All Saints – A Celebration of Stylized Wood-Fired Everything
Holy smokes! All Saints has fired up its wood-burning grill, infusing everything from its focaccia to cukes, beets and broccolini with a subtle, smoky essence.
Right. Veggies, indeed, are on the forefront in this stylish new café occupying the former Bardo space on East Hennepin. The intimate room has adopted an understated cosmopolitan air, drawing upon a palette of ivory and soft grays, which illuminate the rows of wood-toned tables. In other words, the focus is the food.
Chef Denny Leaf-Smith , who’s headed local kitchens ranging from 112 Eatery and Eastside to Esker Grove, invites vegetables to take their place at the head of the table on his innovative, thoughtful menu (which—not to worry—does include seafood, chicken and red meat). They’re presented in tasting portions, like small plates on steroids, which can serve three or four diners. Yes, there are half a dozen actual entrees too ($16-28), but who’s got room after the mix-and-match exuberance from the list that precedes them?
We made a sumptuous meal from six of those inventive offerings ($4-18), leading off with those cucumbers. Yeah, that’s what my companion thought, too (“Going for the quirky again, are you?”). Our accomplished server backed my vote. These cukes have been cut in chunks, then charred over the coals and served with little clouds of whipped ricotta, a punch of chilies guaranteed to bring any Scando palates to attention, and a waft of crispy garlic. Trust me: they’re delicious.
So were the roasted beets, livened with tangy Greek yogurt balanced by a sweet hit of golden raisins and a toss of briny capers to pull the plate together: another hit. Thumbs up, too, to the Yukon Gold potatoes—mealy chunks awakened by robustly seasoned bits of chorizo along with a swell roasted garlic aioli and a toss (a genius addition) of green olives.
Yes, we also ordered meat. The short ribs, cut in almost paper-thin cross-sections, proved admirably flavorful and juicy. A toss of soy-pickled shiitake mushrooms embellished the savory plate. Oh, and the fried chicken! It’s presented in boneless, batter-coated nuggets sweetened by the yin/yang of harissa honey. Makes you wonder why all chicken isn’t similarly suited up.
Finally, a presentation of scallops came our way, sweet and ideally tender, plumped atop a bed of sweet carrot hummus and a side of walnut tabouli. Fine, indeed, but we had reached our limit. (The list also includes a cheeseburger and fries. Just sayin’.)
Well, not quite. Time to bite the bullet and summon dessert. There are two choices, $7 each: panna cotta incorporating sesame and sided with berries, or chocolate cake. The dark, layered cake—standard, moist and tasty—gained points via a side scoop of cloud-light whipped, chocolate buttercream and the crunch of—what?—sumac.
My companion sipped a suave Oregon Pinot Noir (BTG choices $8-15) from a short, workable list, while I savored my Old Saint cocktail, composed of Bourbon, brandy, rum, madeira and bitters.
While All Saints cannot (and should not) be all things to all people, it nicely fills an underserved niche. Can’t wait to go back—especially when its sweet patio reopens in spring.
222 E. Hennepin Avenue