What a difference a chef makes!
Patrick Atanalian is now in charge of the kitchen at Sanctuary, and the cuisine at the Washington Ave. hideaway is dramatically improved. It’s a reunion for the talented Marseilles-born chef and Sanctuary’s managing partner Michael Kutscheid, who first worked together back in the mid-90s, when Kutscheid owned Kapoochi’s, one of the most innovative restaurants of its time. After a dishonest employee bankrupted the restaurant, Kutscheid went on to become a familiar face as a manager at Oceanaire, Martini Blu and Babalu, and Atanalian went on to work at the Loring Café, Vintage, A Rebours and Le Cordon Bleu’s culinary school.
Atanalian became notorious for such cutting edge culinary pranks as beef tenderloin with plantains, pepperoncici, sweet mango rum sauce and a Coca-Cola crème fraiche, and halibut with a gummi bear crayfish broth. He plays it a bit straighter this time around, but there is no lack of invention in the current Sanctuary menu. Among the highlights of my most recent visit: starters of carpaccio enlivened with white anchovies, a candied lemon fennel salad ($8), and a Napoleon of crisp taro root, roast mushrooms, sundried tomato tapenade and a mascarpone mousse ($6). The lamb shank braised in coconut curry ($19) and the glazed salmon with sweet and sour potato wontons ($23) were both delightful, but there is a lot more on the menu that I would like to try – including the duck confit risotto croquettes, the salad of baby frisee, salmon gravlax and goat cheese, and a chateau of sirloin with lobster reduction and potato cakes ($25).
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Kutscheid says he plans to start offering a prix-fixe $35 five course tasting menu Mondays through Thursdays, starting next week, with an optional flight of four selected wines for $12.
One little annoyance to mention: to park on either side of the building, you have to pre-pay an automat, which reportedly is fussy about accepting credit cards or paper money – so bring along $3 in quarters.
Sanctuary, 903 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis 612-203-5058.