Updated: Jun 9
Restaurants are back to full capacity after COVID-19, and so are their customers! It seems the restaurant industry is nearly back to normal, minus a few kinks here and there.
And so, with our favorite restaurants new found flurry of guests, we've decided to step in and review several upscale restaurants around the area. Our first stop is Coalition, located in Excelsior and 50th and France.
"Coalition Restaurant combines an inspired menu with a casually sophisticated setting in a historic downtown Excelsior main street building. Coalition is the creation of Chef Eli Wollenzien and reflects his passion for cooking with a diverse and inspired menu." -Coalition Website.
"The menu takes its inspiration from classic American dishes like beef, lamb, pork and walleye, creatively prepared, vibrantly presented, and influenced by cuisines around the world reflecting the global, sophisticated, expanded palates of today." -Coalition Website.
On our review, we visited the Excelsior location, so let's jump right up and get things started… but first, how many stars would I give them? 3 out of 5.
Upon entering the restaurant, the atmosphere was very medium class, cozy, and inviting. What struck me right away was the extensive wine selection at the back of the restaurant.
It took some time to be seated by what seemed to the Manager; there didn't seem to be a host or host stand. The restaurants I worked in would always drill into the hosts to greet the guest immediately when they walked in the door. A high-class restaurant such as Coalition doesn't seem to see the need to use this. Once greeted, we sat at a table near the kitchen. We were completely ok with it; I got a view of the kitchen, which is always a treat. After a table near us moved away, a manager asked if we wanted to move to a quieter table. I give this major points; this is truly fantastic service and offers guests the best experience.
Once seated, the service was dismal at best. After some time, we were greeted by what seemed to be the server, who never asked how our food tasted. Our server indeed only took our drink and dinner order and was nowhere to be seen. Another server or worker gave us our bill and wished us goodnight. Typically I would credit this to restaurants closing or during a shift change. But this was a 7:00 dinner reservation… service should be at its prime.
Upon our visit, we ordered the Steam Buns, Shrimp Scampi, Smoked Pork Chop, and the Chocolate Torte with a Raspberry Coulis.
Our appetizer, the steam buns, were done exceptionally well; the buns were soft, and the pork was perfect with a touch of spice. All leveled out by light cucumber—a perfect start to the meal.
Then things went slightly south. The Shrimp Scampi was ok, nothing more, nothing less. Nearly drowned in garlic, it was difficult to pick out the flavors of the dish. Each element was cooked well, just overly seasoned and overall far too saucy. It has potential but fell short of what it could have been. The smoked pork shop, for the most part, is very good. Slightly overcooked, but the flavor was there. My favorite part was the sweet potato, cooked to perfection, melted in your mouth, and had a wonderful, almost maple or honey flavor to it.
Then there was the dessert… truly an utter waste of money. Now a chocolate torte is generally a denser cake, to define it simply. There is a difference between a torte and a brick, but we are more on the brick end for Coalition. It lacked flavor and texture and was just genuinely disappointing. Then there had to be a topping on it; If I'm ordering a dessert, and it is topped with whip cream, I want it to be cream whipped in-house with vanilla or another flavoring. I DO NOT want to be served a dessert with whip cream that came out of the container of your food provider. It was easily distinguishable that Coalition did not make this from scratch.
My honest opinion and rating of Coalition, would I go back? It's hard to say. Yes, restaurants can have their rough nights, and everyone is still getting back into the swing of things after COVID-19, but that doesn't mean every dish shouldn't be perfect each time. The Coalition isn't the cheapest of restaurants, and so I have to be harder on them. If someone is going to pay a premium price, they should get premium service and food.
I'm sure many of you have had wonderful experiences here, but I'm disappointed with my time spent here. The restaurant has potential but needs to iron out some of the wrinkles in the system.
So would I return? Sure, I'll give them another chance. But I'll be critiquing every dish and service interaction. From my time in restaurants, I can be picky because I want restaurants to succeed and I know their capabilities.
Overall, I'd give Coalition Three out of Five stars. It was not bad, but it has some elements to sort out before they work their way up my list of stringent standards. I'm strict for a reason; I want you, our readers, to be able to pick the best restaurants out there. That is what we are here to do, help you in your culinary and eating journey.
"The Flying Chef"