Dining Out: Elevation meets, exceeds lofty ambitions

The first impression visitors to Elevation at the Minot Country Club might have upon entry is a sense that one has been transported away to a ski resort in the Rocky Mountains. The views from the huge windows are spectacular, scenic – even in the waning days of winter. The view inside contributes to the feeling of an exquisite setting, with warm wood, handsome accents. It is at once stately and ultimately comfortable.

Shortly afterward, the quality of service will emerge as notable, matching level of service with level of setting. Here you will find a staff with pride in Elevation and to each individual’s contribution to the upscale casual restaurant.

Then, there is the food. You’ll definitely, fondly remember the food, and probably for a long time. Well, maybe not too long, because you’re likely to come back.

Chef Barry Dick was born and raised in Harvey and proudly points out his early start in the kitchen. At 11 years old, he made a full Chinese dinner by himself. He’s been working with food and dining since he was 13, opting to become a chef instead of an architect. Architecture’s loss is Minot’s gain. He enjoys the full confidence of owner Mike Miller, alters the menu somewhat every six months and clearly is passionate about pleasing diners.

Upscale casual extends to the cuisine at Elevation. A friend and I enjoyed a prepared tasting there last week that demonstrated this perfectly. As appetizers, we split an order of Avocado Fries and a Scotch Egg. Neither of these dishes is easy to execute. Imagine putting a perfect golden fry on something as buttery as an avocado spear. Yet Chef Barry accomplished just that, maintaining the perfect texture on the inside to pair with the panko coating. A Jalapeno Aioli was a perfect accompaniment. Now a Scotch Egg can often be extremely rich, but this version, a hard boiled egg, Chorizo sausage, panko and a bright Elevation Sauce was flattering enough to satisfy a savory craving while leaving room for the rest of the meal. It was no easy task because numerous other “For the Table” starters called.

Happily that next dish was an entree flight – a filet, a Mustard Cream Salmon and a Chicken Piccata. Each was outstanding, prepared perfectly and, interestingly, each was accompanied by a very different sauce. Getting the right temperatures on these dishes is no easy task. Two things were notable beyond the perfect preparation: virtually no dish required any additional seasoning and Chef Barry knows how to make a sauce and pair them perfectly. He really knows his sauces. I rarely order chicken out and very rarely Piccata anywhere except a good Italian restaurant. This one left us wanting more, as did the other two sophisticated but fun entrees, even though at this point we were approaching full. Still we found room for a side of carrots – once again cooked perfectly with just enough tooth to them to retain their freshness. Shredded fennel even further elevated the dish. A Loaded Baked Potato was rich with a good mix of textures from the bacon, green onions, sour cream and cheddar cheese.

Having experienced some of the finest savory dishes I’d had in quite some time, there was little room for dessert. But could a taste hurt? A Caramel Bread Pudding was reminiscent of New Orleans, although less heavy than one might think and not over-sweet. A baked Elevation Cheesecake was also too tempting to pass up and was well worth the calories.

Perusing Elevation’s menu is like hearing a culinary siren’s call. It lures you back. Sandwiches, burgers and salads alone intrigue. Once again the key is… elevation. Think a playful PB&J Doughnut Burger, Salmon BLT Wrap and a Pork Belly Bahn Mi with sweet Thai chili, roasted garlic aioli, pickled onion and carrot slaw, cucumber, jalapenos and cilantro – and much more.

Pastas, meat and seafood range, with a few I’ve added to my wish list being Beurre Blanc Prawns and Sea Scallops, a Basil Butter Mahi Mahi and a Sesame Ginger Glazed Pork Belly (one must love an upscale casual restaurant with not one, but rather two pork belly dishes).

Elevation also offers a diverse brunch, Saturday through Sunday, with a good combination of sweet and savory choices. Try the Caramel Roll, one of Chef Barry’s favorites. A St. Paddy’s Day Irish Lunch Buffet is coming up.

To keep things constantly evolving, Elevation offers routine change in a featured Butcher’s Block, varying cheesecakes, vegetables, lunch features and soups. A smart wine list and the cocktail menu at the 1685 Bar can also liven things up.

While I might have started my wish list for my next trip to Elevation, it’s expanding quickly. That is, assuming I can tear myself away from those dishes I encountered last week. It won’t be easy, because the food was flawless. However if there is one thing I learned from visiting and learning about Elevation, it is that whatever strikes your fancy on this well-conceptualized menu, the consistent thing will be the focus on dining as an all-around experience. And quite an experience it is.

Beurre Blanc Pasta

1 oz olive oil

3 sea scallops

2 prawns

1 oz julienned green peppers

1 oz julienned red peppers

1 oz julienned shallots

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup champagne

3 tbsp butter

8 oz cooked linguine pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

Chiffonade Basil

Heat skillet to medium high heat. Add olive oil to the pan to heat up. Take the flipper off the scallops. Season the prawns and scallops with salt and pepper. Add prawns and scallops and sear to a light golden brown. Turn prawns and scallops and add the peppers. Sauté 45-60 seconds. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 30-45 seconds. Deglaze the pan with champagne. Reduce champagne by a 1/3. Remove from heat and swirl in butter. Add linguine and twist to coat from the sauce. Pull the linguine out and place into a bowl. Pour the prawns, scallops, veggies and sauce over the pasta. Garnish with chiffonade basil.