Would we go back:
5411 Penn Avenue S
• Tuscan rice and parmesan croquettes with hazelnut sauce and lemon $7 (shared)
• Jambalaya with andouille sausage, cumin crispy chicken wings, and prawns $23
• Chocolate pistachio torte with pistachio ice cream $7
Apparently, Cafe Maude is the place to be, if the number of people waiting an hour and a half plus for a table are indication. We had reservations which we had to make three weeks in advance to get the coveted 7pm time slot. We ended up getting a table right by the window, which was a bit chilly, but out of the way of the people waiting, which was nice.
Why is Cafe Maude so popular? One, it is in a great neighborhood, where there are plenty of people willing and able to pay a decent price for good food. Two, it is serving French food which seems to be the cool thing again...not going to find me complaining about that. Three, they had a DJ playing vinyl on a turn table, really does it get cooler than that?
So how was the food? It was good. The croquettes are something that I think are not appreciated as they should be. I remember being quite young and going to my aunt's sister's house and she made them as part of the celebration. I could not even tell you what we were celebrating, but I remember how much I loved the croquettes. These brought back those memories. My entree of Jambalaya was a evening special and I was suprised that it was actually a bit spicy and quite good, the prawns were a bit overcooked, but everything else was tasty. My dessert was a nice variation on the normal chocolate cake dessert and I quite liked it.
I don't think we would go back as it is really not in our neighborhood, but if it was, I am sure we would return with reservations in hand.
• Duck breast with braised escarole, parsnip puree, red wine poached pears, roasted green grapes, and crystallized ginger $30
• Chocolate and hazelnut fried raviolis with espresso ice cream $7
French is back in vogue. We can safely declare that French food is not dead any more in the Twin Cities. Café Maude was jam packed again on Saturday night in south Minneapolis . People have warmed up to French again after letting some better restaurants go by the wayside. Of course, all of these places seem to make room for a fancy hamburger and a hangar steak on the menu.
As for me, as you can read, I have been on a duck binge. It’s been three weeks of duck in a row (last week we went back to Fugaise for their Valentine’s Day five course menu). In order, I liked Meritage the best, Café Maude second, and Fugaise third. All were excellent of course, but I liked the crispy exterior that Meritage put on theirs, and the duck itself was fattier and more flavorful. Café Maude’s duck seemed to be a leaner cut without any crispness on the outside. A regular steak eater would have loved this duck. The main sides were decent: some standard, cream-laden mashed potatoes and innocuous braised escarole. The poached pears with crystallized ginger were delightful. The roasted green grapes were new for me, but nonetheless a simple, entirely different flavor that complemented the other flavors.
The croquettes were very good. It’s a standard choice, but something you don’t find everywhere.
The dessert was not good. The fried ravioli was chewy and lacked any pizzazz. The ice cream was inferior. I tasted Renee’s cake and I can’t remember the last time I took a bite of a chocolate torte that was devoid of taste.
Service was uneven. We never got bread, even though we could clearly see that every other table got bread. No apology, no explanation. It might have made the long wait between the croquettes and the entrée a little more bearable. Our server also did not see that we were nearly out of water until dessert. These are small things, but they sometimes make the difference between a restaurant that people go back to and a restaurant that people try once or twice and move on.
Of course the place was packed on a Saturday night. It seemed like everyone was there meeting another couple for their night out. But that also meant that the wait was 1 ½ hours when we got there. So, reservations are necessary. It also meant that people were standing around waiting with a drink everywhere. It looked very uncomfortable for some diners who had people standing next to them for the entire meal.
For all these reasons, even though Café Maude seems to be a hot spot and has had some good press, I cannot recommend it. But if you have to go, make sure you get reservations and consider going during off hours or week night.
$20 and up
February 23, 2008