Dining Review: Birdhouse
One drawback of visiting a new restaurant focused on lightening up the way people eat is that you may have to listen to the folks at the next table quizzing the waitress about which appetizer is lightest and then sharing their various juicing regimens at length. Oh, well.
At Birdhouse, the new venture from Heidi and Stewart Woodman (Heidi’s), you won’t find lectures about health or the environment, about eating less meat or more whole grains. There are no menu icons denoting “light fare.” The approach is as restrained as the dÃ©cor. (How restrained is that? Very. Birdhouse curated the busy Duplex space and it feels as light and airy as your first apartment, before life became cluttered.)
Birdhouse fills the hole left behind by CafÃ© Brenda: a place for healthful, nourishing food that doesn’t make you feel like a monk doing penance.
Vegetarians shouldn’t be fooled. This is a less-meat menu, with very few no-meat options. Vegans are almost entirely out of luck.
The best example of the Birdhouse ethos on a plate is the farro salad. Farro gets lumped in with the other ascetic whole grains, but it is uniquely chewy and richly flavored. Toss it with yogurt for a little bite and stud it with peas, a few medium-rare medallions of lamb next to it, and this is a dish that makes you feel nourished—not fattened for market or seduced like a visiting dignitary.
Stewart Woodman isn’t the head of the kitchen here; the restaurant has been through multiple chefs in its short life—that’s Woodman’s protÃ©gÃ©, chef Jes Werkmeister, at the pass, now. But his presence is felt in layers of flavor. You’ll never have a bland Woodman dish: the green pea pÃ¢tÃ© is sweet and rich (topped with a smear of goat cheese); lean, meaty ribs fall apart on your fork; the mushroom terrine tastes dark, rich, and woody. Even the quinoa “croquettes”—which are not croquettes in any sense of the word because “croquer” means “crunch” and these are crumbly, mushy patties—are packed with flavor.
While your instinct at a “healthy” restaurant may be to turn down dessert, keep in mind that the other half of the Woodman equation is Heidi Woodman, master pastry chef. You’ll genuinely have room for her soup-cup of lemon curd. You could ask the waitress just how much butter goes into this particular delight, but the folks at the next table would appreciate it if you didn’t ruin their fantasy.
2516 Hennepin Ave.