Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Restaurant Review Restaurant Week Summer 2012 Edition: Meritage

Mark's Zoolander face
As Mark mentioned, when Restaurant Week rolls around we spent copious amounts of time picking out new places to try; however this time around there was one restaurant that was a shoo-in, Meritage in St. Paul. You see, a couple months ago Msp Mag released their "best of the best"restaurants issue and Meritage beat out our beloved Vincent for best french restaurant in the readers poll.

Obviously we had scope the place out for ourselves. The menu looked good, but they had some big expectations to fulfill. For starters, did they have a cool french-looking waiter to give Mark free iced tea?

Due to the fact that the restaurant is all the way in St. Paul (Minneapolis, you feel me?) and Mark had to work all week we went for dinner.  As with most Restaurant Week participants, Mertiage put together a 3-course meal menu for a fixed price of $30. So it's a nice way to try some of the best restaurants in the city for a reasonable price.
Restaurant Week menu
When we arrived it was extremely loud and busy. The place is laid out kind of like a small European cafe (not that i've ever been to Europe, just what I imagine it to be). We were seated in a tiny booth/table with no room between us and the next booth/table. Our waitress came and although she was clearly American she was nice so no strikes were given against her or Meritage. Since we had studied the menu for weeks prior we were able to place our orders right away. This calmed me immensely because it was already close to 7:30, I was starving (the three pieces of buttered bread I inhaled upon arrival did nothing to sooth my hunger pains), and the place was packed with no end of incoming traffic in sight.
Luckily, I remembered to take a picture
before devouring and asking for more
For our first courses: Mark ordered an arugula (locally grown) salad that had peaches and pistachios on top with a muscat-vanilla vinaigrette. To my surprise, he thoroughly enjoyed his salad and thought the sweetness of both the peaches and the vinaigrette blended together rather nice with the saltiness of the nuts and the aromatic nature of the arugula. Meritage can now take credit for Mark's extreme fondness of arugula. As for me, I ordered three oysters on a half shell. I hadn't had oysters in years and was excited for Mark to try them for the first time. They were gummy, semi-salty, and as delicious as I remember! Mark's opinion? He didn't really know what to think as the pictures below show.
Mark's salad
My oysters

Mark's action shot

A little confused

But he went for it
For our main courses: Mark had his stomach set on their offering of 12 hour marinated flank steak. He thought it was very good, but we both agreed that the white bean puree that came on the side, albeit yummy, didn't do much for the dish. The steak wasn't overly flavorful as it was so the blandness of the white beans seemed unnecessary. Mark also noted that the portion size was much smaller than you see at American restaurants, which was a positive! Who needs that much red meat in one sitting? I went with the Portuguese style clam stew and it was my favorite dish of the 6 we ordered. It consisted of bell pepper, chorizo, and potatoes with the clams on top and still in the shell (obviously, the presentation was amazing). There was also a slice of french bread on the top, which tasted like it had been toasted over a campfire, and one on the bottom to soak up all the stew juices. The stew was extremely flavorful and positively tasty. I don't know if I will allow myself to order anything else when we go back.
Mark's flank steak
My Portuguese clam stew
All gone
For our dessert: Mark went with the chocolate mousse. It was served with raspberries that didn't go together well with the chocolate. Mark wasn't blown away with the chocolate mousse as it was so the raspberries turned the dessert into a disappointment. I ordered the pistachio cake which had creme fraiche and blueberries on the side. The cake was nice and moist without being too sweet. They used in-season blueberries which were amazing. My dessert was definitely the favorite of the two. 
Mark's chocolate mousse that I managed to make look
even more unappealing than it was

My pistachio cake
On our way back to our vehicle after finishing up at Meritage we ran into a dance party. Of course we joined and had quite a ball for the next 45-60 minutes. Then we walked by a park that had statues of the peanuts gang (can you tell we don't ever come to St. Paul)! Awesome way to end the night.
LOVE the peanuts gang
Putting aside Mark's less than stellar dessert, we had a great time at Meritage. This was the best quality Restaurant Week experience to date. I left feeling like we not only paid for what we got, but that the $30/person we paid was a steal for the quality of food. I would still say that Vincent is our favorite restaurant, but can see why Meritage is ranked so high for not only the food, but also for the service.

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