The Twin Cities has more than its share of local-chefs-made good stories, but the culinary scene has also prospered from fresh perspectives brought here by gifted out-of-towners.
Add Peter Ireland to that list. The Vermont native cooked for big-name chefs in Chicago, New York and France — then ran his own acclaimed restaurant, Carpenter & Main, in his hometown of Norwich, Vt. — before relocating to Minneapolis (where his wife, Rebecca, was enrolled in law school) and opening the Lynn on Bryant.
The name is a reference to the surrounding Lynnhurst neighborhood. That only seems right, since the Lynn is billed as a neighborhood restaurant, and its breakfast-lunch-dinner format bears that out. But with Ireland at the helm, it’s also so much more.
Man, this guy can cook. The menu is tightly focused. At dinner, it’s just six appetizers and as many entrees, which could feel limited, but doesn’t. What makes the Lynn such a remarkable dining experience is Ireland’s intrinsic ability to subtly manipulate and balance outcomes up and down the continuums of flavor and texture: bitter-sweet, tangy-mellow, crispy-silky; all masterfully exploited.
Pan-seared chicken — seriously, I’m stifling a yawn as I type those words — becomes, in Ireland’s astute hands, a must-order dish. He starts with a well-raised bird (from all-natural Kadejan in Glenwood, Minn.), brining it in honey and salt, then nurturing it on the stove until the meat is sublimely juicy and the skin is scrupulously crisp, with each bite revealing the aromatic qualities of a meticulous butter-garlic-thyme baste. Bacon lays on additional salty-savory tones, and pearl onions absorb pan juices until they melt like an ice cube on your tongue.
Or how about pork tenderloin? Ireland coaxes out qualities rarely revealed in this unexciting cut, roasting it to fork-tender perfection. Apricot and butternut squash gently dial up the heritage breed’s inherent sweetness, which is in turn offset by the nuanced bitterness of braised endive. More bacon spreads its smoky goodness via tiny, colorful Brussels sprouts. What a spectacular dish.
Ireland also has a keen sense for pleasing vegetarians. Kañiwa, a nutty, quinoa-like South American grain-like seed, is simmered in a garlic broth and wrapped in chard to become the centerpiece of an ingenious and artful array of salsify, sunchokes, radishes and carrots, each prepared and presented differently.
Meanwhile, the everyday side of the restaurant is similarly appealing in its simplicity. Cod, cured for 10 days and then poached in milk, is blended with potatoes, formed into cakes and fried until the crisp outer shell collapses into sigh-inducing creaminess. The French fries are similarly first-rate. I’m semi-addicted to the burger, a sterling example of All-American excess and served on a terrific house-baked English muffin.
Pastry chef Abby Boone shares her boss’ knack for reinvigorating the familiar. In her hands, the warm chocolate cake becomes a revelation, its intense bite tempered by the lusciousness of a butterscotch ice cream. Premium ingredients elevate a vanilla ice cream sundae from GED to Ph.D., and the offbeat sorbets (celery root!) transport taste buds to exciting destinations.
Oh, my gosh, how could I forget the doughnuts? There are plenty of reasons to make a habit out of the Lynn’s breakfast — the exquisite omelets, for starters — but if nothing else, there are the doughnuts. Let the fry babies among us extend our collective gratitude to Ireland for channeling his doughnut-obsessed teenage years into a level of craftsmanship that may be second to none in the Twin Cities.
The Lynn on Bryant
⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Where: 5003 Bryant Av. S., Mpls.; 612-767-7797; www.the lynnon bryant.com
Recommended dishes: Chicken, pork tenderloin, kañiwa-Swiss chard pie, salt cod fritters, house pate, burger, omelets, scrambled eggs, doughnuts.