As restaurants continue to close all over Minnesota (farewell, dear Zander CafÃ©!), many of the remaining ones are re-examining their business plans and looking to reinvent themselves. One of the most promising transformations is that of La Fougasse, the restaurant at the Hotel Sofitel in Bloomington.
La Fougasse opened in 2001 bent on bringing a ProvenÃ§al version of French food to the Twin Cities—a taste of the south of France, where olives, rosemary, and lavender grow gangbusters, where olive oil stars in every sauce instead of cream, and where fish leap onto every plate from the warm Mediterranean Sea. This fish is the heart of La Fougasse’s rebirth: La Fougasse is now a fish-and-seafood restaurant, instead of a something-for-everyone (except-people-who-care) restaurant.
Marseilles-born chef Serge Devesa is the force behind this transformation, and he seems to have the ability to pull off a terrifically ambitious menu. A seafood “tasting tree” of a half-dozen tapas-sized plates runs $26, and includes plates for two of tiger-shrimp cocktail and mussels steamed in a lemongrass bouillon. The bouillabaisse Marseillaise was what it should be: a smoky, plain, saffron-rich chowder of fish and shellfish, though the absence of rouille and grilled bread was puzzling. An entrÃ©e of jumbo scallops was exquisitely cooked; the fat, sweet scallops perfectly seared until they achieved that beautiful moment of scallophood where the bivalve is not entirely cooked but not translucent either. Each scallop was paired charmingly with a creamy and crispy potato cake and a sharp, but not unpleasantly so, red-pepper coulis, and decorated with a ribbon of grilled eggplant.
On the strength of that dish alone La Fougasse has become the best seafood restaurant in the southwestern suburbs. Sure, cynics could call this a very slight silver-lining to a metro-wide restaurant recession, but that’s because they didn’t taste those scallops.