When did Minnesotans get to be so bitchy?

I'm thinking back to a conversation that I had with a food-obsessed acquaintance last winter. The subject was Ringo. Specifically, the restaurant's strategy for presenting a kind of edible, changes- every-month culinary global getaway: You know, the flavors of Ivory Coast in August, Peru in September, Taipei in October. My pal found the business plan of first-time restaurateurs Jim and Stefanie Ringo to be a bit of a folly. That's putting it nicely.

I will admit that the mechanics behind frequently changing menus can be tricky. The Ringos are attempting a dozen-plus dishes in and out each month, with libations to match, all inspired by a veritable United Nations of culinary traditions. Could it all blow up? Maybe. But doesn't it also sound kind of fun?

"The worst curse in this business is getting bored with your own menu," said chef Ryan Aberle. After nearly five years of running Wayzata's NorthCoast, Aberle certainly has the adrenaline required for this kind of feat. He's now finding himself, for example, spending most of May preparing kimchi for his Seoul-inspired menu, or gearing up for his July foray into South Africa by testing wildebeest recipes.

Authenticity isn't necessarily at the top of Aberle's to-do list. Instead, he seems to create his "destination" menus by channeling various global disciplines through his own experience and imagination. That kimchi, for example, skipped the centuries-old practice of fermenting vegetables in favor of a less time-consuming sous vide preparation, and the results were terrific: tangy, lively and beautifully presented. In fact, much, although not all, of what I sampled on that initial Seoul menu tasted far better than what I've encountered at local Korean mom-and-pop shops.

Aberle's current destination menu, a nod to Brussels, is heavy on braising and stewing, a somewhat odd choice for Minnesota's too-brief summer, but the dishes often deliver, particularly a succulent, fall-apart cod braised in orange- and coriander-kissed white beer. White asparagus, steamed in white wine and crowned with a hard-cooked egg, distilled everything that's lovely about spring, and a Scotch egg, made with a nutmeg-scented sausage, was similarly elegant and flavorful.

Meanwhile, on Aberle's standard chops/comfort foods menu, the sheer volume of choices becomes exhausting, and not just for diners but occasionally for the kitchen, manifested in some noticeably long waits.

For all of Aberle's research, it's disappointing that he's populating that lengthy standard menu with slight variations on dishes widely available elsewhere: crab cakes, sliders, seared tuna. Such inclusions suggest that he or the Ringos are hedging their bets in case the whole menu-as-travelogue thing doesn't work out, but in the end the effort only dilutes the restaurant's clear concept.

Lunch, when Aberle's work is less self-consciously complicated, trumps dinner. Instead, there are lavishly finished charcoal-fired burgers, a wonderfully seasoned lamb sloppy Joe, a decadent BLT piled high with poached lobster and house-cured bacon, spicy red snapper tacos and a half-dozen artfully composed salads. Desserts don't particularly impress, with two exceptions: an amusing s'mores-meets-baked-Alaska, and an insanely luscious Belgian chocolate mousse.

I appreciate that Ringo is trying to forgo the same-old, same-old, even if the journey is one baby step at a time. Aberle and the Ringos could have gone 100 percent down the predictable all-things-to-all-customers road that is so prevalent in shopping mall restaurants, but they didn't, and, missteps aside, that's an effort worth celebrating.