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Published December 17, 2012, 11:30 PM

Review: Monte’s classing up lunch

Some say the business lunch was lost with the days of “Mad Men.” But Monte’s in downtown Fargo is doing its share to reintroduce lunch, whether for business or pleasure.

By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM

Some say the business lunch was lost with the days of “Mad Men.”

But Monte’s in downtown Fargo is doing its share to reintroduce lunch, whether for business or pleasure. The restaurant introduced a mid-day meal this fall after new ownership took over the well-established eatery.

The menu over the noon hour is more complete and urbane than most dinner menus, and the quality is outstanding.

To cut corners in even the most sophisticated of kitchens, soup is the place to do it. The Vidalia onion soup ($6) covers the full range of flavors an onion can offer. From a sweet smoothness, helped along by a good dose of cream and the bite you’d expect at the end, this soup is complete. A little too much salt keeps it from perfection, but there’s no hint that the soup took a backseat during preparation, something common in restaurants with elaborate entree menus.

Another nicely poised item on the menu is the gnocchi ($12), which gets its unique softness and sweetness from Yukon Gold potatoes. Squash and sage give it a decidedly autumn feel, and shrimp lifts it a little above the ordinary.

The menu includes other comfort food staples. Almost every high-end eatery feels the need to include a burger, and Monte’s $10 version measures up.

But one very promising combination on the entree side of the menu is a bit of a puzzle. Is the lobster and fillet sandwich ($18) a combination of near genius, or is it a list of luxury meant only to impress? I’d like to think it’s the former, but the latter deserves explaining.

Tenderloin is a mild cut with little to help it stand out other than tenderness. It’s served with the no-less-subtle lobster on a light brioche bun, toasted to keep it together. The effect is a sandwich that is so restrained that, without the truffle dressing, might not exist at all. It’s a roll call of opulence that a culinary cynic might think was a bit on the snobbish side. Perhaps I was fooled, but I rather liked it.

Service is attentive and generally thoughtful, and my suggestion that the soup may have been a bit salty was answered right away with an offer to try something else, a gesture appreciated but not accepted.

The recommended dessert, a chocolate mousse martini ($8), was well considered and reminded me a little of what made Monte’s famous in Fargo. Service at the bar, though, may not be as enthusiastic as it once was. Perhaps this will improve as new management considers its place in the downtown after-dark scene.

The three-martini lunch may not be back, if it ever existed in Fargo to begin with, but it’s hard to fault Monte’s efforts to bring lunch back to its place as a bit of elegance in the middle of what many find a work week short on grace.


Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com.

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