When Le Meridien Chambers general partner Ralph Burnet promised something “fresh and exciting” for downtown Minneapolis, restaurant-wise, to replace the hotel’s recently departed D’Amico Kitchen, he delivered.
Get ready for Marin, the next project for Craig Bentdahl, owner of the health-conscious and wildly successful Mill Valley Kitchen (3906 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, www.millvalleykitchen.com).
“It’s a new concept, but it will have a shared philosophy with Mill Valley Kitchen,” said Bentdahl. “The cuisine is going to be nutrient-dense yet flavorful, farm-to-table and sustainable. There’s nothing quite like it downtown, We’re going to offer something authentically healthy but also sophisticated. We’re going to do our best to make it one of the best restaurants in Minneapolis.”
Mill Valley Kitchen chef Michael Rakun will helm the kitchen, as well as the hotel’s banquet and room service operations. With an opening date of early summer, there aren’t a lot of menu specifics, at least not yet, although this much is certain: the menu will follow the Mill Valley Kitchen practice of listing nutritional information and calorie counts for each item.
"Mill Valley is packed every day for lunch and dinner," said Burnet in a statement. "Clearly Craig has tapped into an unmet, underserved need in the local dining community, and we're excited to be able to introduce his new restaurant concept to our guests."
Marin will continue to occupy the same 9th-and-Hennepin street-level square footage as its predecessors. The space is getting a complete overhaul, with a design by Shea Inc., the Minneapolis firm responsible for the hotel’s original drinking-and-dining tenant, Chambers Kitchen, which closed in 2009. Shea also designed the great-looking Mill Valley Kitchen, and is responsible for the look of food-and-drink venues up and down Hennepin Avenue, including Lunds, Butcher & the Boar, Union and Rosa Mexicano.
“It will certainly be complementary to the hotel, but it will also have a distinct identity,” said Bentdahl (pictured, above). “We’ll be doing some things to warm the space up a bit. We’re making a substantial investment.”
Other changes: the lower level — the former Chambers Kitchen dining room — will be reconfigured into a lounge and private dining rooms. Expect to see changes in the hotel’s courtyard eating-and-drinking space, too.
As for the name, it’s taken from Marin County, the northern California district that is also home to the city of Mill Valley. It’s the second restaurant for Bentdahl. The former banker launched Mill Valley Kitchen in 2011.
“I’ve had an interest in downtown for a while, and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity,” he said. “Ralph contacted me several months ago — he and Peggy [Burnet’s spouse] have been frequent diners at Mill Valley Kitchen — and I have a lot of respect for him, he’s a great entrepreneur. It’s really exciting to have this opportunity.”