Vann is Norwegian for “water” (pronounced “von”). When you walk into Vann, the new chef-driven restaurant in Spring Park, it will be hard to miss the connections to Nordic style and simplicity, and your own connection to water – through the food, the drink and the view.
Situated in a building that overlooks Spring Park Bay of Lake Minnetonka, Vann is the newest home for Erik Skaar, the owner and executive chef of the cozy, stylish restaurant. Erik has been waiting for this moment to open his own place. And he uses the experiences he has gained from the beginning of his career in Florida at seafood restaurants, to Seattle where he was the Chef de Cuisine at Crush, and Denver at Olevia. In Minneapolis his most recent posts were at Bachelor Farmer and Tilia. Here at Vann, those broad experiences manifest in a place where he revels in simplicity and not overcomplicating the food or the dining experience.
Speaking with Erik highlights this philosophy: “I don’t go out looking for something specific in the markets or gardens. I ask what them what they have that’s great, and then work with that”. He told the story of how he FaceTimed with his gardener in Elk River. She showed him live shots of what was in season and looking good. He stopped by later to pick it up and had a plan for how to meld it into the menu. This inspired approach results in slight variations on dishes, and the reduced size of the menu allows for the upgraded quality of ingredients.
The service is warm, welcoming and genuine, under the leadership of Genevieve Globus, General Manager. Genevieve also serves as the Sommelier in partnership with Chef Erik. She is combining her restaurant service experience with her natural curiosity and academic study of wine through the Court of Master Sommelier’s certification program.
The clean lines and blue patterned walls of the dining room are contemporary. The space feels solid, while it exudes both warmth and freshness. The tables, chairs, glassware and even flatware are all carefully chosen to focus not on volume or noise, but on a quiet, well thought-through and selected environment. Details abound, but don’t shout at you. He’s worked with what he has, and hasn’t asked it to be anything other than what it is.
Fish is the star of the show, front and center, highlighted with sustainability and seasonality. This is a technique-driven restaurant; beautiful food wonderfully presented, precise and intricate in the kitchen, but not over the top. It’s as organic as possible, and the kitchen is careful to not undergo a lot of unnecessary steps or ingredients in cooking. The philosophy is “don’t over-manipulate the product”. They take what they get and try to represent it as best as they can. Again, the reduced size of the menu allows detailed attention to each selection.
The octopus is perhaps the best example of this approach. It is braised, and glazed in an eel sauce similar to what you may receive with Unagi at a sushi restaurant. Then a beautifully vibrant green purée of lemongrass is added. It has a SouthEast Asian flavor profile that includes the lemongrass, chili, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce. It is truly wonderful.
Another staple on the first course list is the hamachi. It is lightly cured in seaweed salt, and has a flavor profile that includes chili, ginger, and shiro dashi white soy sauce which is brewed with kelp or bonito flakes. The fish is topped with sea urchin and/or caviar. The detailed preparation involves intricate knife cuts and everything is done exactingly by hand.
The seafood forward menu usually includes two fish or seafood entrees, and always includes at least one red meat or poultry entree, and a vegetarian selection.
Another real treat is the fun amuse-bouche gougères, served as you enjoy a glass of wine or beer before the meal begins. They are made with a wonderful pâte à choux style dough and gruyere cheese. Think eclair or profiteroles with a savory spin. You’ll be wanting more than one of these little gems.
From a beverage stand point, wine is the main focus, along with beer and ciders. They pay close attention to geography and to regions that are heavily influenced by water, whether the sea or rainfall. They also have a strong interest in natural wines and those that are fun and obscure. There are plenty of unfamiliar but thoughtful selections; and you won’t find them at Costco anytime soon. Erik teamed with Genevieve [name and title coming…] after they worked together at Tilia. Similar to the food philosophy, they don’t seek out certain varietals, but rely on their love of individual wines to create the list. If it’s delicious, it will find its way onto the menu.
Of note, another Norwegian influence is present: “Janteloven”. Roughly translated it means: you are not to think you are anything special. This code of conduct, affirmed in Nordic countries, is the root of Nordic modesty. This manifests itself at Vann in an unique way. They do not have a dedicated dishwasher. The entire staff does the dishes at the end of an evening. We’ve been told: “nobody here is too good for the dish pit”.
As Chef Erik noted, “Water is the bloodlife for all existence. It’s the basis of food and wine. It facilitated travel to discover new continents. It’s how cultures come together. Lakes and oceans offer endless ingredients”. How fitting that Vann overlooks one of Minnesota’s largest lakes in this great state that cherishes all things water.
Vann is located at 4016 Shoreline Drive in Spring Park, MN.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday evenings 5-10 p.m.
Reservations are encouraged, walk-ins gladly welcomed.
Available for private parties upon request.