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Monte's is 'upscale without being uptight'

Monte's Downtown 220 Broadway, Fargo Cuisine: Upscale Ratings (out of four forks): Food: 1/2 Service: Ambiance: Some of the region's best dining can be found at Monte's Downtown in Fargo. Monte's has quickly positioned itself as a staple in the a...

Monte's Downtown

220 Broadway, Fargo

Cuisine: Upscale

Ratings (out of four forks):

Food: ½

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Service:

Ambiance:

Some of the region's best dining can be found at Monte's Downtown in Fargo.

Monte's has quickly positioned itself as a staple in the area since opening in October 2002. Exceptional food combined with wonderful service, a small but tastefully decorated dining room and special events make this a dining experience one shouldn't miss.

Appetizers cover many cuisines, and while limited in number, the selection will surely satisfy.

The spicy tuna sushi roll is superb. The duck ravioli is good, but the sauce slightly overpowers the duck. Still, the walnut cream sauce served with pine nuts and basil is delicious.

Appetizer prices range from $7 for the duck ravioli to $12 for a smoked chicken and apple sausage served with a red pepper sauce.

Diners can start their meal with a soup or salad. The wild mushroom soup is fantastic. Served with bleu cheese croutons, it is a must try. The Asian gazpacho is a delicate balance of tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and onions in a rich tomato sauce topped with sour cream. Soups are nicely priced at $5.

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Following the first course, I was impressed with the service of a small dish of grapefruit sorbet topped with a frozen red grape. It was a nice simple touch that added class and cleansed the palate.

Entrees provide a nice selection. No other restaurant in the region usurps Monte's oven-broiled rack of lamb. Served with a luscious port demi-glaze, it is perfectly accompanied with basil mashed potatoes. This dish is a personal favorite and highly recommended.

The 8-ounce filet mignon is tender and cuts easily with a table knife. Served over a bed of spinach and portobello mushrooms with pancetta, it is wonderfully accompanied with a port wine beurre rouge and garlic mashed potatoes.

Entrée prices range from $13 for Monte's meatloaf with roasted shallot demi glaze and mashed red potatoes to $28 for the rack of lamb.

For sushi lovers, Monte's has one night monthly dedicated to the Japanese cuisine. Remember to make reservations for the third Monday in order to attend. The next sushi night is Feb. 16.

Monte's wine menu represents the breadth and depth of selections one would expect for the caliber of this restaurant. Beringer wines are available by the bottle or glass. The red wine menu, with bottle prices starting at about $25 for Napa Cabernet on up to $150 for Stag's Leap Cabernet, covers the gamut of perfect choices to accompany any meal.

White wine selections are equally impressive, featuring a great selection of Chardonnay ranging from $22 for Kenwood to $60 for Cakebread. The beverage menu also offers an extensive selection of martini drinks.

Plan to have dessert following dinner or make Monte's the place to stop for a glass of wine and dessert.

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Desserts include a fruit crisp made from seasonal fresh fruit and finished with cinnamon ice cream. The crème brulee is good, made better with a hint of Tahitian vanilla bean, and highly recommended.

Dessert prices range from $6.50 for the crème brulee to $8 for a chocolate brownie served with ice cream and topped with chocolate satin sauce.

Service is superb and Monte's has found the balance of "upscale without being uptight." Staff members are friendly and knowledgeable to help with explaining and suggesting menu items. Non-smoking epicures will appreciate the smoke-free dining room, although smoking is allowed after hours.

An after-hour menu (after 10 p.m.) looks interesting and something I plan to try in the near future. It's nice to know that a kitchen remains open for those who go out after an event or for those who want to socialize and eat late.

Although considered fine dining, casually dressed diners are equally comfortable in this hip restaurant. So don't be afraid to come as you are, just be sure to make a reservation because many nights are filled to capacity.

Vern Markey is an Assistant Professor in Hospitality and Tourism Management at NDSU. Questions or comments can be sent to him at vernmarkey@msn.com .

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