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Thursday April 24, 2014
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An Ambitious Combination



Cornish hen--with fingerling potatoes and escabeche salsa. I ended up surprising them with my food," says the twenty-seven-year-old Ecuadoran, with a certain amount of satisfaction. All of these dishes ended up on the menu at Lena.

Lena and its basement bar, Habana, opened more or less on schedule in the former Parthenon in early September, and an ambitious renovation it is. 2Mission, Lena/Habana's parent company, also owns Grizzly Peak and Blue Tractor locally and a small flock of other eateries around the state. It has a well-established record of classy resuscitation of vintage downtown buildings, but when it comes to installing restaurants in them, 2Mission usually leans toward casual pub.

In Traverse City, 2Mission recently stepped into the deeper waters of fine dining with a locavore dinner house named Mission Table. Lena is their second foray into what one might call the white-tablecloth world--except there are no tablecloths in sight in the modern, minimalist ground-floor restaurant, which seats 130. It's stripped cleanly down to its brick and timber bones, with tables and chairs so functional they're reminiscent of school-cafeteria furniture. The current trend in fine dining is to let the food provide the complexity and use the decor as a palate cleanser.

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