Would we go back:
253 West 7th Street
• Shrimp, Pineapple and Canadian Bacon with roasted garlic, green bell peppers and Harissa $11.25 (shared)
• Woodfired Sea Bass Special with garlic mashed potatoes $24.00
• Apple/Pear crisp with ice cream $5.95
We make an annual event of going to downtown St. Paul and having dinner during the winter carnival. The usually dead downtown comes alive and it is quite festive. This year was no exception, in fact, I don't think I have ever seen it so busy. We ended up parking by Dayton's and walking to the Woodfire which in on West 7th. On the way we got to walk by the ice sculptures, the ice palace and the snow sculpture being worked on, so it was a pleasant, although cold walk.
When we got to the restaurant we were thankful we had made reservations, we were seated promptly right by the fire which was even better. The service was amazingly quick which may have been because of all the people wanting to eat there, I would hope on a normal evening it would be a bit more leisurely.
The meal started off well, we had a pizza for an appetizer which I actually quite liked. While it was not as good a Pizza Nea or Punch it was woodfired and the crust had a slightly chewy texture which I really liked, although I know others would not. The toppings were unique, but a nice change of pace. The waitress did warn us that the pizza would be spicy, but I found it to have a bit of a bite, but not spicy, but for those with big concerns you might want to try one without the harissa on it.
The bread they brought out was actually quite good, usually a sign of good things to come. However, my "sea bass" special was almost inedible. In fact, if it were not for the mashed potatoes that accompanied it, I would say that it was. First, whatever fish it was it was overcooked, way over cooked. As we all know overcooking helps no fish. Now I am not a fish expert, but I do have fish quite often and I order sea bass almost when ever I can and this was not sea bass (I will not even buy the argument of it may have been so overcooked that it just no longer tasted like sea bass.) The waitress said it was, however, the bill said grouper special, but I don't think it was that either, I really think it was swordfish. But no matter it was over cooked beyond what is good.
The dessert was fine, it was big enough to share which we were doing so that worked well.
Overall, I was disappointed. If desperation set in and I had to go back I would order a pizza and a maybe a salad, but that is all.
• Persian fire roasted meats - leg of lamb $19.95
I was disappointed with Downtowner Woodfire Grill. To my taste, there are several restaurants that make better wood-fired pizza. It’s difficult to walk past Cossetta’s, knowing how good their pizza is. Downtowner serves a white pizza on a good chewy crust, but the toppings lack pizzazz. The shrimp was placid, the cheese boring, the Canadian bacon forgettable. The toppings included a small bit of harissa, a hot pepper paste that was hardly discernable, though some Minnesotans might find it too hot.
Speaking of bland, the Persian fire roasted boneless leg of lamb did nothing for me. I expected some spice and the sauce on the side was not enough. The basmati rice was simply prepared and good enough, but it did not save the entree.
The warm apple/pear crisp with vanilla ice cream was decent Midwestern fare. It was enough to share and not finish it all. I was happy with it, though it was mainstream, no chances taken. If you’re looking for something outstanding, look elsewhere.
January 24, 2004