This week we went to FACES mears park in St. Paul (guess what... it faces Mears Park).
On the corner of 5th and Sibley downtown, it was easy to find and parking was a breeze (there is a lot just before the restaurant on 5th – in the elevator push the button that says something like “dining” and it opens up on the same floor as the restaurant! You don’t even have to go outside. Although I’d recommend you do check out their patio.)
FACES has 2 faces, so to speak… the deli where you can pick up bread, rotisserie chickens, olives, baked delicacies and lots of other lovely deli offerings… and the bar / restaurant. I rolled up on the bar to join Brad and Lynda who were already enjoying refreshments. Blueberry Lemonade (apparently to die for, it was a favorite with the group) hand crafted by the bartender with love. There were many rounds of this cocktail ordered and enjoyed and while I didn’t partake, there was no mistaking this was at the top of the list of favorites overall.
We were seated in the middle of the dining room at a great table with a great view of everything - including the Chef's Table which seats up to 12 where you will be treated to a multi-course tasting menu and wine pairing. The staff didn’t bat an eye when we had 3 additional guests crashing our party (glad you could join us boyz!). It seemed whatever we needed, whatever we asked, whatever our desire the entire crew was ready and willing to accommodate. Not only that, they were funny and personable. Laura, our main server was phenomenal. At one point I had misplaced my napkin and under my breath to myself I said “did I lose my napkin?”… she heard me and made it a point to check and see if she needed to bring me one. I didn't even realize I had said it out loud! And every once in a while she would disappear very mysteriously into this Wizard of Oz-like curtained booth which smartly hid their server station.
David Fhima came out and chatted us up for a bit. He was charming and full of passion for his newest venture. The concept? American food made with natural, local, sustainable ingredients. And while the website says “American” food, there is no denying his influence and the international undertones.
So Laura comes out with a basket of Gougere: What? Never heard of it? Me neither. They are essentially French cheese puffs and they are little pillows of heaven. Where have these been all my life? And the first batch is complimentary. I contemplated ordering another batch all for myself to eat in the car on the way home.
Rice Cakes with Tuna Tartare – the textures of the cakes and the tartare together were lovely but there was just a bit too much vinegar in the tartare.
Olive sampler – you can’t really go wrong here, can you? There was a good selection of olives, cornichon, etc.
Sea Salt Fries – Mommy.
Bex and Jill had the Mediterranean and Californian salads and both said they loved them. Lynda and I both had a dish from the specials menu which was a sort of chili… an assortment of beans, chili and other spices, blue cheese and diced apples and had completely opposite reactions (which proves that taste is in the bud of the taster). I just found it, well, odd. I was expecting a sort of lighter, summery twist to chili with the apples and blue cheese. That was not my experience. Serve me this in late October / early November and you’ll get a completely different reaction. I shall embrace it whole heartedly. Lynda, on the other hand, absolutely loved this dish (as did Bex who thinks I am crazy). Lusciously sweet, spicy and creamy all at once. So, there you go!
On to Entrees… I ordered the Sea Bass. It was perfectly cooked and seasoned. I loved it. The potato puree and brocollini that accompanied it were unremarkable but the fish more than made up for them. Bex had the salmon which she said was also perfectly cooked to her liking but unfortunately it was lacking flavor. Brad had the Filet which I believe he referred to as “maybe the best steak I’ve ever had in my life”. Ok then, nuff said! Jill had the Brisket which she said was so tender she could cut it with a fork, but not a huge fan of the sauce. Nell and Lynda both had the special of the night, the Shrimp Scampi. Both thought it was delicious, perfectly prepared shrimp over perfectly cooked hand made whole grain pasta. I’ll admit I was eyeing Lynda’s plate to steal a bite while she wasn’t looking.
Desserts… strange outcome here. We were recommended by the house to order one of the butter creams. We ordered both. And in both cases, the butter cream was perfection but the cake itself was dry. Bummer. Thankfully we ordered 2 others that surprised and delighted us: the Dark Cocoa Martini Mousse (chocolate fantasy served in a fish bowl) and the Carrot cake (moist and delicious with hints of orange and the cream cheese frosting that is always to die for).
I will definitely go back as there is so much more that I want to try! The short ribs, the wings, the pizza, more Gougere, the puff pastry prawns and the hot brown sammy. The list goes on. Meet me at the bar?