It was my birthday yesterday and 20.21 at the Walker Art Center was calling my name. K and I went to 20.21 last year for a monthaversary celebration and, for that visit, we took our recommendations directly from Wolfgang Puck himself!

He was in town for a charity event and spent an hour talking to Kerri Miller on Minnesota Public Radio’s Midmorning show. I e-mailed the show asking the chef for dinner recommendations and he emphatically said the tuna cups, Shanghai lobster, duck with lo mein and the Spoon Cube and Cherry dessert. The tuna cups weren’t on the menu so we didn’t order them, but we so enjoyed the lobster and duck that we didn’t even have room for the iconic dessert.

The siren song of that lobster was simply too much to resist as a birthday treat. We met up with aforementioned foodie friends D and J and both K and I ordered the 20.21 Cosmo. It was light and a little sweet and not too strong. Perfect. Cosmo happiness.

Since we already knew we were ordering the lobster, we set about choosing a starter and a few other entrees to share as the duck is no longer on the menu. And K and J began the requisite wine summit — a thoughtful and in-depth discussion about the wine list and which bottle to order. We collectively decided to also order the miso-sake black cod and the server suggested the roasted pork chop. The tuna cups are still not on the menu, but we now know that you can order them anyway and they’ll happily serve the “insider” appetizer.

The tuna cups had no sooner hit the table than the server came back and informed the table that the bottle of wine K and J had chosen was not chilled and would be unavailable. Between K, J, the server and a nice woman who appeared to be the general manager, they came up with a bottle of Evolution — a Semillon/Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend from Oregon. Having settled that potential disaster, we bit into the tuna cups —  raw tuna in a spicy mayo sauce in a little tuille cone made from sesame with a dusting of bonito flakes on top. I hate to say this was better than an ice cream cone, but wow … this was one heck of a cone. Silky and a little spicy, salty and perfect sesame nutty. I was sad it was gone in just two bites, but those were two really good bites.

Despite the initial hesitation about the wine, everyone seemed to like it, particularly D and I. She called it floral and I agreed and added “pretty” to the description. Then the giant platter arrived laden with Chinese risotto bathed in sweet yellow curry sauce, upon which was perched big chunks of lobster. The platter was rimmed with crispy spinach. This is an amazingly savory dish that will haunt you and haunt you until you go back to order it again. Perfect amount of curry and oh, that crispy spinach. It’s just flash-fried spinach sprinkled with sea salt, but it is addictive. Someone should make spinach chips just like this and sell them in bags. That platter was cleared in no time flat!

Then came the miso-sake glazed black cod with a sweet bean sesame noodle salad and a miso vinaigrette. The fish was perfectly cooked and tender with a lovely caramel sear. I wish I could have tasted more of the miso-sake coming through but the fish on its own was plenty delicious. The sesame noodle salad was a little bit sweet with some crunch and I loved that the noodles weren’t overly sesame and, more importantly, overcooked.

After the Asian fusion flavors of the two entrees, it seemed a bit strange to finish with a roasted pork chop with fennel apple chutney and a blue cheese potato gratin, but, strangely, it worked. It was a very homey dish and the piece of pork I had was nicely cooked and juicy. K said his was a little dry, so I guess it depends on which part of the pork chop you got. Everyone went bonkers over the piping hot, creamy blue cheese potato gratin. Blue cheese can easily be overwhelming, but this had exactly the right amount. And it was melty, not oily, which is often a problem with potatoes au gratin.

We ordered the Spoon Cube and Cherry and dessert churros and they balanced each other, and the meal, out in a most lovely way. The Spoon Cube and Cherry was a dark chocolate box filled with chocolate mousse accompanied by a sour cherry sauce. It was decadent and a little difficult to share since everyone had to shatter the chocolate cube with their forks. We got a lot of aggression out on that thing. The churros were a little greasy, but that’s not necessarily bad. Sometimes you want slightly greasy fried donut happiness. They were a  crispy, sugary finish to a delectable birthday meal.

I’m very grateful 20.21 keeps their online menu updated because, to be honest, I had to do a lot of looking back at it to remember exactly what we ate. While I thought a fancy, cosmopolitan meal was the perfect birthday gift, K had something else in mind. After leaving the restaurant, he gave me the best gift, beyond even my wildest imagination … he proposed. And, of course, I said yes. So we’ll be cooking (and eating) together for many, many years to come.


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