I think my favorite way to eat is to do a tasting menu. I hate trying to choose off a menu, and frankly, I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant called “What’s For Dinner?” where you walk in, ask, “Hey, what’s for dinner?” and they tell you. One choice. If you don’t like it, come back tomorrow!
So it makes sense that I love tasting menus. To celebrate my birthday (the big 3-7), my wife and I went to La Belle Vie last weekend, and our two boys joined us for dinner Tuesday at Victory 44. We had the tasting menu both times. At both places, the value and the food are incredible.
La Belle Vie: The $45 tasting menu in the lounge
A lot of people are scared by the price tag at what many consider to be our finest restaurant. Indeed, the eight-course meal in the dining room is $85, the five-course $70. I prefer the lounge (for the price tag and the more laid-back vibe). Four courses for just $45.
We started with a Yellowtail Jack with dried shallots that had a great citrus note, and paired perfectly with our glass of cava.
The Pan Roasted Poussin with Cuttlefish, Braised Pork Belly and Porcini Broth (shown above right) was a standout. Such rich flavor, and beautiful presentation. We also loved the Sautéed Loup De Mer with Poached Laughing Bird Shrimp, Turnips and Smoked Trout Roe Vinaigrette.
Chef Mike DeCamp is one of the most talented in the Twin Cities, perhaps in the country. The service is fantastic—we’ve been lucky enough to be waited on by Allison at Barrio, BeWiched, and LBV—she is smart and fun and really helped make the birthday special. Not in a stuffy way, in a this is awesome way.
We added a wine flight ($28) and shared it—because we wanted to be able to drive home. Co-owner and sommelier extraordinaire Bill Sommerville is a genius—and he paired some amazing wines with the courses.
If you don’t feel like going all-out for the tasting menu, do yourself a favor and visit the lounge for Diane Yang’s desserts. The Chocolate Espelette Crémeux with Milk Chocolate Sponge and Cinnamon-Malted Milk Ice Cream was killer.
LBV gets the hype for a reason: It’s incredible.
La Belle Vie: 510 Groveland Avenue, Mpls., labellevie.us
Victory 44: The $30 tasting menu
On my actual birthday, we wanted to go out with our two sons, six-year-old Seth and four-year-old Sam. The super-relaxed vibe at Victory 44 was perfect.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, if you buy two tasting menus, you get a bottle of house wine ($22) free. A great deal, especially considering the house merlot is a pretty decent bottle.
The chef/server who was taking care of us offered to make the boys a grilled cheese, which was perfect. They split the $5 sandwich, and then tried a bunch of our different courses.
We started with a lovely beet salad: There were roasted beets, pickled beets, a beet jam, and beet “soil”—kind of like a cracker/oats crumble. Then gorgeously prepared scallops, on top of a parsnip puree, and served with a dehydrated parsnip. Wow.
Next, the pork cheek with a candied apple. Chef Erick Harcey also brought us a serving of his pork belly, which he admitted, was somewhat cliche. Belly is everywhere these days, but not quite like this. It was on top of a watercress puree, with beautiful round potatoes, pickled mustard seeds, and dill. The belly tasted like sweet candy, the watercress and pickled mustard seeds added a fantastic slightly bitter counterpoint.
We had a cheese course, and all three of the desserts: a rocky bomb (chocolate ice cream with marshmallow filling, coated in a hard chocolate shell and then lit on fire), a poached pear dessert, and this wonderful peanut butter ice cream, on top of a coffee crumble, with caramelized bananas.
Victory 44 is in North Minneapolis, and really, it’s in my list of the top five fine-dining restaurants in town.
Victory 44: 2203 44th Avenue North, Mpls., victory-44.com
If you’re not trying tasting menus, you’re doing yourself a disservice! And for $30 or $45, it can be cheaper than ordering an appetizer, entree, and dessert.