Dining Review: The Gray House

Dining Review: The Gray House

The Gray House offers range and an ambitious menu in a minimalist atmosphere.

The Gray House is one of the more eccentric eateries in the Twin Cities, but Chef/Owner Ian Gray’s is also one of the more distinctive culinary voices to emerge on the local scene.

The specific scene is almost the antithesis of one. A wide, spare space—gray to be precise—is home to a large bar, blackboards for the night’s menus, lots of street-facing windows, and a collection of tables. Located in Minneapolis’ Lyn-Lake neighborhood, the place barely holds 50.

The kitchen’s emphasis is seasonal and local, like all the new chef-driven restaurants in town. (It’s barely worth a mention, it’s so common now.) Chef Gray’s cooking can be rather overwrought at times, with many dishes containing a multiplicity of textures and influences. On the nights we were there the restaurant was serviced by no more than two staffers, so pacing can be leisurely.

The menu changes frequently and consists of a bare-bones carte and a multiplicity of specials, so it’s of limited value to talk about what we ate other than to give an indication of the restaurant’s range. A starter called “baked beans” consisted of braised lamb, garbanzo beans, oyster mushrooms, skyr (Icelandic yogurt of sorts), and broth. My notes call it “interesting.” In that same vein was a starter of roast goat’s curd, stewed morels, and badly overcooked crostini. I’d avoid the sweet and spicy dumplings—too sweet, too spicy, too doughy.

Larger plates were more impressive, particularly a bowl of udon noodles, mushrooms, and asparagus, with a poached egg; or a plate of braised lamb, fingerling potato, harissa, and greens. Greens, in fact, covered almost every dish we were served, highlighting the farm-to-table influence, but also masking most of the fare’s visual appeal.

Pastas are a strength, particularly pappardelle with a chicken and ramp ragu, and trofie with balsamic Bolognese and crunchy bread crumbs. Gnocchi with ramps and green garlic continued the kitchen’s doughy, dense way with dumplings.

Desserts included a delicate rhubarb tart that did not benefit from the mint syrup applied to it, and a better, and simpler, amaretto chocolate custard. Service is knowledgeable, which is good, because the menu rarely offers sufficient detail to understand what you’re ordering.

Gray House makes minimal concessions to popular convention, whether in conception, preparation, or presentation. There’s occasionally too much going on here, but Chef Gray has something original to say, and it’s worth a listen.

What Works

Originality, pasta dishes, earnest service

What Doesn't

Overly complex recipes, presentation, anything in a dumpling format

610 W. Lake St. Minneapolis 612-823-4338 thegrayhouseeats.com