I haven’t lived in Minneapolis for thirteen years and I hadn’t even been back for a real visit since 2003, but in that time a ton of new restaurants have sprung up. Some, like Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit, sadly went the way of the spit-roasted dodo bird before I got a taste. Others, like Jean-Georges’ newest, are yet to arrive and also yet to be christened. Luckily, in between the closings and the openings, I still have a host of new restaurants to sample every time I’m back in town.
One of the newest is Tryg’s on Lake Street — a scant few blocks from the house I grew up in. Minneapolosians will remember Nora’s on Lake Street, a supper club that was popular with the senior crowd. AARP aside, it was cozy and sweet and some residents still miss it very much. Then, along comes Tryg, Nora’s son. Somewhere in there, Nora’s closed, was torn down, and Tryg’s rose from the ashes. Now, everyone’s talking about this new place with the designer martinis and better-than-beer-nuts Brussels sprouts. A walk inside the glass, stone, and steel edifice reveals an airy space with a vaulted ceiling and a huge wood-burning fireplace. It’s big and beautiful and it smells like a campfire. But in a good way.
On my first night home my parents seemed to be having some plumbing issues, so my little sister and I decided to go to a place where toilets could flush. We agreed on Tryg’s for drinks. Looking over the menu, I was immediately entranced by the S’Mores martini, described as being made with “house-infused toasted marshmallow vodka.” Who could refuse? The golden drink came with a graham cracker rim and snow white mini marshmallows bobbing gently on top. A few sips later revealed that they might need to work on this one. All I could really taste was the Frangelico — I didn’t sense anything in the way of a toasted marshmallow flavor. Additionally, the slightly salty graham crackers seemed to exacerbate another very strong taste of vodka in the cocktail. I love the idea of a S’Mores martini, it’s just that the execution needs some more refining.
The next night two of my high school friends and I tried out Tryg’s for food. It’s the wrong season for Brussels sprouts, so we decided to share the cod and octopus ceviche and, because I have to test it everywhere I go, the calamari.
The ceviche was pretty tasty. It was fresh, well-seasoned, and beautifully presented. I was surprised by the inclusion of green olives but they worked the saltiness in nice way. The octopus was slightly more chewy than it should have been, but otherwise really quite tasty.
The calamari that came spilling out of a paper cone were tender, not overly battered, and yummy. The peppery aioli was also lovely, and I appreciated having the option of squeezing either lemon or lime over the little fried squiddies.
For the mains, my two friends ordered the vegetarian special, which were three beautifully composed salads on a long, narrow, glass plate. The white bean salad was the blandest of the three. However, the watermelon with shards of tangy mountain cheese was curiously good, and the gently sauteed heirloom carrots were to die for.
My main was a little more disappointing. It was seared ahi tuna with spring baby artichokes, sunchokes, and a light, fresh broth. The tuna was perfectly done, easy to cut with a fork, but under seasoned and slightly fishy tasting. Good tuna shouldn’t taste fishy. I was very excited to have the baby artichokes, but they were way too tough and nearly impossible to chew. On closer inspection I could see that they hadn’t been fully stripped down to the mostly yellow leaves. Doing that definitely would have helped with the chewing issue. They were also undercooked. As were the thinly sliced sunchokes, which still had some hairy, rough external skin left on the edges. What really bothered me was the price — $24 for that unsatisfying dish! I don’t think a restaurant serving fishy tuna and unchewable and undercooked artichokes has any business charging that kind of money in Minneapolis. I only plunk down that kind of dosh when eating at The Slanted Door or Chez Panisse’s Cafe because their food actually deserves that kind of price point. This food didn’t.
For dessert, we split a chocolate cake stuffed into a sweet little flowerpot and topped with chocolate “dirt.” It was a decadent, upscale rendition of a dessert I once ordered at Perkins when I was a kid. Because we were told it would have a slice of Humboldt Fog on it, I also insisted on ordering the cheese plate.
While we waited for our dessert orders to arrive, I waxed rhapsodic about Humboldt Fog to my two friends and explained every little (probably not very interesting) detail. From the rind to the ash line to the reason for the name — they got it all. The cheese plate arrived. And that was NOT Humboldt Fog. First of all, it was not the slightly crumbly consistency of Humboldt Fog. Secondly, it did not have an ash line, it had a blue line. Yep, definitely a blue line. It was a deliciously buttery — probably double-creme — cow’s milk cheese, but it was NOT the deliciously tangy goat’s milk Humboldt Fog. I should have said something, but I didn’t want to embarrass my friends so we just ate it and enjoyed it. Still, telling people the wrong cheese is pretty serious in my book.
In conclusion, Tryg’s is all cash and no substance and I know I get much more value for my cash at Lucia’s.
3118 W. Lake Street