Are We Ready for Demi, the New Tasting-Menu Restaurant?
A look inside Gavin Kaysen's new North Loop tasting-menu restaurant
I was telling a friend about Gavin Kaysen's soon-to-open, 20-seat tasting-menu restaurant Demi when she asked me, "Can the Twin Cities support this?"
It's a fair question—because this is a New York-, San Francisco-, Toyko-style, high-end, somewhat exclusive experience. Yes, we have tasting menus in the Twin Cities; we have incredible bargains like the chef's bar at Icehouse (five courses, $35), luxurious experiences like the Duck Press at Meritage ($150), and the incredible success of the dinner and theater that is Travail (currently $85/person).
Demi has two menus: a two-hour experience for $95 and a two-and-a-half-hour experience for $125. When Kaysen showed me around the small (intimate!) space in the North Loop this week, he told me he wasn't giving out an exact number of courses because he didn't want people to hit course seven and freak out that they still had five to go. "Course counting can ruin the experience," he said.
And it's going to be an amazing experience. A lot of the food has been tested on people at the somewhat under-the-radar chef's counter that was happening at Spoon & Stable. The team has been culled from Bellecour and Spoon, plus a couple of chefs who are moving here to work at Demi. "All of our kitchen team have been sous chefs or higher," Kaysen told me, including the former sous chef of The Modern, a restaurant with two Michelin Stars. (Side note: Demi should be catnip for the Michelin Guide judges, to see if a Minneapolis restaurant is worthy of getting a Michelin star.)
The knives here are made by Jackson Schwartz, the artist better known as the founder of Hennepin Made lighting. The servingware comes from a Chicago potter, Ashley Lin Pottery. There's gorgeous art on the wall featuring circles from old paperwork they unearthed while remodeling the Barrington Coffee Factory into condos from local artist Laurie Borggreve.
People won't be piled up on top of each other around the service bar, but when it's full, there should be an energy in the room. Louder music. Two servers, two plating, two cooking. The bar team will also be the host team greeting you at the door. There will be only 10 employees working at any given time. Your bill, tax, tip—everything will be taken care of ahead of time when you buy your ticket. (Tickets go on sale February 4 at 10 a.m., and the restaurant opens February 15.)
So, what's the cost? The Barrington menu (the coffee factory that houses the restaurant used to be called Barrington Hall) has a wine pairing for $55 or a reserve pairing for $85. I'd guess most people will do the big experience for $125. Then they can buy a wine pairing for either $75 or a reserve pairing with higher-end wines for $105. So, you're paying $150 or $200 for the main food plus wine, or the WC Whitney menu for $180 or $230.
A couple is dropping at least $300 for dinner at Demi—which, we'll see? Demi doesn't need to be for everyone. There are just 20 seats, they'll seat only 40 a night, and they're open Wednesday through Sunday, so they need only 200 customers a week. Frankly, I suspect the average couple at Spoon & Stable probably pays close to $300 for dinner and drinks. $300 is probably a bargain night out at Manny's or the new P.S. Steak. So, in my mind, the price is not going to be a problem. (Quick business calculation: If he gets an average check of $200/person, that's $2 million in revenue in a 50-week year. Not bad for a 20-seat restaurant!)
Talk about dedication to excellence. Demi is in the middle of a full four weeks of training. To have this succeed, the staff really needs to be able to talk the guests through the experience. (Frankly, that was my main problem with the $125 omakase experience at Kaiseki Furukawa—incredible food, but the explanation of the journey wasn't great.)
I can't wait to try the food, although I may have to, as these are going to be hard reservations to get. I know many of the servers from Kaysen's other restaurants, and I have to say—he's recruited the all-stars to work at Demi. Can the Twin Cities support Demi? If the food is great, and the service matches, I'd expect fans of Kaysen will travel from around the country to check it out.