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Restaurant review: Twist combines excellent food with sophisticated atmosphere

The crème brule relies on natural sweetness from fresh berries. Eric Daeuber / The Forum

Ever since the LA Times called Fargo "hip" more than 10 years ago, I've been looking for it. Not being hip myself, I have no instinct for this sort of thing, so a friend of mine has been showing me where hipness hangs out — places like 20 Below and Young Blood (which I thought was a band popular when I was nine). We had not made it to Twist which is, without a doubt, the hippest place in Fargo.

I don't say this lightly. There are a lot of places that do minimalism well - an irony, to be sure, and that's hip too. But the wall of bottles, the savvy of the bartender mixing drinks with just the right spoon and just the right relaxed, but aloof, look - the plaid and the bustle and the idiosyncratic lighting, all makes this not the place to be, but the place. Period.

The food is really, really good too. And Twist does something that doesn't happen often in restaurants: it carries a taste from one dish to the other that turns, in time, into a chef's signature. It's a sign of being careful.

In the case of Twist, it's the onions and the sweet. It starts with the sherried French onion soup ($7). It's about onions — their sweetness and texture — not about the crouton or the cheese or the bowl. Onions carry through to the gnocchi poutine ($10), not a poutine, really, but a variation that replaces a number of ingredients, most particularly, the French fries with gnocchi. The onion gravy, again sweet and again substantial, remains. It serves as a good appetizer, a contribution to a shared meal or a small entrée as do the dishes on the menu under the heading "small plates". I like the idea of options, not only in menu items, but also in the size of your meal.

A not-to-be-missed small plate is Twist's very unique take on mussels ($12). The dish illustrates Twist's commitment to richness in its dishes. In this case, the usual wine sauce is replaced with a broth of chorizo, contributing to a hefty amount of fat, flavor and beer, giving it a more substantial feel with less tang. The broth and bread make it a meal in itself.

Large plates are just that. The butternut squash lasagna ($16) is a fall delight. Mild with a focus on the cheese (fontina and gorgonzola) and, again, sweet.

Oddly, less sweet than you'd expect is the crème brule ($7) which puts its stock in the natural sweetness of berries and bananas and a nice, torched candied crunch. It gives it a range of textures, all of which contribute to a pleasant end-of-meal experience.

Service is very good, pleasant and a little detached, something that might seem off-putting if you are used to someone sitting at your table to take your order and chat about the Bison. But, here, it feels a little more like a fine French restaurant, once you get past the plaid.

The variety of the experiences you can have here is really the highlight. Excellent mixed drinks, an extraordinary dirty gin martini ($10), small plates that make for a complete light meal, a mix of vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous options, burgers if you can't get passed that and an atmosphere that's relaxed and sophisticated.

Twist

Address: 220 N. Broadway, Fargo

Cuisine: American

Food: 4 stars

Service: 3.5 stars

Ambiance: 4 stars

Dining Details

Hours: Monday to Thursday 3 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 3 p.m. to midnight

Phone: (701) 526-0149

Reservations accepted: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards accepted: Yes

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

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