Jodi made the reservation here for our date night on June 22nd, 2013, and what a great restaurant to visit! The whole time we were there, we were the only ones there, which was sad. Between the chef's skills and his tasty menu, this place should be filled every night.
The setting was very romantic: white table tablecloth, linen napkins, candle, flowers, and nice dinnerware. The menu is made up of different ingredient combinations that work so well that it is the most unique menu we have tasted on the Northland. Our waitress, Sara Jean, was very helpful, kind, and knowledgable of the menu items.
Restaurant 301 provides their menu on their website, so we knew what we would order when we got there, but it was still hard to choose. They brought us out a basket of bread with lemon balsamic butter. It was different: lemony, but so good.
Brian ordered two glasses of wine. He likes a more fruity taste. Our waitress, Sara Jean, suggested a red and a white wine, Marietta red old vine California lot 58 and Discoveries moscato California 2010. They were both very good: great aroma and accents.
We both ordered appetizers, so that we could try a little bit of everything, because everything sounded delicious. Jodi ordered the Beef Tenderloin Crustini, it had Cave-Aged Blue Cheese, Toasted BBQ Sauce, and Scallions. She said it was really good. The only thing that was different about it was the dollop of blue cheese. It seemed overpowering and out of place, but the other tastes worked together.
Brian ordered the Spring Cheese Plate that came with Goat Cheese with Strawberry and Black Pepper Compote (which, in French, means "mixture" that is a dessert made of whole, or pieces, of fruit in sugar syrup). Manchango (which is cheese made from sheep's milk) with Greek Olives, Warm Brie with Smoked Almonds. I really liked this appetizer a lot, the goat cheese and strawberries was my favorite. As a cheese fan, I would order this again and would recommend this starter.
For our entrees, Jodi ordered the Spring Bone-in-Lamb made with Butter Basted Domestic Lamb, Chocolate & Red Chili Veal Glace, Pan Fried Ricotta Polenta, Fava Beans & Tricolored Baby Carrots. She was concerned that the chili would be too spicy. Our waitress, Sara Jean, said that the chocolate will offset the chili heat, and she confirmed with Chef Kevin llenda it would be more on the sweeter side than heat. It was sweet. You couldn't taste the chili heat. The combinations worked very well.
Brian ordered the Yellow Curry Seafood Stew made with Coconut Shrimp Broth, Calamari, Shrimp, Scallop, Blue Crab, Mussel, Tomato, Scallion, Fresno Chili, and Cilantro. What more could I ask for? It has the seafood that I like, and I enjoy a good curry dish (oh, yes, I asked if I could have extra curry). The dish tasted so good! Everything was done perfectly, and the stew was seasoned very well. I really enjoyed the whole calamari! I never had them this way; they're usually fried and over done. The portion size was spot on with a nice balance of seafood and Coconut Shrimp Broth.
We then ordered dessert. Jodi ordered the Trio Of House Made Cakes, which included Ginger Carrot Cake, Red Velvet, and Chocolate Fresno. She said they were delicious, but the Chocolate Fresno was a bit of a surprise. It was a good start of chocolat, but then, when you swallow, the spice hits the back of the throat. Her favorite cake was the Ginger Carrot Cake, the touch of ginger and the pineapple really made the flavors pop, but it blended very well together.
Brian ordered the Green Tea Cre'me Brûlée, the caramelization was beautiful, not over burnt, and had a nice crisp when breaking into it. The green tea custard base tasted amazing, the green tea was not overpowering or too strong, but it was smooth and creamy. This dessert was a perfect way to end a great meal and just makes you want more on a nice warm day.
Another reason we liked Restaurant 301 was that our waitress Sara Jean didn't rush for us to order our next choice. She let us get to where we were about done, then she asked. It was a smooth, flowing experience. Sara Jean would refill our drinks when they were low often and bring out clean plates, and silverware when we got another fresh basket of bread. We also got word that Chef Kevin Ilenda changes his menu with fresh flavors and ingrediants according to the season and local flavors, so keep on eye out on their website for the current menu.
Restaurant 301 is a must to STOP IN, whether staying at the Sheraton Hotel, shopping in Duluth, or, if you work in downtown Duluth, you can call for a free complimentary ride on your lunch break. When you're done, they will bring you back. If you are looking for a place to bring your loved one, Restaurant 301 is the place to be, from the atmosphere and kind staff to Chef Kevin llenda, who has passion for Duluth, MN, and his menu. The food reflects all of that. I know we will be back very soon to try the other.
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