When you’re feeling fancy, these four local eateries are the place to indulge yourself.
745 Community Dr, Ste A,
Sushiya has been serving up delicious sushi in its intimate corner of North Liberty since 2014. The delicious hand rolls and excellent service have made it a local favorite, but a new addition to their menu may have the whole state buzzing. Wagyu beef has arrived. Now, Iowans certainly love their beef, but what makes this type so special? The prominent identifier is the beautiful marbling, which is highly curated to produce the best tasting meat. Raised in “stress-free environments,” a gene in these cows’ DNA is activated to produce the beef which is higher in good cholesterol and fatty acids, making it actually good for you. While this dish is expensive, any meat connoisseur deserves to try this rare opportunity!
Rapid Creek Cidery
4823 Dingleberry Rd NE #2,
Dietary restrictions can do exactly that—restrict one’s ability to find a decadent dinner spot. But since its addition to Wilson’s Orchard in 2017, Rapid Creek Cidery has quickly gained a following as one of the best places to grab vegetarian cuisine. Do not fear, carnivores—they do have indulgent, beautiful meat dishes, including an Iowa ribeye served with grilled sourdough and beef marrow butter and a ruby trout served alongside lobster and potatoes. But the vegetarian dishes here shine, not as an alternative, but simply because they are fantastic. The menu rotates every season but guarantee a dish that will sculpt the fresh local produce into an memorable dish. Case in point: A tofu shakshouka-stuffed eggplant served on a bed of pistachio couscous and drizzled with yogurt is a sight to behold. They’ve also featured seared, marinated tofu with miso farrow and pickled shiitake mushrooms, and an unforgettable Moroccan spiced tofu piled high with smokey potatoes and squash. This is a must-see restaurant for the venue alone, nestled within the beautiful landscape of the orchard. You may come for the view, but you’ll stay for the food.
219 2nd St SE, Cedar Rapids
Designed to feel like a New York City destination without having to leave your Iowa backyard, Cedar Rapids’ Cobble Hill is the perfect date night. The interior is rustic-industrial in the most welcoming way, from the exposed brick and gleaming open kitchen right down to the reclaimed barnwood floors. The bar mixes up cocktails made from small batch whiskeys and freshly squeezed juices. Even their sodas are fancy, serving up DRY Sodas, an all-natural sparkling soda in intriguing flavors such as rhubarb and lavender. The food is undoubtedly the showstopper here; every entrée is sculptural and conveys just how much preparation and care goes into every facet. The grilled leg of lamb bursts with flavor, juicy and rich with spices surrounded by North African spice potatoes and a bit of mint. The roasted pork is cooked to perfection, with the animal being used again via a fried pork pate and an inspired sweet potato spaetzle. Cobble Hill has thought through every step of the experience and delivers that big city feel many of us crave.
Baroncini Ristorante Italiano
104 S Linn St, Iowa City
Growing up, pasta night was the dinner above all dinners, where everyone could gorge and eat until their little carb-loving heart’s content. While it’s inadvisable to put your elbows on the table and jockey your tablemates for the last piece of bread, the folks at Baroncini would understand. A small, elegant Italian restaurant tucked away on Linn St, Baroncini serves up its daily handmade pasta and an enviable wine selection six days a week. The Insalata di Popolio features perfectly grilled octopus atop a tart, fresh Mediterranean risotto salad with capers, eggplant and basil. The Capellini ai Frutti di Mare is a seafood lover’s dream: angel hair pasta piled high with scallops, mussels, shrimp and sepia served in a delicious red sauce. The entrees are unique among Iowa eateries including a veal porterhouse steak, a rack of lamb with pink peppercorn demi glace and a dry aged hanger steak with date demi-glace. If you have saved any room for dessert, the gelato affogato is the perfect end: vanilla ice cream swimming in a smokey, bitter shot of espresso served with biscotti for dunking. From the authentic Italian techniques to the rare offerings, we have one piece of advice: come hungry.
Recipe: Lobster Américaine
What’s more decadent than lobster in a sauce enriched with cognac and cream? Traditional Américaine recipes don’t call for heavy cream but I find that it really rounds out the flavors of the shellfish and tarragon. This is my adaptation of the recipe I learned at the French Culinary Institute in New York.
2 whole live lobsters, about 2 pounds each
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup cognac
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups shrimp, lobster or fish stock
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
Kosher salt to taste
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the lobsters for 2 minutes. If your pot isn’t very big you may have to blanch one at a time. Then shock the lobsters in ice cold water.
2. Remove the meat from the lobster claws and tails. Cut each piece of tail meat in half lengthwise. Each of your four diners will get one claw and one piece of the tail. Cover the meat with a damp cloth and refrigerate until step 5.
3. Carefully cut the lobster shells and body into chunks. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the lobster shells and cook until they turn red. Add the shallot and garlic, and cook for another 30 seconds, being careful not to let the garlic brown. Then add the tomato paste and cook for another minute, stirring.
4. Add the cognac and white wine and cook for another 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about half. Add the stock and reduce by half again, about another 10 minutes. Then add the heavy cream and one tablespoon of chopped tarragon. Reduce for another 5-10 minutes until the liquid is the consistency of a sauce. If you want to be fancy you can strain the sauce. Season the sauce with salt to taste and keep warm.
5. To finish the dish, season the lobster meat with salt. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the lobster meat and cook until it turns red, about 2 minutes.
6. Serve the lobster with the sauce, and top with the remaining tarragon.