. Part of what I liked about Aquavit, and some of my other favorite places like Auriga, Vincent, Zander, Lucia's is that I do not feel like I am being marketed too. They let their great food and atmosphere make you want to come back as a repeat customer, and that is how the best restaurants treat marketing.