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Schneier

Review: Vincent

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I still believe that Vincent is the best resturant in the Twin Cities right now. And it's pretty reasonably priced for what you get.

Dinner there a couple of weeks ago:

Appetizer 1: "Halibut tempura, ginger scented dried shrimp-carrot puree, Kefir lime-coconut broth." Very good. Everything tasted good together. The dish was crunchy and creamy at the same time, with a little bite.

Appetizer 2: "Talbais bean soup, spiced walnuts, walnut oil." Rich and tasty.

Appetizer 3: "Mushroom risotto, dried grape tomatoes, butternut squash, walnut scented broth." Definitely excellent. A perfect risotto.

Entree 1: "Roasted Hawaiian prawns, two-hour braised crispy pork bellly, taro root puree, sweet and sour sauce." This was good, but I didn't think it worked well as a compete dish. The pork was very good, but it didn't really match the prawns

Entree 2: "Acacia honey scented grilled pork tenderloin loin, Brussel sprouts, yellow grits, peppery jus." Much better. Very well put together dish.

Dessert: "Pineapple carpaccio, ginger parfait, caramelized pineapple, crepe tulle." The dish also came with a little bit of basil, and sweetened farro. Very good.

Bruce

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My notes from lunch there a week ago:

We had the caesar salad, duck pate, papardelle with smoked chicken, and the three cremes for dessert.

The Caesar was the weakest link, lacking a certain garlicky goodness. It seemed more workmanlike than inspired.

The pate was good. Two big wedges of pate with a bullet of fig compote, with a drizzle of fig sauce.

The papardelle was very good indeed, with a savory sauce of smoked chicken, small stewed tomatoes, pearl onions. The watery bits left in the bottom of the bowl were superlative when soaked into the bread.

The 3 cremes were Pot au Creme (very dark-chocolatey, mmm), Creme Brulee (not flavored, just a good solid rendition), and Creme Caramel. All 3 had perfect texture and were a testament to the kitchen's skill.

I had a glass of the house Muscadet. The first glass was oxidized, with quite dark color. It was replaced cheerfully and with no fuss; the second glass had a dark color too but was much fresher. The service was superb all around. We felt antisocial and asked to be seated in the deserted bar side; this too was accomodated without a second thought.

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I have been back for lunch once since you and I had lunch, Bruce. Again, it was outstanding. Unlike many other "fine dining" establishments, they offer a lunch menu that is not sub-par -- so many great places do a half-assed job at lunch; perhaps resting on dinner laurels. We are planning to take my folks there for dinner soon as a thank you for all they have done to help us move. In the meantime, I have recommended it to two other couple who have dined there, and could not have been happier. I look forward to dinner there.

From what I've heard from those who have dined at Vincent for dinner, they count it among their favorite places in the Twin Cities.

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We recently hosted a private dinner there on his loft level. He is awesome and having dined there regularly since it opened, we think he just keeps raising the bar. Go Vincent, "Le Grand Fromage". Have you ever seen his name on his chef's jacket?

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Reading this thread has me salivating. I last had the braised veal cheeks and they were meltingly meaty.

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I also had an excellent meal at Vincent about 2 weeks ago. Great special soup, the beet/goat cheese salad, a duck breast special with carmelized leeks and the chocolate cake with earl grey foam. It was relaxed and very comfortable. Sorry about the lack of details here, I'm just joined egullet and didn't have a notebook with me then:)

dahlsk

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We recently hosted a private dinner there on his loft level. He is awesome and having dined there regularly since it opened, we think he just keeps raising the bar. Go Vincent, "Le Grand Fromage". Have you ever seen his name on his chef's jacket?

Can you tell me about the private dinner upstairs. I've been thinking of hosting one, and I'm curious how it goes. Do you choose a menu beforehand, or is there a limited menu that the guests choose from? How many courses? Do you get a private waiter? Etc?

And the only jacket I've ever seen Vincent wear says "Le Grand Fromage."

Bruce

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Sorry I didn't reply earlier, I've been out of town. My husband took care of all the arrangements, and he worked directly with Vincent and Michael to come up with a pre-set, 6 course menu. We started with Champagne and passed canapes, had pre-selected wines for each course, and yes, private servers. We are doing another, less formal one this summer and will offer a set three course menu with each guest pre-selecting a particular fish, meat, or vegetarian main. Again we will start with cocktails and canapes and will offer a red and a white wine throughout the dinner. So, as far as I know, you always have to choose the menu beforehand, but they are great to work with and very flexible. You can custom design almost anything you want and they can do it. They really do a FABULOUS job! It is a great setting and a fun way to dine being able to mix around during the cocktails and enjoy peering into the main restaurant, then once you are seated it feels totally private. And BTW the food is superb!!

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What's up with Vincent's these days? First Mpls St Paul Magazine doesn't mention them in their "best restaurants" issue. And now Dara Moskowitz doesn't mention them in her opening essay to the City Pages Restaurant Guide. I've had two very good meals there in the past few months; I don't get why they're being ignored.


Edited by Schneier (log)

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What's up with Vincent's these days?  First Mpls St Paul Magazine doesn't mention them in their "best restaurants" issue.  And now Dara Moskowitz doesn't mention them in her opening essay to the City Pages Restaurant Guide.  I've had two very good meals there in the past few months; I don't get why they're being ignored.

I wouldn't categorize it as being ignored. Garnering an honorable mention in the MSP Mag Critics' "Fine Dining" category is, after all, an endorsement that many other restaurants would covet. Plus, in both publications, Vincent is listed monthly/weekly as an Editor's Choice with very favorable comments.

I would say it's more of a "victim of circumstance". 2005 was a remarkable year in terms of MSP fine dining. There were a few openings (Fugaise, Five, 112 Eatery, 20.21), that stole the attention from established places, a slew of accomplished chefs moving around and shaking things up, and the entry of La Belle Vie into the downtown mix.

Specific to the MSP Mag feature, Vincent was also victim to the peculiar format of the Critics' Choice listing. Aside from the fact that the Honorable Mention ended up an afterthought on page 242 after the continuation of the article, the categorizations made it confusing. Fugaise in "Chef Driven - Neighborhood", while Vincent, Five and Heartland are listed in "Fine Dining/Luxury"...you could randomly rearrange the four and it would make the same amount of sense. Add that 20.21, and perhaps D'Amico Cucina and I Nonni should have been in "Ethnic", and it lost its meaningfulness to the blurring of categories. (I'll also throw in my MSP Mag pet peeve regarding their incomprehensible love affair with The Cheesecake Factory).

I suspect when the dust settles, Vincent will emerge still regarded as one of the finer restaurants in the cities. The best you can do is to keep broadcasting the details of great meals there when you have one.

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Just want to add to my previous post -- apparently too late to "edit" or I don't know how...anyway:

Bruce,

I picked up the City Pages yesterday and the restaurant insert fell out. I wasn't understanding you correctly as I didn't know there was a special Restaurant Guide section this week. I thought you were just referring to the standard weekly blurb introducing the regular summaries.

While I still think leaving Vincent out was unintentional on Dara's part, it did seem a little more glaring given the sheer number of restaurants mentioned. I can see the validity of reading that and concluding that we take Vincent for granted. It just gives cause to bump them back up to the top of the "next fine meal" to-do list.

MSPD

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Heading to MN/SP for three days next week. Staying in St. Paul on the water but open to going elsewhere. We have no long lunches but looking for 3 great places for dinner (two with company, one the last night on my own at the bar). Any suggestions appreciated.

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Heading to MN/SP for three days next week.  Staying in St. Paul on the water but open to going elsewhere.  We have no long lunches but looking for 3 great places for dinner (two with company, one the last night on my own at the bar).  Any suggestions appreciated.

Depending on how many people from your company...

St. Paul downtown -- A Rebours. French bistro fare done quite well. But they also have bar seating that you can do on your own.

St. Paul downtown -- Margaux. Bistro-esque. This is only for your solo night.

St. Paul neighborhood -- Heartland. Regional eclectic. Only doable for company if the group is no larger than eight. There is also a wine bar that serve good food.

Minneapolis downtown -- Vincent. French country. The people who are aghast at its being slighted in recent pubs have a reason to grouse. Also have good bar fare.

If your co-workers need something more "mainstream," then Kincaid's or St. Paul Grille in downtown St. Paul.

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Heading to MN/SP for three days next week.  Staying in St. Paul on the water but open to going elsewhere.  We have no long lunches but looking for 3 great places for dinner (two with company, one the last night on my own at the bar).  Any suggestions appreciated.

Add to Brad's list Five and Levain, both in South Minneapolis. And La Belle Vie.

I think that Vincent, Five, and Levain are the three best meals in the Twin Cities.

Bruce


Edited by Schneier (log)

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Thanks those are helpful, good to know some options in St. Paul. What do folks think about 20.21 or 112 eatery, I hear good things about both.

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Thanks those are helpful, good to know some options in St. Paul.  What do folks think about 20.21 or 112 eatery, I hear good things about both.

112 Eatery - YES!!! Easier for a smaller work group than a larger one.

20.21 - Haven't been.

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Thanks those are helpful, good to know some options in St. Paul.  What do folks think about 20.21 or 112 eatery, I hear good things about both.

112 eatery is excellent although reservations can be difficult to come by on short notice.

Depending on your experience with pan-Asian haute cuisine, 20.21 may be excellent or disappointing. Think a significant step down from Nobu or those kinds of places. I was mildly disappointed but had very high expectations. The desserts are spectacular.

If you're concerned about conversation, 112 eatery is small and can be loud and a bit crowded at peak dinner hour (7-9 p.m.) and 20.21 is ridiculously loud.

Also, don't rule out Fugaise -- a bit under the radar here. www.fugaise.com

By the way, all of your recommendations are upper tier -- are you looking to try anything less upscale?

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So, my skepticism about Vincent's has been put to bed. For years, I had heard reports that Vincent's was out-dated and stodgy. It was neither.

I recently had a three-course lunch (a la carte) at this restaurant with a friend. It was simply delightful.

The simple green salad was wonderfully fresh and appropriately anointed with a sheen of a brightly-flavored walnut vinaigrette. I dare not ask about the seasonality of the produce (it all tasted and looked extremely fresh), but I'm willing to turn a blind eye to juicy grape tomatoes and velvety tissue-thin lettuces in the dead of winter (and, I mean DEAD - the actual temperature outside barely clawed its way above zero).

Vincent's "Le Pot Roast" puts any American version to shame. Despite my misgivings - and even regrets immediately after putting in my order - it was the most stunning square of roasted meat I've had in ages. The meat was lean, yet dripping with juice - it seemed as if it might burst under the tines of my fork. The strands of succulent meat un-seamed without much work. If the flavor of the meat weren't enough, the sauce was a rich red wine-y reduction that coated each bite with luxury and flavor. The accompanying vegetables - carrots, onions, and potatoes were all perfectly done and married with the sauce. Plating was also extraordinary - classy comfort food.

My friend's "fish du jour" was a perfectly roasted filet of salmon (medium-rare) on a bed of black trumpets, Swiss chard and wild rice. The dish, equally as beautiful as my "Le Pot Roast," was ringed with an aigre doux (sweet and sour) reduction. The preparation, and to some extent the ingredients, was classically French, but the flavors were uncannily Midwestern

Desserts were simple yet immensely satisfying. My pumpkin panna cotta served in a little cup was a rich in texture and redolent with spices: cardomom, cinnamon and nutmeg. The best part was the "cinnamon toffee" crumbled over the top of the panna cotta like a layer of butterscotch gravel. I ended up skimming all of it off like a naughty boy.

My friend ordered "Vincent's Favorite Childhood Dessert," which (for those who aren't familiar) was basically a vanilla ice cream sundae. The server presented a big china dish bearing a mini Le Creuset cocotte brimming with little balled scoops of vanilla ice cream sided by a bevy of cute little madeleines (which were addictive) and a cup of the luscious warm chocolate sauce to be poured over the ice cream at will (we got carried away). Hot met cold, and for a few nostalgic moments I was whisked away to the age of 5, marveling the magically-stiffened coat of chocolate that outlined the round mounds of vanilla ice cream.

All of the food was fresh, flavorful, carefully prepped, and elegantly presented. There wasn't any showy pyrotechnics, ambitiously creative combinations, or cutting-edge witticism. Vincent's presented me with straightforward classic French cuisine done very well.

Perhaps the most endearing part of our lunch was the rather awkward and authentically French service. English wasn't his strongest suit, but it was charming and he was extremely (if not too) efficient.

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