The best first date I ever had began with an inauspicious “no.” No, I did not want to get all ‘do-ed up and go out to the hot new club that just got a write-up. I wanted to slip into my favorite jeans, the ones that hug all the right places, and ease into a room I could rule. A place we could be ourselves without the self-conscious artifice of newness, the pressure of pretending to be something we weren’t.
Dining inside Tenant has the intimacy of those first furtive moments, hands entwined, entering the unknown together. Like the strains of an old Ani DiFranco song: “When there was nothing there was always the possibility of something, becoming what it is.” That’s a great first date. That was my dinner at Tenant.
Tenant is the realization of a culinary dream for chefs Cameron Cecchini and Grisha Hammes. The two met when they were on the opening team at Borough and worked together again inside this address, 4300 Bryant Avenue South in Minneapolis, when it was Doug Flicker’s Piccolo. The restaurant was small then. When they took it over after Flicker closed Piccolo, they made the radical decision to make it even smaller.
Walking into the cozy dining room, it’s instantly comfortable, with warm wood and golden light, but with an easygoing vibe. A record player spins tunes the chefs pick out. A curved bar allows for seats overlooking the large kitchen and a few tables make up the dining room.
There’s no set menu at Tenant. Each night, there’s a tasting menu. Guests are essentially buying the ticket and taking the ride. They ask several times before the adventure begins, are there dietary restrictions? Aversions? Allergies? No? Place your napkin in your lap, and away we go.
Each night, the food will change, or maybe it’s better to say it evolves. Diners are only given a drink menu, listing a pairing option and a few, well-selected beers and wine. Nonalcoholic offerings were slim, but the tableside French press service was every bit as impressive as the cava pour.
All the dishes are served in handmade, oatmeal-colored pottery, designed specifically for the chefs by a friend. A small tiftin revealed two courses, each delicate and fun to dig into. A beet and crudo dish had an effervescent freshness, earthy vegetal notes were capped with bright citrus, cream and supple fish.
A tangle of toothsome noodles were served dressed in a sheet of rich sauce on a plate that echoed the texture of the pasta.
With nearly every course, the music changed. The Jackson Five, Marilyn Manson, Nina Simone: surprising grooves that suit this intimate, cozy and singular discovery of a restaurant. The meal price of $50 buys an experience that is ideally suited for date night with someone worthy of a night out in your favorite 501s, that hug in all the right places, and give ever so slightly, as you both settle in for a long, cozy night.
4300 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis