Stopped by for dinner Monday night at Piccolo, Doug Flicker’s new place at 43rd and Bryant Ave. S. – the former Cafe Agri. Monday night is chef’s night out – Lenny Russo, chef-owner of Heartland in St. Paul, was there, as was Kim Bartmann of the Red Stag, Barbette and Bryant Lake Bowl, along with Martin Olander, former owner of August Moon, and several other major league foodies. It’s the kind of restaurant that serious foodies are going to love. Flicker boldly goes where most chefs fear to tread, with dishes like scrambled eggs with pickled pigs feet, truffle butter and parmigiano ($9); potato and veal tongue pave with cornichons, caraway and Italian parsley ($11), and sous vide beef shin with compressed figs, walnuts and horseradish ($14).
Carol started with the sunchoke croquettes, three small crisp balls accompanied by shaved fennel and radish ($8), followed by the potato gnocchi with white beans and robiola cheese (ordered minus the guanciale, an unsmoked Italian bacon, $11) while I opted for the escargot with artichokes, soft polenta and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, followed by the aforementioned beef shin, a tough cut of meat made sublimely tender by slow sous vide (vacuum) cooking ($14). And we shared a delicate ricotta pannacotta with Meyer lemon and quince.
Each plate was a delicate and delicious exploration of textures and flavors. And very small. How small? You’ll probably want to order three dishes or more, at an average price of about $11 a plate.
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has an interesting discussion of portion size in his treatise on class, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. I don’t actually remember much of the details, but one of his points, as I recall, was that very small plates signal high class status – “I dine for pleasure, not to quell hunger, and I don’t care about cost.”
I’m not sure that’s going to fly in south Minneapolis. The one thing that I have learned over 30+ years of restaurant reviewing is that portion size is the one thing that Minnesotans do care about. Minnesotans like big portions. They like to feel like they are getting their money’s worth. Even if they have lots of it. (The other thing Minnesotans care about is parking. No worries there. There is lots of on-street parking nearby.)
Piccolo Restaurant, 4300 Bryant Ave S.,Minneapolis, 612-827-8111