Dining Review: The Kenwood

Dining Review: The Kenwood

A modest neighborhood restaurant offers a refreshing reset for the local dining scene.

The Kenwood is one of the most impressive local restaurants to debut in the last year—as much for what it isn’t as for what it is. It isn’t an operation built around small plates, large noise, obsessive sourcing, craft brew, mixology, pork belly and other red meats. It isn’t blasting assaultive music, nor is it full of garrulous bearded chefs pickling and fermenting their way to bloggers’ bliss.

The Kenwood is simply a great restaurant built on the enduring values of great restaurants: a sense of hospitality, a warm and comfortable room, knowledgeable and unpretentious service, a thoughtful wine list, top-tier ingredients, careful cooking, and real value.

The creation of veteran local chef Don Saunders (In Season, Fugaise) and Smart Associates—whose tweedy, hunt club design is as original and counterculture as anything that’s opened locally since La Belle Vie—the Kenwood sits at a quiet streetcar node in an out-of-the way Lake of the Isles neighborhood. The crowd is decidedly older than at most new restaurants, perhaps reflecting the neighborhood and experience on offer.

I have high praise for the almost-edgy duck offal “cigars” (liver and gizzard meat in a crispy fried wrap); a nuanced and beautiful asparagus terrine whose Parmesan aioli stole the show; and perfect veal sweetbreads with a perhaps superfluous carrot sauce.

Sautéed skate, missing from menus for a couple of decades, shows up in a textbook brown-butter caper sauce redolent of white wine; a quinoa cake with celery root purée, wild mushrooms, and fig molasses proved light but not bland; a Limousin beef burger (on a brioche-style bun) arrived crusty, beefy, well-seasoned, and cooked to a perfect medium-rare—a sharp rejoinder to all the burger joints in town that can’t get the alchemy right.

Desserts are not of the same caliber. A double-chocolate stoutbread pudding offered little chocolate or stout, just croutons under Izzy’s coffee ice cream. The signature grapefruit tart boasted a piquant grapefruit curd, albeit runny, atop a hard shortbread crust.

The Kenwood thoughtfully serves all day (except Sunday evening and Monday) and makes a supreme spring excursion, before or after a walk around Lake of the Isles.

What Works

A refreshing return to the best traditional values of dining out in a clubby space unlike any other in town.

What Doesn’t

Desserts are too rustic, bordering on the clunky.

The Kenwood
2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., 612-377-3695, thekenwoodrestaurant.com