Last Sunday as I was watching the TV prior to football starting (as there was nothing else on) I caught this spot on Fox9 with chefs from Le Cordon Bleu’s culinary school. At the end they talked up their on-site restaurant, The Minnesota Room and offered anyone who mentioned seeing them on TV 25% off their bill. Not being able to pass up three courses for about $10, I easily persuaded the Budget Nazi that this was something we could swing.
I made reservations, as their website says that they are recommended, for 11:30 on Friday. We arrived a few minutes late due to me wandering through the mess of suburban commercial park strips until we found signs pointing the way. After navigating the maze we parked and descended one set of stairs outside only to ascended another set of stairs inside. We walked down the long hall, lined with some additional tables, where we found a line of people waiting to get in. From outside in the hall we soon heard that they would be graded and that the restaurant was about to open.
The inside of the place looks like a converted classroom but they have obviously taken a good bit of time making changes to have it feel more comfortable. The lighting was low and accented by small candles in the center of each table. We were fortunate enough to be seated in a corner next to a lamp which would have offered the perfect light for food photography but, in my rush to get out the door and to the restaurant on time, I forgot my SD card at home so only iPhone pictures of the desserts were possible. The menus are not posted online ahead of time and are dated at the bottom leading me to believe that they may change quite frequently, possibly every day. Today’s menu sounded pretty good for all nine course options:
Veal Sweetbreads with Apples and Cipollinis
Poulet Consomme with Brunoise Vegetables and Dill Spatzels
Nicoise Salad with Hard Boiled Egg and Tuna
Meatloaf Au Jus with Potato Puree and Chantrelles
Seared Salmon with Fresh Pasta and Ratatouille
Roasted Chicken Breast with Butternut Squash Risotto
Apple Financier with Caramel Sauce
Bread Pudding with Blueberry Vanilla Sauce
Chocolate Tart with Creme Anglaise
My wife went with the nicoise salad, the roasted chicken breast, and the bread pudding. I decided on the sweetbreads, salmon, and apple financier. After a 40+ minute wait, while chomping through our second basket of bread that was over-baked and crunchy at times, our first course arrived. Two servers and the head of the program discussed, at length, which dish went to whom. After finally determining that I was #4 and my wife was #3 the dishes were placed before us. My wife’s salad was pretty typical with field greens, the promised egg slices, typical canned tuna salad, and a slice of either anchovies or herring (I couldn’t tell which when I ate it). My sweetbreads, on the other hand, were the best example of sweetbreads I’ve had in recent memory (although it has been since before I was married that I have seen them on a menu). The apples were almost peppery but still sweet and coupled with the cipollinis this was one hell of a way to start “lunch”.
After about 15 minutes the second courses began coming out. My wife’s chicken breast wasn’t a breast at all (looked like a thigh but I didn’t pay much attention) and was presented quite nicely. The golden brown color of the chicken contrasted well against the yellow butternut squash risotto. While the risotto was a bit overdone as far as I’m concerned it wasn’t bad at all and had an excellent flavor. My salmon, on the other hand, was way overdone and was a bit dry. The fresh pasta was a bit starchy and had entirely too much garlic (and I *love* lots of garlic). The ratatouille was good but more like a bunch of random sauteed vegetables rather than what I have come to expect as “ratatouille”. While most of that side was great, the eggplant was very tough–something which I found puzzling.
Dessert was out a little while later and neither really inspired me to say “woohoo”. In fact, the bread pudding was a bit mushy and tasteless and my apple financier was a little crunchy due to the caramel and the “muffin” was baked just a bit too long for my liking. You have to remember that I am not much of a dessert person and most people would probably have been just fine with what we were served today.
While we were waiting for our bill one of the servers came by and asked if we wanted some flamed coffee. We both declined but enjoyed as the head chef made a show of cooking the ingredients and lighting the clove infused orange rind on fire with Grand Marnier. Not only did it smell great but it looked like a lot of fun and garnered the two working on it a round of applause from the rest of the restaurant.
Our total bill, after 25% discount (good through October it would seem) was $20.02. They donate all of their tips to charities so if you don’t feel like supporting whomever that is, I suppose you could leave the tip off. The charity they donate to was listed at the bottom of the menu.
Overall the service was fine (no better and no worse than any other restaurant), the price was absolutely dirt fucking cheap, and the food was good enough for me to want to go back. Right now they are doing lunch time hours only but they do plan on having dinner hours coming up soon so I suggest checking their website (linked above) or giving them a call to find out more.
Have you ever eaten in The Minnesota Room at Brown College’s Le Cordon Bleu culinary school? If so what did you think? Do you know of any similar setups around the metro where people can eat some pretty big lunches for very little money (I used to work at Hennepin Tech in Eden Prairie and know that they had a ‘fancy’ dining area but never ate there)? Whatever you have to say about The Minnesota Room, go ahead and comment on!
The Minnesota Room
1440 Northland Dr
Mendota Heights, MN 55120
(most) Tuesday – Friday: 11:30 PM – 2:00 PM