The Store Formerly Known as Restoration Hardware is selling more than armoires and window treatments.
Now going by RH, the company has replaced its longtime outpost in Edina’s Galleria with a nearby free-standing “gallery,” aka store-showroom. It’s capped by an equally dazzling-looking rooftop restaurant.
Retail’s connection to dining is nothing new. After all, department stores have featured restaurants for more than a century.
RH is clearly going all in on this phenomenon, dropping what had to be a mountain of cash on a visually striking space that’s a heady mix of Victorian-era conservatory and Las Vegas excess. Sitting in the airy, wide-open expanse of RH Rooftop Restaurant is a luxurious treat, and a spot-on example of why environment plays such a critical role in dining out.
Naturally, this kind of risk-taking investment leads to caution elsewhere. Namely, the menu, which has the feeling of being focus-grouped ad infinitum. It’s a roster of mainstream, easy-to-assemble dishes, seemingly chosen to keep kitchen labor costs to a minimum.
There is — or, was — brilliance at the top of this particular food chain. He’s the reason why the double-patty cheeseburger is such a doozy; although, at $21, it’s not unreasonable to expect anything less (more on the prices later).
That’s because the restaurant’s menu — which is essentially the same at each of its eight iterations, sprinkled from Boston to Los Angeles — was developed by chef Brendan Sodikoff of Chicago’s Au Cheval, purveyor of what is arguably the country’s most copied upscale burger. Sodikoff exited RH in August, and filed a lawsuit against the company in October.
But that’s another story. Sodikoff’s skill set remains stamped all over the menu.
Salads pop with fresh, well-assembled components and finished with spirited dressings and vinaigrettes. A rustic sourdough is wisely tapped as the foundation of several dishes, from a massive avocado toast to an assemble-it-yourself platter of velvety smoked salmon and all the proper accoutrements.
Beef rib-eye is served two ways. Best is when the tender, succulent meat is shaved into thin ribbons piled on another first-rate bread, this time a toasted garlic-infused loaf. It’s also served straight-up in a 16-ounce cut that’s cooked precisely to order.
There’s a well-executed shrimp cocktail, the brunch menu’s scrambled eggs embody the word “creamy” and a grilled cheese sandwich gets the deluxe treatment, oozing with toasty buttered goodness and a hint of truffle.
A handful of well-made side dishes would fit right into any upscale steakhouse, including a plate of charred broccolini popping with lemon and garlic, and rich, olive oil-boosted mashed potatoes.
Still, it often feels a little hands-off. A make-your-own crostini incorporates that great grilled sourdough, along with a first-rate burrata teased with a sweet-tart balsamic vinegar, and colorful roasted cherry tomatoes. Looks great, right? But it’s all so timid, with little thought to building layers of flavors; how about adding herbs — or even more salt, and pepper — to those tomatoes, as they blossom in the oven? Or including a pesto?
The same can be said for a perfunctory roast chicken, where the contrasting snap between crisped-up skin and juicy meat was dialed down to a whisper. A nicely grilled slab of velvety salmon arrived at the table at room temperature.
Watch the tab
Some of the prices are preposterous. Even for Edina.
For example, there’s a shareable board that features a luscious wedge of a triple-cream French cheese; a few crumbles of a hard, granular cheese; several (ample, it must be said) ribbons of first-rate prosciutto; a warm and appealingly crusty demi-baguette; a handful of red grapes; and a ramekin inexplicably filled with strawberry preserves.
It’s $39. That’s not a typo.
A by-the-book lobster roll — granted, it’s a plus-size version, with sweet, tender meat generously piled on nicely toasted, milk-enriched bread — is, yes, $30 (once again, the bread game here is spot-on).
Add a few large-ish poached shrimp to a toss of arugula, thinly sliced fennel, tangy Parmesan and sweet grapes, and the tab escalates to $29. For $18, a banana split should rise to a level that exceeds perfectly acceptable. But will a table full of kids (or kids at heart) enjoy splitting it? Sure.
Then there’s the wine. No doubt about it, RH Rooftop is a marvelous setting for savoring an effervescent Austrian sparkling rosé, or a smoky California pinot noir. But the prices! The 15 by-the-glass options average $16, and the mean price for the 57 bottle choices is $105. Just one bottle sneaks in under $50, a $48 California rosé. Not exactly the bargain basement.
A knockout of a room
Yeah, you’re paying for the room. Given its prodigious splendors, it’s semi-worth it.
During the day, the soaked-in-sunshine space is the state’s most appealing — and most effective — seasonal affect disorder light box. (Yes, loaner sunglasses are available upon request.) The over-the-top, under-a-glass-canopy environment, trimmed in tons of fake boxwood, is such a mood-brightener that grousing about the prices can delve into an afterthought. Until the bill arrives, anyway.
At night, when the chorus of massive crystal chandeliers (I stopped counting at 20) are glowing, the fountain is splashing and the view transforms itself from a tedious landscape of parking lots and shopping center rooftops into a blanket of twinkling lights, the place becomes downright magical.
The posh details are everywhere, right down to the individual marble-covered restrooms and their heavy timbered doors. In the dining room, the variety of chairs, banquettes and sofas are obviously chosen for comfort and style; RH wisely extends its showroom mentality to its well-appointed restaurant.
If there’s one glitch, it’s that the barista bar is seatless, leaving no place to linger while waiting for a table. It’s an omission that is surely by design. After all, that’s what browsing among the $4,100 sideboards and $2,900 sectional sofas is for, right? (It’s too bad that customers can’t stroll the store with a glass of wine, as they can in other RH locations; thanks, antediluvian Minnesota liquor laws.)
It also helps there has been an obvious investment in staff training, reflected in the hospitable salutation at the host stand and the servers’ collective hustle and genuine warmth.
Dessert reflects the kitchen’s labor expediency. There’s the aforementioned banana split, along with scoops of ice cream and sorbet, and dreamy chocolate chip cookies, sold three to an order.
“These babies could help bring about world peace,” said our server as she placed a plate of them at the table.
That’s barely an exaggeration. The plentiful chocolate is plenty bitter, and the pile-on of butter and brown sugar is both obvious and deeply appreciated. Ditto the twinkly flourish of flaky Maldon sea salt.
They arrive warm, the chocolate slightly gooey, the crisp edges giving way to a chewy, tender center. My guess is that they’re cut-and-bakes, made elsewhere, shipped to Minnesota and finished on the premises.
Whatever the process, they’re fabulous, and at three for $10, they’re a genuine value. It’s always wise to go out on a high note.