Nice ambience, reasonable prices
It's rather amusing to read prior reviews of this restaurant. It's either a pretentious venue of mediocrity or a place to put Minneapolis on the culinary map.
Five of us dined there Saturday 5 May. Our collective opinion is that it's neither. Our experience with the staff, from the maitre d' to our own server was very pleasant. The ambience is such as to draw out people whose closets contain only black clothing. Come to think of it, the staff's sartorial theme was black, too. I think I wore a black shirt, but that was purely coincidental. I just grabbed it from the hanger. I wore black socks; I'm sure of that.
We had libations on the third floor outdoor deck above Hennepin. A bare-bones area, yet still quite nice in the good weather we had. There's an inside bar there, too, called ""Red, White, and F.....g Blue"" for some reason. The ambience of the dining room tends toward minimalism - an attractive minimalism. As for the food, I was familiar with Vongerichten's style since I've been using his cookbooks for some years now. I expected rather small portions (a steak ordered by another in our party was hardly size-challenged, though) and little or no use of cream sauces. My halibut was fine, but it could've used more of the fruit reduction sauce. A chicken preparation was pronounced a bit disappointing but perfectly edible (faint praise). I believe it was a sea bass that was termed excellent, and the friend who ordered a tuna appetizer proclaimed he would return solely for that. Oh yes, a peppered shrimp first course I had was very, very nice. There were no salads on the menu. Desserts - something with bananas and the passion fruit sorbet - were quite good, the latter being wonderfully intense. Notwithstanding Vongerichten's fame and the downtown location, the prices are reasonable, entrees going for something between $18 and $28 if I recall correctly. The art throughout the hotel is well worth viewing. Parking is very close. All in all, a pleasant evening.