Karyn Tomlinson’s long-anticipated Myriel in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood finally opened to customers for in-person dining this week. The new restaurant has served as her home base for over a year, as she served a diminutive takeout menu and hosted an Instagram cooking series called Karyn’s Quarantine Kitchen. Now that the pandemic’s grip has loosened, the kitchen footprint expanded, the dining room spiffed up, and the takeout containers stashed: It’s time to get down to the real business of dining.
The menu is a mix of humble beauty dipping into Tomlinson’s Scandinavian/Minnesotan heritage and French culinary training. That means fresh spring greens are whirled into a refreshing, chilled soup. Slow roasted meats brought in from farms just outside the city are served alongside tart, soft-cooked bitter greens. Brilliantly sunny eggs are folded into an omelet harboring a creamy interior. Meals end with fresh berry pie with a flaky lard crust and a cup of egg coffee, the Scandinavian treat of using an egg in the coffee grounds to create a smooth, light in color cup of joe.
The dining room of the former Bar Brigade has been lightened up and opened up. Vintage gilded doors salvaged from downtown Minneapolis open outwards from the dining room, bathing the tables in sunlight.
This is Tomlinson’s first foray into restaurant ownership. She’s partnered with James Brown of Anderson Realty who has also worked with Forage Modern Workshop and Hi-Lo Diner. Much of the renovation has been done small scale, including a much-needed kitchen expansion and moving the bathroom from being at the bottom of some creaky stairs to a lovely little room just behind the bar, that’s ADA compliant.
Before branching out on her own, Tomlinson led the kitchen at Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone’s Corner Table. She took over when Boemer moved away from the kitchen to focus on the restaurant group’s other projects. There she made a name for herself creating delicate tasting menus that leaned heavily on fresh produce and French techniques. She was known for her subdued, artful plating, giving each ingredient careful consideration and a chance to shine. Before her time there, she’s also spent time in the kitchen at Meritage and Borough.
Myriel takes its name from Les Miserable. In Victor Hugo’s seminal work, Bishop Myriel is the heart of the story, showing compassion and hospitality. Myriel feeds the Jean Valjean, shows him mercy, and transforms his entire trajectory. Tomlinson said she wanted her restaurant to exemplify that hospitality.
In the vein of traditional hospitality, Myriel is forgoing the new trend of restaurants adding a hospitality fee to every bill. Instead, diners are welcome to tip at their leisure, in the more traditional model.
Myriel will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.