By John Garland
You’ll have to navigate through some scaffolding to get into Brasserie Zentral. Construction on the Soo Line Building at 5th and Marquette continues on, but once you step inside, that’s where the work-in-progress ends.
Just a few weeks into service, Zentral is a den of humming efficiency and a confident contender for the year’s best new eatery. It’s refined and well-organized, with a color palette full of browns and dark reds, and sight lines that guide your gaze to the stark silver and white of the open kitchen.
As a companion piece to Meritage in St. Paul, Zentral gives Russell and Desta Klein an intriguing and effective 1-2 punch to rival that of any restaurateur in the Cities. Many hallmarks of Meritage have followed the Kleins over the river – a wine list both voluminous and well-curated, elegant and polished cocktails, and a genuine, helpful service staff that manages to be both ever-present and not overbearing.
And the food is just smart. Parts of the menu scream from the comfort of the old school – fresh dumplings and fish entrees, schnitzel and noodles sure to be a few of your fav-o-rite things. Other parts swing towards the audacious (foie gras section? OK!) and bold (the paprika-cured mackerel is a must-try starter).
But we’re currently smitten with the Fresh Cheese and Spring Nettle Tortelloni ($9/$14). There’s five layers of freshness packed into these pockets of springtime. The combination of greenery bursts together while the creamy cheese and brown butter anchors it in place. And those crunchy pecorino snowflakes on top? In a perfect world, we could order a bowl of them as a bar snack.
Brasserie Zentral, 505 Marquette Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-333-0505.