Review: Loren Lee's offers diners good service, thoughtful menu
WEST FARGO — Unlike brewers, winemakers and merchants have made bottling, corking, uncorking and pouring all part of the experience — and theater — of enjoying wine.
Storing and serving it from kegs seems like a step into another time. But it has some very practical implications. Your pour is always fresh and free of the oxygen that may have made its way into your pour if it were the second or third glass of a bottle opened hours or perhaps even a day earlier. And there is no bottle to toss into the trash or weigh on your conscience.
So the shorter wine list at Loren Lee's means the Alberti malbec ($8 a glass) is as good as it gets.
The bar and the dining area in Loren Lee's are divided, allowing those wanting to enjoy a meal away from televisions and football banter to enjoy just that. The atmosphere is modern and comfortable, and the space between the bar and the dining room means the experience is quieter than the pub-style experience of many recently opened Fargo diners. Service is very good and, by way of example, the request for a recommendation for a spicy red was answered with a quick trip to the bar to clarify, and a sample of the malbec — the right answer from, presumably, the right person.
The menu is thoughtful, complete and not dizzyingly huge. What is delivered is largely what is listed. The macaroni and cheese is reassuring, smooth, not too sweet, and so well stocked with lobster as to make $24 qualify as a good value. Flavors are good, and sides are well cared for. The roast Brussels sprouts with bacon, for example, are thinly sliced, maintain their shape, and retain a crispness easily lost in a dish prone to charring, on one hand, or turning overly soft, on the other. Mashed sweet potatoes are light, buttery, smooth and bright.
There were some odd oversights, it seems. The Scotch eggs are a good appetizer choice, but the sausage is thin enough to bring little to the dish in the way of bite or flavor, turning what could be an interesting addition to a meal into a couple of hardboiled eggs. The duck in both the duck confit and the duck breast (in the duck-two-ways special, $32), both done nicely, the breast rose colored and tender and the leg moist and without the stringiness often seen in this dish, seemed to come without the kind of fat rendering necessary to keep the crust crisp and the fat cap palatable and contained. It's strange given how well seasoned and how thoughtfully presented the entire dish seemed to be otherwise.
The dessert menu is entirely house-made, fresh and well presented. The Better Than Anything cake ($6) avoids unnecessary allusions in both name and presentation and instead is served as a simple caramel/chocolate cake dressed with nicely textured sauces and whipped cream.
Apart from a couple of slips in technique, the menu at Loren Lee's is a bright spot in the endless flow of unique and signature burgers, pizza and flatbread that have made their way into the upper price range of Fargo's culinary offerings. And even the bar menu, including these kinds of offerings, has maintained some integrity when it comes to presentation and delivery.
Address: 3179 Bluestem Drive, West Fargo
Food: 3 stars
Service: 4 stars
Ambiance: 3 and a half stars
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Phone: (701) 356-8356
Reservations accepted: Yes
Alcohol: Full far
Dress: As you like
Credit cards accepted: Yes
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.