Come for the art, stay for the food. At tony Walker Art Center, the first is free every Thursday evening, and the second is now affordable, thanks to an offer you can’t refuse.
The Walker’s destination restaurant, 20.21, is as slick and contempo as the works on the walls, and nearly as costly (Would you believer an entrée—OK, it’s lobster—for $44?). But the good news is, if you dine in the adjoining bar and lounger (where the fun folks hang out anyway), you can swoon over the same creatively conceived and carefully prepared food for exactly $20.21. That’s the price of the daily-changing three-course menu: Whatta deal! And you’ll probably get a bonus pre-appetizer free, as we did (a cute mini-ice cream cone filled with wasabi-spiked tuna tartare).
Then choose, if you can, between two apps, both winners. A pair of crispy, shrimp-filled spring rolls stands at attention on the serving plate, aside an herbal haystack of chives, cilantro and pickled cukes. There’s also a mellow, sweet and slightly spicy Thai chili sauce for dipping. Just as swell: the plump, pan-fried pork pot stickers, served with a tangy black vinegar dipping sauce (beats the usual salty soy), scallions and a little sizzle of chili oil.
Then, continuing the Asian touches favored by Wolfgang Puck, the uber-media chef overseeing the place (Executive Chef Asher Miller is the file fella actually executing the artworks), on to a pair of entrees. The Hong Kong salmon, seared ever so briefly so that it remains moist and luscious, shines with accents of soy sauce, a hint of Szechuan chili oil and tiny leaflets of bok choy, plus the obligatory bowl of rice.
Or choose the abundant Chinese chicken salad (Wolfgang invented the popular dish, which everybody else soon copied). It’s composed of tender ribbons of white meat, lots of mini-greens and a few candied cashews mingling with wonton crisps under a hot and sweet mustard dressing that failed to make much of a dent on our palates—thus, a bland but beautiful dish.
Then Executive Sous Chef Corrine Sherbert takes over. She’s the dessert diva here, and deserves hosannas for her creations. Tonight they were a circular, single-serving chocolate truffle cake, delectably runny in the center and gilded with a topknot of vanilla ice cream, plus a light and dainty bread pudding mined with mixed berries (more, please!) in an addictive caramel sauce and again topped with ice cream, just because.
Here’s a final reason to enjoy the evening: glasses of wine for $5—decent ones, too; hearty craft beers for $3; or a creative $5 happy hour Martini list, backed by most attentive service from a wait staff who could double as runway models (fair warning: Don’t slouch in here in your jeans). Grab a stool at the bar to chat up that stylin’ tender or snag one of those arty, black tables at its side, but be prepared to shout a bit. The room, despite megabucks to that fancy European design team, was not made for tete-a-tetes. Or am I just getting old? (Don’t answer that.) No reservations needed, so just show up and enjoy.