It’s FDC #30! We did it! Thirty restaurants, thirty months, thirty opportunities for bread-related moments (more on that in a sec). And we couldn’t have done it without the support of all 11 of you that Google Analytics says read our blog.*
*Just kidding, potential advertisers! Between the four of us and each of our parents, that’s 12 readers right there.
It’s a testament to the Twin Cities restaurant scene that with 30 restaurants down, we still have plenty more on our list–and not one of those 30 have closed yet (though RIP Matt’s bachelor party restaurant, Brasserie Zentral). So which restaurant got the honor of being the Big 3-0? Upton Forty-Three! It’s new! It’s sharp! It’s sleek! It’s got a menu with a bunch of weird looking words on it!
FDC #30 also marks the beginning of a new era. Founding member and fearless blogger Drew has moved to the nation’s capital to start FDCDC (among other things, presumably). Despite that, while the blog will have fewer pictures of octopus hats and Aladdin and the King of Thieves screencaps, we promise to continue the marginally useful food reviews that all 11 of you have come to love.
Anyway, Upton Forty-Three is a new restaurant with food inspired by the recipes of Chef Erick Harcey’s Swedish grandmother. Chef Harcey is also the Executive Chef of Victory 44, which provided the setting for FDC #16, and we were immediately impressed by the chef’s long memory. After our bread disaster at Cavé Vin (FDC #6), Victory 44 promised to have bread ready and waiting for us upon our visit. We eventually learned that bread wasn’t actually on their menu, but that they made a special trip to the local bakery just for us. It was a great bit, excellent service, and really made us feel like we “hit the Insignificant Free Item Jackpot.” Fast forward FOURTEEN MONTHS, and what’s the FIRST thing that happens when we sit down at Upton 43?!
We notice their cool silverware holders:
OK, the SECOND thing?
BREAD!!! The bread was incredible, and those crackers were just as good. Also–it’s not a menu item. The crackers seem to come as part of their chicken liver first course, but the rye doesn’t seem to be a part of their menu at all. I think they might’ve gone to the local bakery again. As we say in the comedy biz, that’s commitment to a bit. Well done, Upton Forty-Three. Well done.
As for the actual menu, a few things stood out. The fried goat gouda (with kale and lingonberries) got an immediate yes from the four of us; and an even bigger yes from Chris and (new FDC member) The J for the “Kale-o Ren.”
The gouda balls did not disappoint. Crispy outside, gooey inside, tons of textures and flavors–it was definitely a highlight.
We ate it all except for one lingonberry.
We also ordered the pickled herring, the fermented lettuce, and the sunchokes. The pickled herring (with potato, apple, almond cookie, pickles, and dill) tasted fishy–because herring–but in a good way. The compressed apples were sweet and crunchy, the complete opposite of the herring, which gave the dish impeccable balance. It also had some mystery powder on top; which, I dunno about you, but I’ve always maintained that pickled herring goes best with some mystery powder… TELL ME I’M WRONG, MECCA BOS OF CITY PAGES!!! (Matt, make a Twitter feud happen so we get more readers.)
The fermented lettuce divided the group, in that it was a dish that really made you work for its love. It was just a handful of lettuce leaves, the fermentation was subtle, and it came on top of buttermilk dressing that felt like pancake batter started but never finished. Matt and I loved it. Chris and The J thought it was good, but not something you win friends with.
Finally, the sunchokes. My notes say, “Plays well with others.” I have no idea what that means.
For second courses we got the Swedish meatballs, the cod, the duck sausage, and the 120 day aged beef. My only complaint of the whole meal is that I wish they would have coursed these out. We always split everything at FDC, and all four first courses came at once; same for the second courses. The cod, which I ate first was my favorite; and the beef, which I ate last, was my least favorite. Matt, who did the opposite, liked the beef best and cod least. I thought it made sense to start with the fish and end with the steak, but by the time I got to the steak it had already cooled (and I ended up drenching it in the remaining sauce, which admittedly was the wrong decision on my part). Had the dishes come two at a time, I think I would’ve had a higher opinion of the beef.
However, all four were still incredibly tasty. The cod was one of the best pieces of fish I’ve ever had. It was buttery and firm, and it came with cabbage and fermented grapes that added some freshness and ‘zazz. The Swedish meatballs came with umami gravy. Umami, for those that don’t know, roughly translates from Japanese as “yummy.” I could bore you with science right now, but I’ll just reiterate, we had meatballs with gravy so good they said, “Screw it, let’s just say it’s ‘yummy’ and move on.”
I’m not the best person to comment on the duck and the beef, as I don’t think I ate them at their full potential, but Matt couldn’t stop talking about the beef, and The J couldn’t stop talking about the duck; and based on how the rest of the food tasted, you’re probably pretty safe if you order them.
For dessert, we got the fanciest pancakes in the biz…
…and a juniper bavarois, which our server described as having the consistency of panna cotta–which is basically just a fancy way to call it pudding. It came with carrots, which we weren’t sure would totally work. Spoiler alert: they totally did. We demolished the rye pancakes with birch ice cream and “blis elixir” syrup, and thought it had taken up all the noms; but then we tried the fancy pudding and realized there were still more oms to be nommed.
The versatile almond cookie (which careful readers will note goes just as well with pickled herring) did not last long as it got smashed up and mixed in with the bavarois and carrots and omg it was amazing–and I’m not typically a dessert person.
Upton 43 was quite a way to start off FDC 2016. The J fit in so well, I forgot Drew even existed for a bit. (Just kidding Drew! Miss you. Here’s a tyypo just for you.) Some reviews have raised the question about whether an aggressively Swedish restaurant can work longterm, what with their weird-looking menu items (gjestost?!) and celebrations of a different culture. But the food is worth it, and if you’re not an adventurous eater, they have a kids menu almost as large as their regular menu. Finally, don’t be scared off by the prices: in another innovative turn, they’ve done away with tips and pay their staff a living wage–so what you see is what you pay. No need for math. Wait, a restaurant that lets you avoid doing math? That’s worth the trip right there!
Often overlooked, bathrooms can sometimes make or break a fancy dinner experience. Or at least Chris thinks so. This is Fancy Bathroom Chris…
Upton 43 is one of the most iconic restaurant venues we’ve been to for Fancy Dinner Club. The design is stark, modern, and evocative of everything I think of when I think of Swedish design principles. Naturally, I had high hopes for their bathroom, sure to impress with its Nordic inspirations and unique patois.
Boy was I wrong.
This bathroom was literally the only lowlight on an evening of incredible highs delivered by the food. Let’s dig in:
The sink area actually is pretty nice. Solid contrast between the white of the sink and tile and the black accents of the mirror and sink basin. If this theme of contrast was hit upon throughout, one might rightly conclude that this bathroom isn’t bad. But they must have been trying to draw contrast between an interesting quarter of a bathroom with a blasé majority.
Not a lot of variety here. Really not much to say.
Oh, I actually have a gripe with the sink area. See that thing on the shelf underneath the light? That’s a cactus. In a Scandinavian restaurant. A cactus.
It just doesn’t make much sense.
I guess if the bathroom is the worst experience your restaurant has to offer, you’re probably doing it right.
1 out of 5 flushes.