“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
And really, who isn’t these days? Well, if we’re being honest, maybe me when it comes to food (to my husband’s chagrin). So, then you can imagine our delight and surprise upon finding Victory 44 in North Minneapolis for our “date night” this weekend. It fits into the “Gastropub” genre of restaurants that has spread like wildfire across the country — focused on the freshest meats, using all the parts of the animal (yes, even the crazy parts) and making it approachable, affordable, and pairable with lots of unique brews. What’s not to like?
The meal started with an amuse bouche, a rich, creamy mushroom soup in a shot glass, delicious and the first indicator that we were about to be surprised. I started with the gougeres, because I like to make them myself and will order them anywhere. The light pastry puffs made of choux and cheese were pretty good, but nothing compared to the almond agnolotti pasta dish I had next. The pasta was rich, had just the right taste of almond, and was toothsome and hearty on a cool fall night. I also had a glass of Surly Darkness for the first time and it was smooth and heavenly… a great pairing for the comforting food served at Victory.
Jin ordered the ham and cheese croquettes to start and thought they were excellent. We both thought about the bacon frites to share and regretted not ordering, but were trying to show some restraint! For his main he had the steak and while the first plate brought out was not the best cut, after pointing this out to the server she quickly rectified the situation with a new plate that was more than acceptable. It’s worth noting that the place has more “pub” than “gastro” the service, so the service may seem a bit spotty or casual compared to a typical restaurant, but we didn’t mind since the food spoke for itself and the servers were friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating.
The dessert platter, to share, was a sweet and creative end to the meal. First, there was a plate with 3 different little bites all resting atop some of the most delicious salted caramel we’ve ever tasted. This stuff was just the right mix of buttery, salty, and sweet. I had to stop Jin or he’d have licked the plate itself clean! But then, out came the second course, on a large cheese board-like serving piece with 4 different slightly larger treats: a dense chocolate pate, a creamy peanut mousse, a light and fresh tasting apple shortbread, a chocolate cake, and a fried raspberry cheesecake (easily our least favorite). The first three were very successful, and I wish I could do it justice with better descriptions of the preparations, which were elegant and unexpected. What I can say is you must experience the whole thing for yourself, and for just $10 for the entire dessert sampling there is no excuse not to!
Our overall impression was that the food was outstanding, presented in such an elegant and interesting way – there were foams, mousse, powders, and other interesting twists but they didn’t feel gimmicky at all, they felt well-thought out and integral to the dishes. Our last real dining experiences were in New York the other weekend, and given what we’d experienced at the famed Le Bernardin and WD-50 I was a little anxious about our re-entry from the foodie stratosphere. But, Victory 44 turned out to be the right place for us because the neighborhood and casual appeal, the great flavors, preparations, and presentation of the food made the experience wholly enjoyable. Even more enjoyable, the bill at the end which came to <$60! Amazing value, worthy of hiring a babysitter so we can have another run at those bacon fries!
If you don’t want to take my word for it, see one of several raving reviews from the local food writers: http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/media/Minnesota-Monthly/April-2010/Thrills-of-Victory/
Learn more on their site: http://www.victory-44.com/vhome.html