Around the world in 80 meals, or at least that's what it tastes like at Ringo, the first of two new restaurants from Jim and Stephanie Ringo to debut this month. (The second is Forum, set to open Friday in downtown Minneapolis.)
From pho to paella, ceviche to Argentine beef, the menu is all over the globe -- and that doesn't take into account the extensive rotating monthly menu feature, which through May is based on the food of Seoul, South Korea (spicy black cod stew and sweet potato with almond syrup are among the 15 dishes).
Ringo's ambitious menu would put the skills of any restaurant kitchen to the test simply by its eclectic nature, never mind its sheer number of items. Then there's the conundrum of suburban dining: How spicy, adventuresome and "different" should dishes be for casual diners on their way to a nearby movie? Clearly the comfort food on the menu -- the meatloaf sliders, walleye and steaks -- are aimed at those who seek the familiar.
The global perspective reflects the owners' travels and tastes. And to their credit, they took the less predictable route at Ringo. However, with the help of executive chef Ryan Aberle, formerly of NorthCoast, they need to narrow their focus. The choices are too many and skip around the world haphazardly; too much thought is required of the diner before placing an order.
The dishes need more focus, too. The meatloaf sliders were bland, the tenderloin flavorless, the lemon Caesar way too lemony (and can you have a Caesar without anchovies?). The crab dumplings were a bit odd and boring, even if authentic. Both the paella and black cod stew needed more spice. However, the three variations of crab cakes were a nice take on a traditional dish.
Portions are on the large side, but so are prices. Service is earnest, but lacks follow-through (dishes should be cleared immediately!).
Still, this ambitious effort by first-time restaurateurs is welcome in the neighborhood. Let's see where Ringo ends up with time and more focus.
LEE SVITAK DEAN