First Look: Foreign Legion

Sophisticated space, simple food at the latest spot in the Klein empire

First Meritage captured a bit of Paris in downtown St. Paul. Then Brasserie Zentral brought European dining to Minneapolis. Now welcome Foreign Legion, the wine-and-cheese bar joining its sister Brasserie in downtown Minneapolis’ Soo Line Building. Set with plush antique-style furniture, candlelit tables and sounds of smooth jazz, Foreign Legion fuses elegance with hideaway comfort. Which is exactly as Meritage owners Russell and Desta Klein intended, and even helps to explain the name of the Kleins’ newest installment to the Twin Cities dining experience: The vibe is that of a friendly small-town Legion that neighbors can stop into and have a bit to eat without dropping too many Euros.

 From a travel-inspired menu made for sharing, expect to mix and match succulent Iberico ham and spicy Sopressata from the charcuterie counter with tranches of soft Stilton blue, creamy French Morbier, and a flavorful trio of sheep’s milk cheeses. Plus, indulging in a rich assortment of French patisserie favorites is de rigeur for an ordinary night at Foreign Legion. For more substance, a zesty Tomato-Lemongrass soup prepared Mallorca-style pairs with the chef’s highbrow take on the grilled cheese sandwich. Nicolas Giraud, a French sommelier who has put in time at each of the Kleins’ outposts as wine director and maître d’, has got wine service down to a science. Giraud has found a way to offer a selection of 90 always-fresh wines by the glass—including two different wines on tap, not to mention the other few hundred New and Old World choices offered by the bottle. Above all, Giraud, who says he finds it hard to limit his own list of favorites, is offering some of the world’s finest and most unique wines at an honest price ($6.50 for a glass of Bourgogne blanc, $5 for a glass of rare Uruguayan Bouza Reserva, $40 for the whole bottle).        

This may be where the Lost Generation has been hiding out all these years. So save those tickets to France for now—when it comes to dining like a Parisian, the Kleins have you covered.