After reading Andrew Zimmern’s blog yesterday, I immediately called the much-awaited Porter & Frye to see if John and I could score a table for Date Night. We love the stylings of Chef Steven Brown (Levain, RockStar) and were psyched to sample his new wares. And The Hotel Ivy (the restaurant is a part of the hotel) is a brand-spanking new downtown hotspot, certainly worthy of scoping.
So scope it we did, knowing full well that it’s all very new and not totally up to full speed (by design, soft opening). They didn’t appear to staff a full dining room last night, presumably taking time to work out the inevitable kinks – especially when opening a restaurant as ambitious as Porter & Frye intends to be. We arrived a bit early so enjoyed a glass of prosecco in the chic bar, chatting with the excellent bartenders. Our waiter and support staff were top-notch as well, attentive and professional. Good start. Of course we ordered the frites (called “fryes” after the name of the restaurant), especially the truffle-vinegar-and-parmesan-sprinkled version. They were…OK. Little soggy, little not-quite-hot, and not particularly truffly. Darn! But my next course was delicious – a pretty bowl of chowder, served deconstructed with tiny brioche croutons, little rock shrimps, and bits of ham in the bowl, with creamy broth poured over at the table. Lovely to witness and eat. John had the celery bisque, served in a similar fashion, but despite the celery-intense creamy broth (yum), the presentation included thick slices of slow-cooked (but raw-looking?) pork, which didn’t quite work.
For my entree, I had an incredible piece of grilled swordfish, dressed with a pile of crispy parsnips, in my mind a real Steven Brown dish – salty, sweet, crunchy, smooth, man it just hit every note, I could have licked my plate. (Perhaps I did just a little…) John had prawns sauteed in their shells, with quince raviolis, tasty and quite light. We were too stuffed for dessert, plus, we’d hatched an evil little plan during dinner…
…to spend the night in the hotel! Totally spontaneous, which of course made it a blast! The hotel hasn’t even officially opened yet, but the staff is up and running and we were curious to check it all out. They not only had a room for us, but put us in a huge, fabulous suite. Very modern/chic, with a beautiful front entry, hardwood floors, earth tones, and a glorious bathroom and bed. I had a lovely, hot bath (the hotel has their own signature spa/bath products, heavenly scent), wrapped myself in The Best hotel robe ever (silky-thick, yum, I want one!), ordered room service breakfast (of course), and did the walk of shame across the hotel lobby this morning, still in my party clothes. Although if you’re married, is it really a walk of shame? Hmmm…I say not. (However we were totally aware that we looked unmarried at check-in last night, and walking out this morning, which made us chuckle all the more…)
Like the restaurant, the hotel has a few kinks to work out too, but minor things, little details. The service was polished and friendly. And like the restaurant, the promise is real and exciting – great fun for Minneapolis, giving us another luxury-hip, hotel-restaurant combo (a la The Graves 601/Cosmos and The Chambers Hotel/Kitchen). Definitely worth keeping in mind for those times when you’re itching to get away, but can’t really leave town. Sweet!