Here’s the not-unexpected news from 5th and Marquette in downtown Minneapolis: “Today we are pleased to announced that we have sold our interests in the restaurants located in the Soo Line Building,” said Russell Klein, chef/co-owner of the former Brasserie Zentral and its casual companion, Foreign Legion (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo).
The replacement? Klein isn’t at liberty to reveal details. Rumors have been flying around the restaurant industry for weeks, however (and if they’re to be believed, it's an exciting development). We have calls in to key players. Stay tuned.
Klein and his spouse and business partner, Desta Klein, pulled the plug on four-star Zentral in January (it was the Star Tribune’s 2014 Restaurant of the Year), a few months shy of the restaurant’s two-year anniversary, but have kept operating Foreign Legion.
The couple had previously sold their Cafe Zentral, a skyway-level counter-service operation, to general manager Robert Whitney and chef Alejandro Cerdas-Monge, who re-branded the business as World Cafe.
Foreign Legion's last day is Saturday, April 16. After that, the Kleins will play host to several previously booked private parties through the end of the month, and then they’re out.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Klein. “We put together a great restaurant, and we’re proud of what we did. But in the end, it didn’t work. Maybe there’s more to life than running multiple restaurants.”
He’s taking the opportunity to refocus his efforts on Meritage, the couple’s nine-year-old downtown St. Paul restaurant.
“My goal is that when we hit our 10th anniversary next year that people say that Meritage is better than it’s ever been,” he said.
Meritage diners might see glimpses of Central European-focused Zentral on future menus.
“We ran Spargelfest [“Asparagus Festival”] last year at Zentral, and it was really popular, and fun for us,” said Klein. “So we’re going to run it at Meritage, sometime in late April or early May.”
Klein is also open to Zentral tribute dinners sometime in the future (“We have all the recipes, it’s certainly part of our repertoire now,” he said) and noted that he’s received a number of requests for specific Zentral dishes.
“Lots of spaetzle,” he said with a laugh. “And maybe we’ll do that, someday. I promised the kitchen crew that I brought over from Zentral that they wouldn’t have to see spaetzle for at least a year. They’re still having spaetzle nightmares.”