Would we go back:
903 Washington Ave S
• shrimp and chorizo wontons in salsa verde with carrot and green onion salad $9
• ahi tuna with laced potatoes, clams, and chorizo in a saffron broth topped with caramelized vidalia onions $25
• Pot de crème $7
Sanctuary is a sanctuary especially the patio on a beautiful summer evening. I really enjoyed sitting outside and enjoying a very nice meal among the flowers and the gargoyles.
The food was a bit daring and for the most part it turned out pretty good. The wontons were a bit on the salty side, but the accompanying salad and salsa verde was very nice. My entree was actually excellent. I loved the chorizo with the tuna...yum. The dessert was good. It was a bit weird to have a pot de creme served with ice cream. Although the ice cream was very good...and maybe a bit better than the pot de creme which was not quite sweet enough for my taste. And I really do not like too sweet things, but this was almost tasteless because you need a bit more sweetness to bring out the chocolate flavor.\
Given the surrounding restaurants this is a great choice after a Twins game or when you are in this area looking for a nice place to eat.
• (4 small) braised adobo pork tacos with salsa roja on crisp taro root tortillas $8
• soft shell crab with risotto bread pudding and tempura zucchini flowers $23
• Ice cream sandwiches $7
I really liked Sanctuary because I think they do most everything right. Given the well below average choices in the near vicinity (Wasabi, Spill the Wine, Harry's), Sanctuary stands out like a star.
Nevertheless, when we got home, Renee proceeded to list off ten downtown restaurants that she would prefer over Sanctuary. That's a testimony to the quality of downtown Minneapolis restaurants, because Sanctuary holds its own in the dishes it prepares.
So, where am I going with all of this? In a short capsule, Sanctuary produces consistently good to great quality courses. Sanctuary produces a wide variety of dishes, and they advertise that 1/3 of its menu changes every month. They also tout their tasting menu during the week and new special every weekend. Yet, Sanctuary seems to lack that signature dish or signature side that propels it over the top in a competitive restaurant scene. So, I can't tell you what to go there for, just to appreciate the food once you're there.
I enjoyed the pork tacos. These were four small, but multi-bite size tacos that were just spicy enough. The meat was juicy, tender and flavorful. The tortillas held up well, although I probably didn't appreciate that they were taro root tortillas. Renee mentioned the bite with the sour cream brought it all together, and I agree. So, as dumb as it sounds, save the sour cream for your last bite of the taco.
The Maryland soft shell crab was delectable. It's really a treat to have soft shell crab, and I should remember to beg Renee to go to seafood restaurants this time of year. The soft shell crab was a treat in itself, but it sat on top of a lovely risotto bread pudding that literally formed a nice base and offered a great accompanying element. The tempura broccoli flower was the first time I had a broccoli flower, and it, too, was very nice. The tempura was perfectly done.
Finally, the dessert was fine, not great. Renee has been making some excellent homemade ice cream recently. Ever since we invested in the Cuisinart ice cream maker, we find ourselves comparing restaurant ice cream to homemade ice cream. I know that Renee could make as good or better a version of the ice cream sandwiches. Still, the liqueur-infused cherries were an outstanding touch.
Service is attentive, graceful, and professional. The maitre d' (and owner according to the pictures on the web site) was continually walking through the dining patio to make sure everyone's meal was progressing smoothly. You could tell he really loved his job. Our server seemed to be busy between indoor seating and the patio, but handled it as graciously as she could.
I could easily recommend Sanctuary in the same breath as another ten or fifteen downtown Minneapolis restaurants even though it may never be number one.
$20 and up
August 2, 2008