The doors to Russell and Desta Klein's latest Soo Line venue opened last weekend just as the weather gave us the first hint of a chill. They waited for the end of summer to introduce their wine bar, Foreign Legion, a warm space full of dark, sumptuous colors and decor that features cocktails and a more casual menu than Brasserie Zentral, its sister restaurant next door. With a food focus on charcuterie, appetizers, and cheese in many forms, this is going to be your favorite winter place to cozy up with your sweetie over bubbly melted Raclette cheese and a matched cocktail or glass of vino.
Foreign Legion is across the Soo Line Building lobby from Brasserie Zentral but can also be entered from Fifth Street directly. The lighting is low over both the bar and the two smallish rooms, which house velvety chairs and benches. Guests can see the luscious meats and fromage being sliced and plated, as there is an open prep area where the nosh and boards are put together.
The menu is geared toward wine-friendly small plates that are meant for sharing, according to chef/owner Russell Klein. There's a more global approach to the ingredients than at Brasserie Zentral, with new world wines and dishes like escabeche ($9), tomato and lemongrass soup ($5), and pimento and anchovies ($9) under the Nosh section.
There are also adorable jars of spiced eggplant, sardine rillette, rillete de canard, or duck liver mousse (all between $8 and $9) and five types of savory grilled cheeses that range in price from $5 for a classic American to a Gorgonzola and duck confit version with red cabbage for $8.
There are also plenty of desserts to choose from -- and for now these are from the Brasserie Zentral menu. All of the snacks and sweets look delicious but the true star of the show looks to be the Raclette, inspired by what you would find at a lodge in the Alps. A half wheel of Raclette cheese is melted on a special toaster and then scraped onto waiting potatoes, pearl onions, and cornichons ($12 or $18 with ham).
All this talk of food makes it seem like the drinks are an afterthought. Not so -- the wine list has the expected European pours, and covers the Americas as well, with a smattering of offerings from other places. There's white, red, rose, dessert, and bubbly to choose from and the staff will gladly help you match a quaff to whatever you're eating.
For those with a taste for more than grapes, Foreign Legion's chalk boards remind you that cocktails and beer can also be had in these sultry surroundings. As well, they reveal all of the bar's events -- from Industry Monday, to Social Sunday and their nightly happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Foreign Legion will only grow in popularity as the nights get colder and people find their way downtown to the entire Brasserie complex. This is the place to take a date you want to impress -- it's dark and full of good tastes, both in the glass and on the plate.
Foreign Legion 105 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis 612-333-0505 x300
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