Radisson Blu FireLake
35 S. Seventh St.
Get over it. Foodies have long shunned hotel dining rooms when it comes to a night on the town. But that was then and this is now: No longer the stepchildren of the restaurant experience, peopled by dreary traveling salesmen picking away at even drearier food, urban hotels have picked up the pace and are prepared to earn your dining dollars, even if you’re not turning in upstairs.
The all-new Radisson Blu, recently re-opened after undergoing an image-changing makeover of the longtime downtown Minneapolis flagship, is a showpiece of gleaming white surfaces, soft (and trendy) fabrics, local art, and a new GM who moved here from San Diego on the coldest day of last winter—which makes one question his decision-making capacity, at least on one count. But not on dedication to leading the city’s downtown sizzle. And FireLake, its casual-chic restaurant, provides sizzle that extends well beyond its steak.
The trendy, new Radisson Blu concept debuted in Europe. This property represents the fourth in the States, and Exec Chef Jim Kyndberg is making the most of his chance to showcase Minnesota products on his menu, besting out-of-towners’ expectations of hot dish as our way of life. And that starts (natch) with walleye. And corn. Jim serves the sweet, mild, heirloom corn-crusted fillet as God meant it to be, with asparagus and fingerling potatoes. Talk of perfection on a plate. His seafood hits extend to rillettes of gently-smoked salmon set on rye bread toast points aside a parsley-caper salad. And, reaching to the other end of our Mississippi River, he sautées Gulf shrimplets, sets them atop grilled, corny, polenta, and accents the whole concoction with spinach, tomatoes and a Meyer lemon butter.
Oh, you’re here for soup and salad? That works, too. His Minnesota wild rice soup deserves a lifetime achievement award in our state’s culinary Hall of Fame—creamy, subtly sweetened with leeks and textured with shiitake mushrooms, it’s medicine for whatever went wrong in your day. Add a comely burst of micro salad greens pocked with suave goat cheese, bits of bacon and veggies (including, yes, corn) and finished with a toss of tiny, crispy croutons of cranberry and wild rice.
What Jim loves best among the bests is his rotisserie. He’d grill the napkins if you let him. But far better, his famous chicken, served with a bright succotash of summer vegetables. It’s his best seller. But don’t overlook the beef brisket, either, from the Limousin cattle of Wisconsin’s Peterson Farms. Jim splashes it with his homemade pomegranate barbecue sauce and serves it aside a white Cheddar mac and cheese, along with grilled broccolini sprigs.
What could top that? Well, I’ll tell you what: a tartlet of roasted plums served with fennel pollen ice cream—homemade, of course. (You won’t find that wonder in your grocer’s freezer.) FireLake’s wine list is (wisely, I have to say) not Minnesota-centric. Think finds from all around the world. However, the staff is just the opposite—as Minnesota Nice as can be.