Counter intelligence: All hail the oyster

  • Article by: BY RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 26, 2012 - 3:28 PM

Also: Murray's changes popular ones; deja vu at Figlio, and what's new in Plymouth?

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Chef J.P. Samuelson is running the kitchen at the new Figlio in St. Louis Park.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Sunday's top ticket is the second-annual Oysterfest, an ode to the bivalve sponsored by oyster fanatics Russell and Desta Klein at their Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, www.meritage-stpaul.com).

Oyster farmers from Oregon, Massachusetts and Washington will be manning shucking stations (other food items include fried clams, oyster po' boys, lobster rolls and burgers). Live music, seminars and an oyster shucking contest are also on the docket.

Festivities start at noon. The weather forecast looks promising, as does the debut of Summit Brewing Company's Oyster Stout, made using the restaurant's oyster shells. Advance tickets are sold out, but tickets at the door ($30) will be available.

Change is good

What a happy sight to encounter a full house during a lunch last week at the newly renovated Murray's (26 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-339-0909, www.murraysrestaurant.com). Both the dining room and bar crackled with a newfound energy, fueled not only by handsome new looks but also from a streamlined noon-hour menu.

Yes, there are steaks -- 6 ounces of top sirloin and tenderloin, priced at $20 and $30, respectively, along with the signature Silver Butter Knife behemoth, a 28-ounce strip sirloin for two for $99 -- but the greater emphasis is on sandwiches and entree-portion salads that hover in the $12 range.

A terrific sandwich combines two of life's greatest pleasures: medium-rare sirloin and smoky, thick-cut bacon. Also impressive is a tall stack of smoked pork loin and succulent, thinly shaved ham, dressed with a robust mustard and tangy pickles and stuffed into a soft roll.

As for the burger, chef John Van House is wisely continuing to follow his time-tested formula, forming patties with ground steak trimmings. Try finding that at Smashburger.

I can't say that I was bowled over by the bland and overpriced spaetzle version of mac and cheese and the past-its-prime lobster, but a towering and altogether glorious slice of fresh raspberry pie more than made up for its shortcomings. That and watching co-owner Tim Murray meet-and-greet all over the busy room, with such a look of pride on his face.

What a feeling

The '80s are back. The reboot of Figlio (5331 W. 16th St., St. Louis Park, www.figlio.com) debuted Monday in the former home of Sopranos Italian Kitchen at the Shops at West End. (For those who don't remember, Figlio anchored the corner of Lake and Hennepin in Uptown Minneapolis from 1984 to 2009.)

Sopranos chef J.P. Samuelson is running the kitchen, producing lunch and dinner menus peppered with a number of Figlio classics (including fried calamari, tortellini stuffed with peas and prosciutto, wood-fired pizzas and "Joe's eggs," a sausage and spinach scamble) as well as a long list of more contemporary Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Yes, the bar has picked up Figlio's obsession with the bloody Mary.

Now open in Plymouth

Eat Shop Kitchen & Bar (16605 County Rd. 24, Plymouth, www.theeatshop.com) is offering an extensive modern American menu (by chef Jeff Anderson, formerly of Uptown Cafeteria), craft beers, specialty cocktails and affordable wines. Dinner is served daily, lunch on weekdays and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

RICK NELSON

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