5607 Chicago Avenue S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
Xavi. It’s pronounced JHAH-vee or JZHAH-vee. It’s a Basque word meaning the new house and it is also short for Xavier (pronounced ZEYViy) in French, Spanish and English. Xavi opened early last summer. It’s in South Minneapolis on 56th and Chicago wedged between a yoga studio and holistic clinic on one side and a tattoo parlor on the other. We showed up early on a Tuesday. From the outside it looks like a place where you might buy a distributor cap for your car or perhaps a Persian rug. Inside its dark and cozy with a modern craftsman vibe. Altogether it seats around 60 but it is divided into roughly 4 areas, providing a cozy intimate space where you can talk in a normal voice.
It another day of skipping lunch so we are hungry early, arriving at 6:00. Our waiter Mark seats us in the banquette near the kitchen. There is another party of 4 seated at the other end of the restaurant. The menu consists of 11 small plates ranging from $9 to $16, 7 entrees ranging from $21 to $25 and four $8 vegetable sides. They also have a kid’s menu with three $9 offerings.
Xavi offers ten craft beer selections which pair nicely with most food offerings. I settle on a Fulton 300 which serves me well through the whole meal. Nancy orders wine.
The food is contemporary, upscale and good. We never make it past the small plates. We start with a scallop crudo with seabeans, grapefruit sections, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and tarragon. Scallops and grapefruit sections alternate around the inside of the bowl. The tarragon is fresh and gives the dish a slight hint of fennel. The sea beans add a little salt highlight. We take out time letting the scallop and grapefruit dissolve on our tongues and it is oh so nice.
We follow this up with a beet salad with feta, oregano, pickled celery, roasted pumpkin seeds, and red leaf lettuce. It is dressed with a cava vinaigrette and pumpkin seed oil. Even people who detest beets will like his salad.
We next order the beef tartare. It evokes a Rueben sandwich, arriving with 3 scoops of tartare on top of dark rye bread. Mustard seeds are mixed in with the tartare and there is a smidgen of cabbage slaw and a row of spots of pickle spice aioli. I thought it was spot on but Nancy thought it was a little on the salty side.
We finish with labelle duck breast with xo sauce and accompanied by braised and pickled red chard. Xo sauce is a spicy fish sauce originating in Honk Kong and is quite popular in southern China. This sounds like a very special duck. Labelle duck breast come from Labelle Farms in New York who are known for breeding and raising Moulard ducks. Moulards are a hydrid between pekin and Muscovy ducks and are calmer and healthier than their parent breeds. It’s a little tough and chewy because the ducks use the breast muscles to fly and they have very little fat. But they are very delicious and Chef Michael Agan is able to cook the chard so that even chard haters will come back for more.
We end our meal sharing apple pie for two. The pie comes cold in a small cast iron frying pan. I think it’s good but it would be so much better warmed up. Nancy finds it disappointing because it is cold.
While the meal had some ups and downs, on the whole we liked it – Xavi is an upscale yet cozy neighborhood place with interesting and well prepared food. The Server Mark knew the menu well and did a good job explaining each food option. He allowed up to eat at a nice leisurely pace and had an instinct for showing up when needed. General manager James Elm also stopped by a few times to see how we were enjoying our food. We will be back. Nancy gives it an 88 and I would go with 90 out of 100.