The thing I love about the Twin Cities food scene is the collective support and the collaboration that happens within much of the local chef tribe. But while I know no one on earth talks, thinks, or eats all this chatter as much as I do, sometimes when I’m sitting in a little restaurant and I see a dish such as agnolotti prepared in a manner very similar to another agnolotti I had the other night in a different place, I sigh. Trust me, I am not complaining; I am grateful to see any agnolotti where once agnolotti feared to tread. But I have to say, here is something surprising: a fresh perspective from fresh faces.
The brothers, Chris and Andrew Ikeda, are local boys who ventured west, way west, to Napa and Hawaii to earn their cooking chops. And earn them they did. While cooking at big hotels for big names, the brothers soaked in some very interesting influences they’ve brought home. After buying the former Blue Sky Creamery building in Uptown, the two set about creating Lake & Irving.
What they’ve done with this former ice cream shop is kind of amazing. It feels like a good ol’ Minnesota tavern with oaky accents and warm walls. There’s not a lot of flash to the décor—it’s not really high concept or actually any concept—but it’s comfortable, familiar, and cozy. And then there’s the menu. When you first look down and read it, you might pop your head up and glance around again to see if you’re in the same space. A menu loaded with words like furikake, togarashi, and shoyu doesn’t seem like it should be in these same environs. But then you see carpaccio and arancini and that most Minnesotan of words: cheeseburger. The confusion you feel is just about a shift of expectations. We can’t fairly pigeonhole these guys and, quite frankly, that’s the fun they’re having.
This menu is a triple threat of Mediterranean-Asian-Minnesotan. And why not? That’s what the chefs like to eat, and it’s not as disparate as you’d think, especially in the age of Sriracha at Subway. Mediterranean has the lightest influence on the menu and is maybe the least consistent. Pork-filled arancini are little fried risotto balls on pesto, which were super tasty on one visit and totally flat on another.
The real fun comes through the playful use of Asian ingredients such as the sweetish soy-mirin kabayaki glaze on the furikake chicken. It’s laden with Kewpie mayo, and the furikake dried spice mix packs a nice umami punch to the little fried nuggets of local Kadejan chicken thigh meat. A misoyaki salmon, blasted with miso and soy, is perfectly balanced against shaved watermelon radishes with lemongrass vinaigrette, such a softly sweet and tangy bite. Shoyu braised short ribs were right on, but what I really dug was the perfectly cooked pinkish hue of the Duroc pork chops sitting on a squash puree doused with spicy gochujang chili sauce. It was warm and familiar and strange and satisfying, and I don’t know if I can eat squash again without gochujang. The crab-crusted snapper itself was nothing special, but I could have lapped up the soy mustard beurre blanc.
As for the Minnesotan part of the menu, the cheeseburger is right on, with a Patisserie 46 bun, house pickles, and a good beefy grind that was juicy and dense. The buttermilk chicken sandwich, with a crisp-battered hunk of chicken breast decked with pepper jack and bacon on Patisserie 46 sourdough, is a salty-melty homage to the Perkins Tender Melt. Smoked walleye rillettes are comparable to any of the good potted meats in town. The lox potato salad with cured salmon draped over dilled potatoes will make you pine for summer, and the chicken and waffles on the brunch menu seems like one of the better renditions I’ve seen pop up, especially when doused with the housemade seasonal beer syrup.
While you may think this seems all rather unfocused and a little wobbly, isn’t that really just Uptown anyway? On one side of their building sits the well-traveled old guard of money and stately homes, while on the other side there are the young and hungry revolving renters. There’s enough on this menu to keep both sides satisfied. The brothers can cook, they can execute daily, and they are earnestly humble and just excited to be finally doing something on their own. In their own particularly fresh way, I think they’re going to be a new fixture on the scene. 1513 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-354-2453, lakeandirving.com