Prices slashed? Sure, I’ll run right over. Everybody loves a deal. But, menu slashed? Not so much.
A week after the opening of Fig + Farro in Calhoun Square, I stopped in and picked up a menu of what was heralded as the new wave of pan-global, all-vegetarian fare: 18 mouth-watering items, ranging from carrot osso buco and vegan Swedish meatballs to mashed potatoes with a three-tiered flight of gravies. Sign me up! So I made a reservation.
Returning a week later, those 18 items had been slashed to nine (losers include all of the above). No wonder the room was nearly empty. Maybe that prime real estate, formerly known as Figlio — a space that has failed to capture a lasting audience ever since that esteemed café’s demise — has bad karma.
But here’s the thing: Cutting the foodie-type food from your menu so soon after debuting what’s arguably a challenging concept to the Uptown bar-burger crowd may not be the answer. Add in a pleasant server who clearly had had little training in the fundamentals of the job, and start placing your bets. (It should have been a warning when this server told us that two wines were available by carafe, one of which was terrible. Thanking her for the tip, we ordered the other one.)
We started with the hummus plate, also featuring baba ghanoush, both of supermarket-deli quality and accompanied by three carrot sticks, three cuke slices, etc., for our party of four. Plus “paan” — the kitchen’s cross-cultural blend of pita and naan but resembling neither. The wedges are thick and bouncy, and just fine.
Next, the Brussels sprouts. (Oh, no, sorry! The kitchen has run out, we were informed. Okay, then, down to eight choices. Seven if you don’t count the spiced nuts.) We pointed to the Magic Avocado Burrito, $12 — served, in an unfortunate judgment call, stone cold. The wrap enclosed avocado, bits of hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, feta and MAGIC (no, I don’t know, either) and was accompanied by a dab of standard salsa verde. Then the curried cauliflower, $9 — a huge platter of tennis-ball-size nuggets (over-large, overcooked) dusted with too-mild and modest curry powder.
The hit of the evening — and it proved mighty tasty, indeed — was a platter of shakshouka ($12), the dish all knowing Israelis turn to for a bar-close snack and then again in the morning as a hangover cure. I love it. It’s a juicy stew of tomatoes, sweet peppers and such, served topped with poached eggs and a nice jolt of savory, salty feta — and here, accompanied by more paan.
The latkes we ordered never showed up. Instead, from among the two desserts (plus cookies) listed — a dense Swedish chocolate cake called kladdkaka, and a cake showcasing caramelized figs — we went for the latter. A slim, dense but nicely juicy slice appeared, sweetened with maple and served with a little pitcher of maple-almond milk —but without spoons with which to enjoy it.
3001 Hennepin Ave. S.
I’d written about Cosmos, in downtown’s Loews Hotel, in 2017, and returned recently for a press dinner that showcased the hyper-local, vegetarian-forward choices starring on its new, seasonal menu.
The Herbivorous Butcher provided an antipasto buffet of plant-based chorizo and more, then a chance to sample the chorizo as a cameo in a frisée-butternut-pepita salad. The HB’s Porterhouse Steak served as a main course (or choose actual bison, mighty tasty, too), assisted by breads from Baker’s Field Flour, love child of iconic Irishman Kieran Folliard.
For dessert, another partner, Mademoiselle Miel, baked a chocolate-banana tart sweetened with her uber-local honey.
Bravo to the kitchen’s commitment to feature vegan choices as well as local ones on every forthcoming menu.