The interview was humming along so nicely until I heard words from Chef Mike Rakun, “That’s the only dish we use any butter in.” Wait – what was that? What do you mean you don’t use butter? Can you do that in a professional kitchen? I’m the kind of eater that has scooped foie gras mousse using fried chicken skin as an implement – and you don’t use butter?
Don’t worry, I was able to recover, but I soon found myself diving into another dish from the kitchen of the new Marin. A succulent black cod was served in a pool of lemongrass broth, perfectly seasoned and adorned with thin slices of spicy red pepper. Butter need not apply for this dish. It was perfectly balanced as is.
Marin (pronounced like Marin County in California) is the sister restaurant to Mill Valley Kitchen. Owner Craig Bentdahl and Chef Rakun believe that dining should leave eaters feeling good. Rakun explained, “We’ve all left restaurants after eating a meal that tastes delicious, but you walk out feeling not so good.” Their goal is to create consciously aware dishes. Ingredients are sustainable, handled in a way that preserves their integrity and nourishes diners. Each menu item has the caloric stats listed as well as if they are vegan or gluten-free. To do all this without relying on the chef rule that “fat is flavor” is incredibly ambitious. Instead they utilize all kinds of other flavor enhancers – like pureed vegetables to create that same velvety mouth feel that is usually created by artery-clogging oils. Nuanced flavors are played with using different spices and chilies. They mainly cook with heart-friendly olive oil.
This healthful menu is not a gimmick. Because they sit at the base of a hotel, they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner – as well as room service with menus filled with elegant dishes. It’s a different way of thinking about feeding people that fits in with a restaurant space that has struggled to find the right restaurateur to run operate it.
The last incarnation of this space was clean, pristine white. For this incarnation, they brought in Shea, Inc. to redesign everything. The makeover created several separate spaces that are awash in warm light and comfort. There is a dining room, perfect for business lunches or special occasion dinners; a copper-colored bar for catching up with friends or grabbing a quick drink before or after a show; an outdoor patio with another bar featuring a periodic table of gin (more on that in a minute); a downstairs lounge library, a massive wine collection – encased in glass for admiring; and a private chef’s table in the kitchen as well as private meeting spaces for corporate off-sites. The restaurant is ready to be many things to many people.
Cocktail aficionados will be pleased to hear that Mike Rasmussen is running the bar program. He worked alongside bar superstar Johnny Michaels of La Belle Vie fame. Rasmussen’s mind must be part mad-scientist because his way of pulling together a drink program that spans three distinctly different bars is dazzling.
Outside, shaded from the summer sun, guests can create their own gin and tonic experience, choosing from something like forty different types of gin, aromatics, and a tonic made in small batches from scratch, right there behind the bar. There’s a nearby chef’s garden where the bartenders also harvest fresh ingredients for their drinks. This is a patio built for savoring the warmer months (and there is a fire pit for when the inevitable chill returns.)
The downstairs library, stocked with actual books, seems like the sort of spot to sip the brown liquors – or take shelter from an unrelenting heat-wave. They make a proper Manhattan and Old Fashioned as well as a selection of surprisingly boozy champagne cocktails. This quiet, cozy space allows a person to slowly sink into one of these cushy chairs and find solace from the din of the city.
Along with all the different bar spaces are the myriad of menus. Because they are part of the hotel they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chef Rakun actually has experience, having once worked at a hotel earlier in his career. He understands how to create dishes that can stand up to the rigors of room service. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner there is also a happy hour selection of flat-breads – cooked in their wood fire oven, and an array of desserts.
So, while there is practically no butter in the kitchen – they do have cream. There is an oatmeal cookie sandwiched around mint chocolate chip ice cream and dunked in yet more chocolate – a staff favorite. Another dessert offered includes a selection of popular store-bought cookies made from scratch.
All these spaces, corners decorated with stunning works of art, dishes, and drinks are worth exploring.
MARIN RESTAURANT & BAR
901 Hennepin Ave.
Two restaurants from inside Midtown Global Market are expanding. Sonora Grill, known for their fabulous and affordable tacos are opening their second location in the old Molly Quinn’s on East Lake Street.
Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard, owners of The Left Handed Cook, the best Asian/Soul Food/Punk Rock hybrid around are opening The Rabbit Hole at the edge of the market. Expect to find Korean-style double fried chicken, super juicy burgers topped with bacon jam, duck fat crisped mochi cakes served alongside a killer cocktail in an Asian-twisted punk rock fairytale with the soul of a dive bar.
From the team who brought us Town Hall Tap and the Town Hall Brewery, we now have Town Hall Lanes in the Nokomis East neighborhood. Restored lanes alongside a gorgeous restored bar, they have all their brews including a new Super Strike – a light beer created especially to pair with bowling.
128 Café has been sold to Chef Max Thompson (late of Butcher & the Boar).