Tag Archives: chimichurri

Eating at the BANK

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Oh how we love mellow Sunday evenings in Downtown Minneapolis! It’s one of our favorite times to dine out there.

On this particular Sunday evening, a Groupon brought us to BANK Restaurant located in the Westin Hotel. We had been to BANK once before out of the recommendation of one of my husband’s co-workers. But that was back before my blogging days; so I can’t even remember what I ate there.

This is proof that my blog has also become my memory.

At least we liked it enough that when Rob saw that this deal included a four-course meal for two with a bottle of wine, he begged me to book it.

BANK’s interior is sleek because they have very much retained the look and feel of what used to be the Farmers & Mechanics Bank back in the 1940s. (Hence the name of the restaurant.)

Source: bankmpls.com

Source: bankmpls.com

In the photo above, you’ll see the Chef’s Teller Counter to the left. This is where the actual teller counter was located back in those banking days. Behind the counter is now an open kitchen. Diners can pull up a seat to the counter and watch their food being prepared. I’d say that it’s a nice way to be entertained if you are alone in town on business!

We made our way to the Gold Bar in the center, which is a great open layout to facilitate the meeting of others. Remember, this is a hotel bar and restaurant!

The restaurant itself is a very big, open space. I found this comment on Groupon a little humorous:

“Great service…due to high ceilings, the temperature was a little warm.” 

Uh. What?! The high ceilings are part of the allure, in my opinion.

These were our choices for a bottle of wine included with our Groupon:

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Of course, wine included in these sorts of deals is usually on the lower end. However, we were still pleased by the Casa Lapostolle Merlot that I was surprised Rob chose. It’s a fantastic value wine, as are many wines from Chile. Though BANK does boast offering more than 70 bottles from around the world.

TIP: Make a trip to the restroom while you are at BANK and you will walk by the Wine Vault. This is the original bank vault converted into a wine cellar! It’s quite clever.

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For the record, this was way too much food.

Had I known this, I wouldn’t have devoured my portion of our shared starter:

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Mac & Cheese – torchio pasta, mornay, cornflakes

Yes, those are really cornflakes. I expected them to be pulverized into breadcrumbs; but instead it was like that someone just pulled out a box and shook some over the Mac and Cheese. I also had never had torchio-shaped pasta before. That was another first.

After sharing that, we each had a choice of soup or salad:

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Chicken Tortilla soup with avocado and crema

I was a bit underwhelmed by the Chicken Tortilla Soup, but I liked the added avocado. Both the mac and cheese bowl and this soup bowl were much deeper than the bowl of pasta Rob had back at Lyn65. At this point, I was a bit smarter and didn’t finish the soup.

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Roasted Golden Beets w/sunflower seeds and sprouts, whipped ricotta, orange confit

Did you know that Rob loves beets? He was enamored with this beautiful dish. Still, he only ate about half of it. We were both already starting to get full!

My entree was the chicken:

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Pan Roasted Chicken – confit chicken thigh, roasted carrots, fingerling potatoes, lemon thyme reduction

This was beautifully plated, rich and flavorful! It was still so much food, even if I were to just have had the entree! I probably only ate about half of it, and that was only because I pushed myself to do so because it was so good!

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Hanger Steak – with oven fried tomatoes, yucca, grilled scallions, chimichurri

Rob was equally pleased with his perfectly medium-rare cooked lean steak. {This is definitely not the best photo to illustrate that.} We had a bit of an argument about what chimichurri is, but a quick google search settled the score: “a green sauce used for grilled meat, originally from Argentina. It is made of finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white vinegar.”

In any case, Rob says that it will always remind him of our friend Brendan, because he cooked us up a beautiful steak with chimichurri when we went to Charlotte to visit.

I love that the sauce is plated around the steak, not drenched over it. You can dredge the steak in just the right amount of sauce that you desire. And with my undying love of tomatoes, I would have eaten those on Rob’s plate if I wasn’t already so full myself.

I have no idea how we ate this dessert:

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Olive Oil Cake – with orange zest, creme anglaise, vanilla ice cream

Even sharing this moist, delicious Olive Oil Cake was difficult! It’s certainly a great, refreshing end to a fulfilling meal because the flavors are light and citrusy.

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And now that I think of it {and peruse the online menu}, I do remember the cocktail I ordered on my first visit to BANK.

Ten Thyme Smash

refreshing and sophisticated – fresh thyme, cucumber, and lime shaken with ultra-premium tanqueray ten gin, and white cranberry-the perfect aperitif

I remember that I ordered it because Rob’s co-worker had recommended it. I loved the herbal flavors!

Just a quick note on what was different about this Groupon. In order to purchase it, we were required that I make reservations through the Groupon website, something we’ve never had to do before. But it was quick and easy! We had no trouble at all. And because of this, after checking in, we never even needed to show our Groupon. They already had our information. Don’t be turned away by that requirement! You can even cancel your reservation 60 minutes beforehand without forfeiting your voucher.

I do like using OpenTable to make reservations. However most Groupons that require reservations want you to call the restaurant directly rather than book online. Booking through Groupon was a nice alternative.

Do you book restaurant reservations online?

What do you like or dislike about doing that?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

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Barrio Tequila Bar

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I’d been wanting to go to Barrio for a while.

I learned on a trip to Puerto Vallarta that I earned through The Traveling Vineyard, that I like tequila tasting as much as I like wine tasting. I also learned a thing or two about tequila.

  1. Jose Cuervo gets away with calling themselves tequila because they are 51% agave and 49% caramelized sugar. For that reason, it’s not a friend of MINE! {For the real deal, look for 100% agave instead.}
  2. I have expensive tastes in tequila.
  3. I was margarita’d out when I got home and thought I’d never have another one again.
  4. But give me some anejo on the rocks with a squeeze of lime and a splash of cointreau and I’m good.

Wow. I think that trip was back 2007. Time flies. I think I’ve recovered from no-margarita-ever-syndrome. But I still rarely drink them. Still, Barrio didn’t seem like a place where I could drag Rob. We’d always pass it by in Minneapolis while walking along Nicollet Mall. So when it was my turn to choose where to dine for girls’, night, I suggested Barrio.

There are three locations – one in Minneapolis, one in Edina and one in St. Paul. Based on where the three of us live, no location stood out as more convenient. So I chose St. Paul because, there, Barrio is situated in Lowertown. I figured that after dinner, if we weren’t really feeling Barrio, we could head over to the Bulldog for some brews, Bin Wine Bar if we wanted something more mellow or I could even return to FACES for a drink. They are all right within walking distance of each other, facing Mears Park.

We arrived early on a Saturday night and very few people were there. That’s because, well, it’s a bar and early on a Saturday night. However, there were still some really drunk people there at the table next to us! It had me wondering how long they were there.

Inside, it felt spacious and although it was still light out, I imagined it could feel a little dark and ominous in the evening. I loved the candelabra-styled chandeliers.

As much as I would have liked to try one of their tequila flights {they have a whole menu of tequilas!}, none of us really have that kind of dough to throw around at the moment, especially with my expensive tastes! So we each opted for one of their fun tequila cocktails instead.

Kim’s:

Mama Cita Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito blanco and a splash of cava ...9.5

Mama Cita
Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito
blanco and a splash of cava – $9.50

Mine (almost gone!)

Macho Comacho Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila and a splash of cava ... 1 0

Macho Comacho
Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila
and a splash of cava – $10

Jen’s:

Cesar Chavez Our champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine napoleon and orange ... 1 0

Cesar Chavez
Champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine
napoleon and orange – $10

Of the three, I liked mine the best! I can’t believe how perfectly balanced the chile was in the drink. You could definitely tell it was there, but it was neither overpowering nor too subtle.

The menu isn’t very large and most of it consist of appetizers, small plates and tacos. All of the flavor descriptions sounded like they knew what they were talking about when it comes to elevating Mexican cuisine. We each decided on one small item and then chose to share a couple of small plates, too. The food came out randomly, just as if you are to order tapas.

Kim chose:

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp • tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with lemon mojo ...7.5

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp
tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with
lemon mojo – $7.50

Jen and I each ordered a taco:

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Pork Carnitas Taco
duroc pork shoulder slow cooked in cinnamon and orange with salsa verde, onion and cilantro – $4.50

That is my kind of taco, with the dual corn tortillas with which to wrap the filling. They make me think of what a street taco should be like. We’ve had similar ones at Chino Latino. And there’s something about shredded pork with salsa verde and cilantro that I always love!

Then we got a few plates to share:

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri • skewered chicken is marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black bean salad ...8.5

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri
skewered chicken marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black
bean salad – $8.50

The chicken on these skewers was way over-charred. That is all I could taste. That’s really sad because chimichurri has such a lovely, fresh flavor that would have made this chicken sing. The black bean side salad was good and would have rounded this dish out perfectly if it weren’t for the lasting char flavor.

And I thought I’d love these since I once learned how much I love the spice of guajillo chiles:

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers ...8.5

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla
guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso
oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers – $8.50

I was right! The have the perfect balance of flavor and heat! I think the poblano peppers added something extra, too. I would highly recommend the quesadillas here. Okay, so if I’m in Lowertown, St. Paul and craving quesadillas, how am I to choose between Barrio and The Bulldog?!

And as I suspected, we were feeling a little mellow, so we opted to head over to Bin for a glass of wine afterward. But alas, they were closed for a private event. We enjoyed our after dinner drinks at FACES instead.

I think Barrio is a great place for groups. If you are eating {or just need to soak up some of that tequila!}, there’s lots of stuff to share. And if you like to tequila and fun cocktails, you won’t be disappointed.

They do have happy hour pricing on food and beverages and offer private party menus, too.

My husband is not a fan of sharing plates with others when dining out.

What is your stance?

Do you like to split appetizers and dishes to try many things?

OR

Would you prefer to keep your plate to yourself?

Cheers~
Carrie

Cafe Ena – Minneapolis

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I chose Café Ena to dine one evening when my husband said that he’d take me anywhere for dinner when our Friday night plans got messed up. It was kind of a last minute decision, but I love this neighborhood of South Minneapolis and also knew that it would be hard to get him there otherwise with so many other great restaurants around. It was also the night before our Dog Day 5k walk.

We started off with a bottle of Tempranillo. I mean, it is Latin Fusion Cuisine, right? I haven’t been ordering wine in restaurants lately because they are so overpriced. I know I can get a good quality pint of beer for $4 or $5, but a glass of mediocre, often open-too-long, wine is about $8-$12 per glass. Bottles of wine are usually double or triple the retail price. So if I want something decent tasting, I’m paying $50/bottle or more. But I digress. This wine was decent.

I was in a chicken mood and had been trying to decide between the Pollo and the Ena {chicken filled ravioli} dishes. When this happens, I usually ask for guidance from the server. And while I know it’s annoying to them, I do like to hear their opinions. However, Jaime was not giving up his thoughts. Instead, he just went a little more in depth with the descriptions. He did say that the Pollo was a little more filling than the Ena, which, in the end, helped me to choose.

Pollo  Herb lemon marinated chicken served over a marscapone-trio bell pepper risotto in a guajillo butter sauce garnish with pickled onions.$18.95

Pollo
Herb lemon marinated chicken served over a marscapone-trio bell pepper risotto in a guajillo butter sauce garnish with pickled onions – $18.95

This was some of the most flavorful and juicy chicken I’ve had! I was quite satisfied with this dish. The risotto was good, too. I made Rob take a taste and he was blown away. Perfectly al dente and highly flavorful, he said it’s some of the best risotto he’s had. It’s hard to convince him of that when he loves the Parmesan risotto so much at Sul Lago.

Rob doesn’t really ever discuss with me what he is thinking of ordering. And he never asks the server for advice, either. Sometimes, he even tells me that he is ordering something different from what he actually orders. This time it was the:

Bife de Chorizo Gorgonzola-crusted Argentine steak served with garlic herb fries, sautéed artichokes, asparagus and red peppers; drizzled with chimichuri. $23.95

Bife de Chorizo
Gorgonzola-crusted Argentine steak served with garlic herb fries, sautéed artichokes, asparagus and red peppers; drizzled with chimichuri – $23.95

I’m not sure why this is described as “chorizo”, but Rob loved it. He said he’d order it again any day. The fries were mediocre, but that really wasn’t what we were there for anyway.

What threw me off guard was the ambiance. I expected it to be dim, quiet and intimate. However, the interior was bright and despite the great Latin decor, the way the booths and tables were set up, I felt a little like I was at Denny’s. I apologize for that description because the food is totally worth checking the place out. That may be why many people were getting food to go. You know, I always forget about to-go orders. I need to remember that when we don’t feel like going out, but I also don’t feel like cooking.

My plan is to take my girlfriends back here. It seemed like a place that they’d enjoy. But that night, Rob and I skipped dessert. Instead, we went for a nightcap across the street. More on that later this week…

Where do you go that you love the food but aren’t as fond of the ambiance?

What is your favorite place to pick up food to-go?

Cheers~
Carrie