“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
I was turned on to this by a friend who is always in the know about restaurants. She and her husband are foodies-about-town and a few years back they had suggested a group of us meet out for an evening at the Lounge of the Minneapolis restaurant La Belle Vie – yes, that chichi “special occasion” restaurant that Tim McKee, 2009 James Beard Award winner (Best Chef – Midwest) heads up. It’s been a long time favorite of mine, but I hadn’t really thought of it as a more casual destination for a group. I was reminded once again how great this spot is last night when I went there with a business associate for dinner – outstanding!
So, the key is: the lounge vibe is definitely more chill. It’s a tad noisier (unlike the sometimes painfully quiet dining area, where even a mildly boisterous group might feel self-conscious), and has a more low-key approach to the menu. For example, the Chef’s tasting menu in the dining room is an eight-course extravaganza, for $80 per person – certainly a splurge, though one I would say is well worth it! That said, it’s not the kind of thing most of us mere mortals get to indulge in on a regular basis. However, the tasting menu in the Lounge is a more restrained four-course for $40. While that’s still a nice night out, it’s certainly something that I think more people would do if they knew about it! (And, by the way, you may order off any of the menus while eating in the lounge, so mix and match to your hearts content).
I also love the Lounge menu, which has a lot of items that are good for sharing as well. My favorites are the foie (which you may not know, but is almost always my favorite any place) and the lamb sliders. Oh, and the homemade truffle potato chips – crispy, salty, heavenly. On this latest trip, I managed to have all of these favorites and a few others for good measure. Here’s the obnoxious amount of food we sampled and the gratuitous food pics snapped on my phone. 🙂
Foie gras served with grilled bread and bitter orange marmalade. The marmalade makes this dish really sing. A welcome change from the more common sour cherry or fig accompaniment you see on many menus.
Caramel almond gateau, with dark chocolate sorbet and white balsamic foam. Excellent, even though by this time we were gorged to the max, the dessert menu is always so enticing we had to at least share a dish to get a bite or two in. Good call.