Would we go back:
498 Selby Ave
• PEI Mussels - steamed with woodchuck hard cider, sage butter, grilled baguette $10 (shared)
• Crab and Orecchiette Pasta - Lump crab, salsify, red cabbage, fennel and garlic, finished with shrimp bisque $15
• Lava cake (small piece of chocolate cake with full scoop of Izzy’s vanilla ice cream) $8.00 (shared)
Sometimes you really want to like a restaurant and just can't. This was the case with the Happy Gnome. First they have a great name...Happy Gnome...really great name. Second, I really did like the space. It is a great space for a restaurant. Third, I have fond memories of doing happy hour there with co-workers way back when it was still Chang O Hara's. Unfortunately this is not going to be a good review.
The mussels were not good, I think they perhaps were not as fresh as they could be, they were a bit overcooked and to top it off there were at least 6 not open ones. The accompanying bread was average at best. My entree, while plentiful, was not tasty. The pasta was undercooked and the sauce was a cloying, sweetish, tomatoish, mess. By the time we got to dessert, I almost suggested that we go across the street to a piece of cake instead, but we did end up the lava cake which was boring at best, luckily a scoop of izzy's was on the plate or it would have been a complete waste of calories.
I think this is a good place for happy hour and it did look like the burgers that some people around us had off the bar menu were tasty so perhaps that is the route to go here.
• Muscovy Duck Breast - caramelized onion and wild mushroom risotto, infused vanilla-duck consommé, pomegranate seeds $19
The Happy Gnome was a place I was really rooting for. I have been there for drinks, so I was looking forward to trying their entrees. I also appreciate what they’re trying to do - offer a modestly innovative menu in a St. Paul neighborhood restaurant. Unfortunately, the quality of the food does not meet their lofty goals.
The Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels tasted fair. This was the one thing that Beaujo’s in Edina did really well. In contrast, The Happy Gnome’s mussels did not taste as fresh and the sauce was below average. The Happy Gnome tries to compensate for this by quantity; the tall stack of mussels seemingly justifies the price.
The duck breast was a lower tier quality duck breast compared to others I have had lately. I’m not sure how much sourcing matters in buying duck, but I have to believe that there is a difference. There was also very little that went into this duck to make it better. In many cases, a simple preparation suffices when you are serving with great sides. Here, the risotto was sub par and the mushrooms merely adequate.
The chocolate lava cake was a small portion and overpriced, even with the full scoop of Izzy’s ice cream.
The wait staff was pleasant and generally helpful.
The parking is a headache. The Happy Gnome shares a parking lot with the St. Paul Curling Club that is woefully inadequate. Street parking is also tough to come by. We walked about two blocks from our parking spot to The Happy Gnome.
I will probably go back to The Happy Gnome because of their extensive beer list. However, I will probably venture back to safer menu choices if I order food
April 5, 2008
3" glass shaker