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First Bite: District Fresh Kitchen + Bar
By: Stephanie March | Posted: 05/05/2014
Count me as excited that there’s a hot new restaurant within a block of my office. Count me as beyond thrilled that it’s the new Russell and Desta Klein project, Brasserie Zentral.
For their first foray across the river, the duo behind Meritage decided to hunker down in a less glitzy part of town than shiny Hennepin Ave. or too-cool-for-school North Loop. What with all the starving office dwellers (read: me) and the booming condo scene in the area, it seems like a well-timed addition.
First of all, the Soo Line Building has been totally revamped, and if you enter through the apartment building lobby (arrival via skyway or entrance on 5th), do not be shocked, you have not fallen down the rabbit hole and arrived in Wonderland (though it may feel like it). When you find your way through the doors to Zentral you will be welcomed in a warm space with golden walls, burgundy booths, dark wood tables and old-world touches. There’s a smallish bar and high-tops anchoring the inner wall, with dining tables and opulent half-moon booths filling the rest of the space. Plus, there’s counter seating along the kitchen which boasts a sweet European cook line.
The menu is Austrian, Hungarian, German, and Central European in inspiration, but don’t worry if you can’t name a dish from those cuisines—you won’t feel out of your element. We did office lunch with the girls and found a soft white asparagus soup, some spring pea and nettle ravioli, a beautifully plated fried shrimp salad, and some spaetzle with bits of braised rabbit in a light cheese sauce.
For happy hour we put our faith in the hands of bar lady Trish Gavin, who is great with the spirits. Cocktails were modern and fresh, both tart and luscious, the Blonde Negroni and the spotted Garden Gimlet bowled me over with flavor that was light and whimsical, but still had lifting powers. The terrine of foie gras we tried was beautiful, the bratwurst with sauerkraut had snap and bite, and the house baked pretzels were 100 percent legit. They had a dark crust, well sprinkled with salt, and a soft pillow-y interior that has no equal in town. I know, I’ve looked.
So far, service has been outstanding. There’s a great casual sophistication to the place, it’s relaxed but on-point. The space is festive without being loud, conversations are more than possible. It seems that the Kleins have achieved what they set out to do, bring a fresh perspective to downtown dining (with pretzels!)
Brasserie Zentral, 505 Marquette Ave. S., Mpls., zentral-mpls.com
Stephanie March is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s food and dining editor. See bio
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