DeRushaEats: The Unthinkable Joy of A Great Tasting Menu
I hate ordering at restaurants. Sounds weird, but I really would prefer to go to a great restaurant and ask the chef what I should eat (and if he or she said "It's all great," then I would beat the chef over the head repeatedly).
This is why I love, love, love tasting menus.
And last Saturday night I had one of the most incredible tasting menus I've ever had the pleasure of eating.
While Tim McKee deserves all the credit in the world for La Belle Vie, Chef de Cuisine Mike DeCamp is simply killing it in the kitchen there. Everyone calls him "YC" for "young chef," but this guy's no newbie.
Let me show you some of the incredible courses my wife and I inhaled. How does seared scallops with shaved fennel, fennel vinaigrette, tomato confit sound? Paired with a perfectly complimentary Chablis? Yeah.
The perfectly, artfully prepared soft shell crab with a gorgeous square slice of avocado, pickled radishes and dollaps of curry: perfection. The shell of the crab popped with a bit of spice, which gave it almost a hint of buffalo-sauce flavor. And the Vouvray contrasted with these flavors—again a magical pairing.
Matching a slightly-salty rabbit with a sweet chocolate, hazelnuts, and plopped next to a rabbit liver mousse—wonderful.
And the foie gras: oh my. Oh my. Seared foie on the left, a foie terrine on the right, with pear sauce and ginger cookie crumbles. This was the best foie gras I've had in my entire life.
There was more, but you get the idea. This stuff was magical. The service was perfect—attentive but not smothering. The wine was surprising and made every course better. And you don't get this experience by just ordering one thing off a menu.
La Belle Vie has a tasting menu in the main dining room that is $80 bucks for eight courses (+$60 for wine pairings) or $65 for five courses (+$45 for wine). Too much for you? The lounge tasting menu is the best fine dining deal in town. Four courses, $40, add $25 for the matching wine flight.
Love foie gras? Let them know ahead of time. Looking for a vegan menu? YC can make that happen too.
Trust me. Get the matching wine. Bill Summerville's pairings are a dining experience.
In the restaurant writing world, we're often looking to the newest rock star in town. But this tasting menu meal—the creativity, the perfect execution, and the stellar service—is a real reminder why La Belle Vie is still my top dog.
What's your favorite tasting menu in town? Who does it right? Who's got a bargain that I should know about? Share your tips in the comments!
La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Ave., Mpls., MN
(Next stop for me: Saturday night at Corner Table, and the Kitchen Table experience. Chef/Owner Scott Pampuch wrote about it here — I'll bring my camera and tell you about that too.)