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Jamie Malone: A Chef’s Tour of the Twin Cities
By: Jason DeRusha | Posted: 08/11/2014
The cooking at Piccolo is so perfect, so creative, so artistically plated, I almost couldn’t believe what my friend’s lady-friend said.
“All of this is so approachable.”
Yes, Piccolo is approachable and delicious and flavorful. It’s an evolution, I think, for a restaurant that maybe started off as being too creative for its own good.
I mean, don’t get me wrong—I can be (a tad) pretentious, and I love little dabs of ink and powders and the occasional foam. But its location screams “neighborhood restaurant,” its setting screams “casual,” and yet the food screams: “holy crap this is fancy!”
So I’m really excited about the direction Chef Doug Flicker and his team are moving. They originally didn’t offer a tasting menu, and many people complained that they left Piccolo hungry. Now they suggest a five-course dinner for $55. Frankly, the savings from just picking a la carte is only a couple bucks, but the course option is there as a guide; this is how you should eat here.
Right now, you should start with the chilled sweet corn soup with a brioche puree, crispy hominy and smoked sheep’s milk cheese. It tastes like summer, and it’s a beautiful bowl of soup.
I know you’ll be tempted to go for the scrambled brown eggs with pickled pigs feet. They are and always will be on the menu (thank goodness! They’re amazing). But I’d suggest the rabbit liver tart with caramelized onions, compressed strawberries—oh my. So rich and delicious. It’s absolutely stunning.
I loved the Monterey Bay squid with fresh dragon beans, clams, smoked pork shank, and fresh okra.
When I was there, I had a malted beef, a dish which tasted a bit like corned beef. It was awesome. But it’s gone (such is life at a place that changes the menu often), so looking now, I’d pick the suckling pig with braised leeks, chanterelle mushrooms, crispy skin and lemon puree.
The joy of Piccolo for me is that it truly is world-class food (Anthony Bourdain said it was “far and away the most inspired and inspiring meal of my trip across America”) that comes with service to match. Adam Johnson is a great General Manager, very warm and friendly, and the team of servers are all pros. We had the perfect balance of attentive service, but we were having dinner with two friends we hadn’t seen in a while, and they knew how to back off when it was clear we were having fun.
Piccolo is about savoring amazing flavors and enjoying each bite that dances across the taste buds. It’s also about savoring the moments you have across the table with friends. I respect how they get that balance right.
The pictures I took are an Instagrammer's dream—every dish looks like a painting. Yet somehow my non “foodie” friend called it approachable. Four years and counting at Piccolo… inspired doesn’t even begin to describe it.
4300 Bryant Ave., Mpls., 612-827-8111, piccolompls.com
Jason DeRusha anchors WCCO-TV’s morning and noon news. His column "DeRusha Eats" appears in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine monthly. See bio
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