Even optimists don't see capitalism dying before Christmas. Fine then. Let's go to the mall.
As of tomorrow, would-be shoppers at Rosedale Center can hook a right off the mall's one-way consumer conveyor belt and find Baldamar, a high-end steakhouse with all the trappings of such establishments.
Beyond its massive doors lies an elegant dining room in stained wood, metal fixtures, and black leather. Imported modern art decorates the walls, and soft lights ringing a central column leave plenty of atmospheric shadows throughout. No expense was spared; even the restrooms feel sophisticated.
The only thing out of place is the view. Sit at the bar or in one of its high-backed booths, and you'll feel like you could be next to a bustling city street, or perhaps a body of water, as is the case at 6Smith, the steakhouse owner Randy Stanley opened in Wayzata.
But Gaze out the windows of Baldamar, and you're looking at a sea of parked cars and a DSW.
Stanley's gamble with Baldamar is that this doesn't really matter, that swanky cocktails and cuts of meats aged precisely 40 days taste just as good even if the thing you keep accidentally kicking under the table is a Sephora bag.
It's a big bet—literally: Baldamar takes up 6,000 square feet—and asks if Rosedale diners will pay (much) more than they they would at Green Mill, Granite City, or CRAVE, in exchange for a vastly different dining experience.
The contrast is evident from the first sip of a cocktail, which Baldamar breaks up into "old school" (Old Fashioned, Moscow Mule) and "new school." Of the latter, a Brooklyn Bonfire ($13) started with a lit wood chip filling the glass with smoke. It was showy, smelled fantastic, tasted even better, and would probably drive a server insane if you ordered a couple on a busy Friday night.
Chef Steve Swinney (formerly of the Lowry in south Minneapolis) admits to liking a little spice, a sentiment that comes through in short rib and chorizo nachos ($15.95), char grilled street corn ($10.95) served off the cob, and a steak salad ($22.95) with a chipotle-lime dressing.
A tiger shrimp appetizer ($16.95) was delicious, though how the prawns were supposed to interact with similiarly sized tortilla chips was not readily apparent.
Baldamar's sourcing all its seafood from the Fish Guys out of St. Paul, with a daily selection of oysters and entrees of salmon ($33.95), scallops ($37.95), and sea bass ($38.95). The last of those is marinated in miso, served simply atop asparagus and greens, and was excellent.
A venison and Kobe Juicy Lucy burger ($19.95, also on the menu at 6Smith) was tasty, if a bit too gooey for the pretzel bun it comes on, and is probably your best bet if you're in the mood for meat but dining on a budget.
The beef portion of the menu consists of a few flavored cuts—including a chimichurri hanger steak ($31.95) and tamarind short ribs ($33.95)—and a handful of prime selections like the T-Bone ($59.95) or Filet Mignon ($69.95). A rib-eye ($49.95) we tried was expertly done, brown/black and crusty outside, red/pink and tender inside, though not for the faint of heart if you're turned off by fat.
Baldamar will open for lunch service starting Wednesday, and brunch (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) on Sunday.
If you've paid attention to the prices in parentheses, you're getting the message: Baldamar isn't a food court restaurant dressed up like a high-end steakhouse. It's a high-end steakhouse that happens to be within a stone's throw of a Panera.
During a tour, Stanley talked about trying to take a new building and make it feel familiar, lived-in. He talked about the decor, the atmosphere, why he'd named the place after the patron saint of blacksmiths, the intentional layout of separate dining areas. At one point he gestured toward a raised, half-circle booth and said: "I like power tables."
Do people about to catch a movie at the mall care about power tables? Maybe not. But as mall meals go, Baldamar sure beats the shit out of CRAVE.
1642 County Rd. B2 W., Roseville