Walking into the Mill Valley Kitchen is akin to stepping into a tony Kenwood penthouse or the clubroom of an upscale warm-weather resort. The strikingly crisp design from the aces at Shea is a welcome break from the usual swarthy river-rock/reclaimed-wood combo seen ad nauseam. The moneyed and manicured diners breezily chat away in an understated display; the ever modest Minnesota mindset mimics the décor precisely.
The menu offers a blend of good-for-you grub with a pseudo-Asian-California-spa feel in visually appetizing platings. Fittingly, the menu comes with nurtritional information, which complements the type of food being cooked. A word to the wise, however: Caloric counts are almost impossible to pull off accurately, so use them as a reference and not an absolute. Unless there is a strict measure of each ingredient in a dish (or a Bunsen burner being used on the line to calculate finished dishes), you can assume a margin of error of approximately 100 calories.
Although there were a few good suprises, such as the sesame carrots (sweet and smoky), they could not compensate for the grass-fed filet of beef that was a mangled end cap of a tenderloin next to underdone "smash potatoes." Sadly, this was not just an outlier, but rather the norm with a few exceptions. Upsides include toasty and tasty pita bread with hummus, sparkling and peppy fresh ginger beer, and desserts worth every calorie.
Service was, well, adorable albeit slightly clumsy–big on genuine friendliness and willing to accommodate requests at lightning speed. The complimentary valet is a gread added bonus to the welcoming attitude that extends to the hosts working hard to make you feel at home. And the wine menu is notably elegant, offering a well-chosen selection of all the best California has to offer. There are a lot of good things going on here; maybe in time the food will catch up.
Mill Valley Kitchen,3906 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-358-2000