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Brad Ballinger

[MSP] La Belle Vie

14 posts in this topic

There's a thread here with a post from Bruce Schneier about dinner at La Belle Vie's old Stillwater location. I was with Bruce that night. Recently, I had a chance to experience the relocated La Belle Vie -- sorta.

My wife and I had been trying to arrange dinner plans with another couple for a while. Since both women have their birthdays in December, we usually try and go out to dinner as a joint celebration. Well, it got pushed into January this time. We received a phone call early Saturday afternoon -- "Hey, are you guys up for La Belle Vie tonight?"

"We're not going to get in tonight."

"Well, lemme call, and I'll call you back."

The phone rang about an hour later -- "Okay, they'll let us have the tasting menu in the bar, but we have to be there by 5:30."

"Oh, I suppose."

I was not really into it. My thought is if I'm going to La Belle Vie to drop money on the tasting menu I want the ambience of the best dining room in the Twin Cities (at least it was the best room when 510 occupied the space). I don't want to sit in the bar. My wife and I tried scheming how we were going to get out of this, but we came up empty.

My wife and I arrived at 5:30. Parking is usually hard to get in the area, and La Belle Vie offers valet parking for $6. But we found street parking one block away. Although my friend had talked to the person she had to talk to to be allowed to have the tasting menu in the bar, no one seemed to know that's what we were doing. But that's only a minor point.

I know the sommelier at La Belle Vie, and he was very accommodating. He pointed us to a couple of different locations in the bar where we could make the tasting menu work, but there's really only one viable option -- pushing two tables in front of the couch closest to the foyer together. It was purely a seating choice based on functionality and not ambience.

Two tasting menus are offered -- five courses for $65 or eight courses for $80. The eight course contains the five course menu and adds another savory course, a palate cleanser and a second dessert course. Wine flight pairings are available for $45 per person for the five and $55 per person for the eight. We all selected the five and decided to order wines from the bottle list. I was able to select a white, a red, and dessert wines by the glass that kept the cost below $45 per person.

First, there was a "gift from the kitchen," which was a little savory cheese puff of some sort. I'm sorry I don't recall the details. Then we were served an amuse of scallop topped with osetra caviar in a tiny soup of celery root puree. That course was very good. But I was puzzled by it nonetheless since the menu listed the first course in the five as a scallop and frog legs thing. Two scallop dishes served one after the other? Yep.

The scallops and frog legs had a grapefruit sauce and salsify and probably some other stuff. The second white wine course was skate with lobster pieces in a lobster reduction and other accents. I'm blanking on the first red wine course, but I want to say it was pheasant or duck with mushrooms. The second one was wild boar, which was a bit tough to cut. And I entirely forget what dessert was, but I know chocolate was part of it. We all enjoyed our food, but weren't really blown away.

Even though we were seated in the bar, we got dining room production when our courses were delievered to the table. Four servers approached, each carrying a dish, and they were "unveiled" at the same time. La Belle Vie gets points for that because it was a very busy Saturday night, and they could've easily cut back on theatrics for those seated in the bar.

The wine list is well created to match the Mediterranean cuisine. One bottle I ordered was from a newer vintage and a different bottling, but was replaced by something else without incident.

I did poke my nose into the dining room. Ahhhh, another time perhaps.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Thanks for the report, Brad.  I'm looking forward to a full dining room report to support the review the Strib posted a few weeks ago.

I went to LBV just before Christmas and I have to say I was a little disappointed. It's probably my fault however as I had allowed my expectations to grow exponentially. as I anticipated going there.

We ate in the dining room and it was absolutely gorgeous. At this point I don't even really remember much of what I actually ate except that I remember it being excellent. I guess I was mostly disappointed that one is not able to do the tasting menu unless the entire table is going to do so as well. I was told this was necessitated by the "scheduling" of the dishes. If my less adventurous dining mates are willing to watch me eat 6 or 8 courses with their own meals mixed in I'm not sure why the kitchen couldn't accomodate me.

The service left a little to be desired. We were promised little amuse bouches which never arrived and my girlfriend had order her tenderloin medium (shame on her) and it arrived clearly rare. Our waiter was really condescending as well which bugged me to no end. He treated us as though we had wandered in off the street mistaking LBV for Dixies.

Overall I'd say I enjoyed La Belle Vie but I kept thinking about Rick Nelson (I think it was him) saying in his Star Tribune review that he'd rather be eating a cheeseburger at 112 and I was right there with him.

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The service left a little to be desired. We were promised little amuse bouches which never arrived and my girlfriend had order her tenderloin medium (shame on her) and it arrived clearly rare. Our waiter was really condescending as well which bugged me to no end. He treated us as though we had wandered in off the street mistaking LBV for Dixies.

Wow. That is truly surprising. And a shame. Perhaps some bugs were still being worked out, but I dunno. That's one knock I have on the Twin Cities fine dining scene -- professional service is harder to come by than great food.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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That's one knock I have on the Twin Cities fine dining scene -- professional service is harder to come by than great food.

Hear hear.

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We ate in the lounge recently and had an excellent experience. My husband and I went with two other friends and we were fairly early (6:30) so even though it was Saturday we were able to get seats by the fireplace. We ordered a selection of appetizers and everything was delicious--highlights were a cornmeal crusted shrimp grilled perfectly and these amazing fries with Indian dipping sauces. We also shared several desserts, the best of which was an espresso brownie topped with a dome of semifreddo and nestled in a bowl of smoked chocolate soup.

I agree with ppers that good service in the Cities can be hard to find but our servers were friendly and helpful, and the bartender kindly prepared me a nice mocktail (I am expecting in June). DH and I plan to go back and try the dining room before the baby comes.

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About a dozen of us went to La Belle Vie for dessert. One of us had just received his doctorate, and wanted a something-less-expensive-than-dinner celebration. They were happy to have us, and gave us a large table at the bar.

Unfortunately, desserts were way less impressive than expected. Nothing was actively bad, but nothing was worth recommending either. Certainly not for the prices. I was very disappointed, actually.

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Can anyone explain to me the "Lounge Tasting Menu?" I'm assuming, from the name (on the website), that it is only offered in the lounge? It seems to be comprised of dining room a la carte selections. Am I also to assume that there is no "tasting menu" option in the dining room?


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Can anyone explain to me the "Lounge Tasting Menu?"  I'm assuming, from the name (on the website), that it is only offered in the lounge?  It seems to be comprised of dining room a la carte selections.  Am I also to assume that there is no "tasting menu" option in the dining room?

There are two tasting menus in the dining room. Go to the website and click on "Tasting Menus" (WITHOUT clicking on any of the pull-down items that appear below when you mouse over it). You will get the Chef's tasting (around 8-9 courses) and a 5-course tasting menu.

My interpretation is that the Lounge Tasting Menu is, as you mention, a sampling of some of the current dining room a la carte selections.

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How pathetic - it's taken me three months to get around to posting my experience at La Belle Vie. We had the 8-course tasting. Service was spectacular, wine was enjoyable, and the food was great. Gorgeous dining room. A grateful thanks to anyone out there who might be able to tell me the name of the artist and name of the oil canvas of clouds in the interior dining room.

The full review with link to the photos can be found at the ulterior epicure.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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How pathetic - it's taken me three months to get around to posting my experience at La Belle Vie.  We had the 8-course tasting.  Service was spectacular, wine was enjoyable, and the food was great.  Gorgeous dining room.  A grateful thanks to anyone out there who might be able to tell me the name of the artist and name of the oil canvas of clouds in the interior dining room.

The full review with link to the photos can be found at the ulterior epicure.

I e-mailed the design firm for La Belle Vie and this morning I received a reply from someone at Solera restaurant (same owners..e-mail must have been forwarded). The artist's name is John Donahue according to them. Unfortunately, that's all the info they had and several internet searches turn up nothing more.

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My wife and I had dinner at La Belle Vie on Friday night, with the 8-course tasting menu in the dining room. As suggested above, it is really a gorgeous space, with lots of room between tables, tasteful decor, enough light to see by, etc. The menu had some hits and misses, but was for the most part very good, and not a bad value. In particular, any chef who can get my wife to eat and enjoy langoustines is a great chef indeed! I found some of the choices odd (a chorizo foam that completely overwhelmed a littleneck clam soup, for example), and the dessert course was a complete miss in my opinion (a curried carrot cake and a cardamom frozen yogurt the evening we were there: the cake had a poor texture and little flavor, and the yogurt was a miserable accompaniment), but the remainder of the dishes were very good to excellent. The cocktails from the bar were quite good, better than any others I have had in the MSP area, though admittedly I have not explored much: I am happy as long as they use fresh citrus! All told, worth the evening, and a great special-occasion restaurant.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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My wife and I had dinner at La Belle Vie on Friday night, with the 8-course tasting menu in the dining room. As suggested above, it is really a gorgeous space, with lots of room between tables, tasteful decor, enough light to see by, etc. The menu had some hits and misses, but was for the most part very good, and not a bad value. In particular, any chef who can get my wife to eat and enjoy langoustines is a great chef indeed! I found some of the choices odd (a chorizo foam that completely overwhelmed a littleneck clam soup, for example), and the dessert course was a complete miss in my opinion (a curried carrot cake and a cardamom frozen yogurt the evening we were there: the cake had a poor texture and little flavor, and the yogurt was a miserable accompaniment), but the remainder of the dishes were very good to excellent. The cocktails from the bar were quite good, better than any others I have had in the MSP area, though admittedly I have not explored much: I am happy as long as they use fresh citrus! All told, worth the evening, and a great special-occasion restaurant.

I thought Michelle Gayer was working there, the quality should be superb, she was Charlie Trotter's Pastry Chef for years. Her desserts are usually stulitifying

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I'm not sure who's working there now, but I agree that the desserts should be excellent. Alas, that was simply not the case the evening I was there. It was not terrible, but it was a definite notch below mediocre. I certainly would not have willingly eaten more than the few bites I tried. It's always a shame to end a meal on a low note: there were some really fantastic plates (even the soup with chorizo I complained about above tasted great, it just didn't taste like anything but chorizo!).


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I recently spent a week staging at La Belle Vie and I was blown away. Beautiful food, very french. Not much Molecular stuff, and what they did do was done well - as in it helped create a plate that was greater than the sum of its parts (if that makes sense) No bubbles just to have bubbles etc. Chef DeCamp and Chef McKee were both very deserving of their James Beard nominations this year and the pastry chef should be nominated in the next couple of years I'd bet. I'd personally consider this the best restuarant in Minneapolis if not the state from what I saw in the BOH.

I'd love to hear some more recent reviews from the customer side of things though!

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