Lake Minnetonka’s Best Cool Plates

Revenge isn’t the only thing best served cold.
Cool down with a plate of Christo's dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves)

On a hot summer evening, we’re all looking to cool down. Make that happen at any one of these local spots with some cool plates. Because these dishes are served mostly uncooked, the ingredients must be of the highest quality. Think heirloom tomatoes, high-quality seafood and artisan cheeses. Drag yourself away from the stove, find an air conditioned restaurant and let someone else sweat in the kitchen.

Charcuterie and Cheese Board


A popular trend in the culinary world, charcuterie has found a home at Spasso. From humble beginnings as a way to preserve and use less-desirable cuts of meat, it has more recently emerged as haute cuisine. This kitchen has developed a wonderful board of tasty treats for you to explore. It includes wonderfully sweet and salty house-made duck prosciutto and a duck pâté. The pâté is a bacon-lined treat, complete with coarsely ground pistachios, spicy peppercorns, and herbs and spices to help compliment the natural flavors of the duck breast and chicken liver. The board is completed with slices of baguette and provided accompaniments, such as imported French cornichons and coarse ground mustard for the selection of meats, and crunchy nuts and sweet marmalade with the salty and creamy cheeses. Pair this with a nice light red wine or a sweeter rosé from the expansive wine list for a lovely European-style start to your meal. $15. 17523 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.224.9555

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Asian Bistro

With a heritage rooted in Chinese and Vietnamese culture, the owner of Asian Bistro has developed a menu that includes tastes from China, Thailand and Vietnam. For picky eaters, you can surely find something wonderful to satisfy your hunger pangs. For the adventurous, you may have more difficulty—if only because there will be so many things to choose from. One of our favorites is the rice-paper-wrapped spring rolls. These tasty imports from Vietnam are the ideal companion to a warm summer day. The combination of refreshing veggies, cool rice noodles, sweet chilled shrimp and citrusy cilantro make for a perfect combination of flavors. To ensure freshness, these tightly rolled appetizers are made to order and served with a sweet peanut sauce. $3.75. 4669 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park; 952.471.2625


Ahi Tuna and Soba Noodles

Lord Fletchers

One of our favorite trends is the wide availability of high-quality seared ahi tuna. While still light and healthy, the tuna’s red flesh is more substantial and meaty than other species of fish. We’re glad to have discovered the ahi tuna and soba noodles appetizer, complete with snap peas, bok choy, carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts and a tangy wasabi vinaigrette. The thick cut of tuna is seasoned with loads of black pepper, then chilled and sliced before being artfully placed upon the cool noodle salad. To kick it up a notch, pick from your choice of additions like wasabi paste or soy sauce. We like it as it comes to the table, allowing the fresh flavors to speak for themselves. The portion is large enough to share, but so good you might consider it a stand-in as a light entrée. $14. 3746 Sunset Dr., Spring Park; 952.471.8513

Fresh Oysters

Jake O’Connor’s Public House

Though mostly known for their gastropub fare and warm atmosphere, the fresh oysters are a bit of a hidden find at this downtown Excelsior establishment. The Coastal Seafoods sourced bi-valves are a little taste of the ocean. The chef at Jake O’Connors wants you to enjoy these briney little morsels. Whether you like them with a bit of cocktail sauce, some horseradish, splashes of Tabasco or just a squeeze of lemon, the attentive staff will make sure you get them just the way you like. They frequently have the ubiquitous blue point oysters from Virginia, but you’ll get better flavor and texture with smaller varieties, such as the kumamotos from Washington state. Market price. 200 Water St., Excelsior; 952.908.9650


Cheese Plate

318 Café

We’d like to thank whoever had the novel idea to develop the cheese plate. (Merci!) The French may typically eat cheese as a dessert, but we say it’s much more versatile than that—and Owner Tom Peterson has the perfect venue for this tasty nosh plate. You can get comfortable for a tasty lunch or dinner, meet friends for a happy hour or come a little later to enjoy some live music. Whatever your pleasure, the cheese plate will be there with several excellent selections. Peterson loves Spanish cheeses such as Manchego, but you’ll also find rarities like an amazing cave-aged Vermont cheddar. If it’s available, it’s a must try; easily the best cheddar we’ve ever tasted. Your selection of cheeses will come with a smattering of fruits, local honey, marcona almonds or any number of various treats to compliment the main attraction. $10.75 for your choice of three cheeses. 318 Water St.; 952.401.9902



We could have written an entire article about cool plates at Christo’s, and we would’ve enjoyed every morsel of it. From the cool, creamy tzatziki and a lemony hummus to the unique and wonderful octapodi—a marinated delicious dish of octopus with an almost chicken-like texture. On our most recent trip, the stand outs were the dolmathes: grape leaves stuffed with herbed rice, parsley and scallions, then chilled and served with feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and a slice of lemon. These cravable little treats are the perfect starter for an authentic look at Greek cuisine, and are also available in the nonvegetarian koupepia, served hot and drizzled with egg lemon sauce. The proprietor, Gus Parpas, hails from Cyprus where the Armenian version is available. Good news for you because diners can order that version of the dish, which adds a bit of ground beef and lamb to the flavorful stuffing. $6.65. 15600 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka; 952.912.1000

Shrimp Cocktail

Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room

We’ve had shrimp cocktails before, but never like the one you can order at Hazellewood. Don’t expect your normal boiled and chilled shrimp hanging around a pool of cocktail sauce. Instead, they have developed a new version with six chilled grilled jumbo shrimp on top a bed of Asian-style slaw and served alongside some wasabi-infused cocktail sauce. The snappy shrimp are the perfect medium for this spicy/tangy cocktail sauce. The added slaw is an unexpected bonus of bell peppers, cucumber, red onion, carrot and a zesty Asian-style marinade. $14. 5635 Manitou Rd., Tonka Bay; 952.401.0066

Steak Tartare


Sourcing the next big thing in beef, the chefs at Biella are doing wonderful things with Hereford beef. The select tenderloin is used for their version of steak tartare. The cut is prudently cleaned, trimmed and hand chopped before being formed into a uniform cake ready for your consumption. The coarsely chopped steak is mixed with an incredibly flavorful agumato—a lemon-infused olive oil—topped with salty capers and mesclun micro-greens. There are some who aren’t comfortable with eating raw beef, but in the most capable of hands you are in no danger. You do stand to benefit from loading up a crunchy piece of crostini with the fresh, light and summery steak tartare. $11. 227 Water St., Excelsior; 952.474.8881