We’ve learned it’s best to hide our disdain for Minneapolis’ Restaurant Week (which has diluted its exclusivity by happening, like, 4 times a year). Excited friends respond with a deflated, “Oh.” when we tell them we’re not hitting up the week’s deals – typically 3 courses for $30. “Don’t hate us for wanting to order wine with dinner instead of dessert!” we claim (and for doing so at a lower price). But, our trip to Vincent showed us Restaurant Week isn’t too shabby if enjoyed for lunch.
The upscale French restaurant on the corner of 11th and Nicollet is an icon of the downtown mall. It manages to uphold a sophisticated presence, despite its location next to the rowdy crowd at Brits, across from the always-jumping Peavey Plaza, and adjacent to the buzzing home of the bullseye. Known to be spendy yet exquisite, we’d been saving it for a celebratory dinner. But after hearing about its RW lunch special - an entrée and dessert for $10 a pop - we threw evening romance to the wind and set a Friday-afternoon lunch date.
Jim had a milk-poached chicken breast covered with a mixture of Fregola Di Sarda pasta, broccoli, yellow beets and mint (a Jim fave). It was warm and creamy and had a delightful flavor not expected from chicken pasta. I had a quinoa salad mixed with slivered almonds, green onion, tarragon and microgreens served next to chilled shrimp and fluffy avocado mousse. The combination was cool and refreshing and the textures made it anything but boring. We both ordered the cheese plate for dessert – a manchego-like slice next to orange marmalade and mixed nuts. A perfect way to end the meal, and so European of us! (All we were missing was the 2-hour siesta afterward…)
The large windows let natural light pour across the open room, giving the atmosphere a casually elegant feel. Service was very proper, but not quick – though we made it out in under an hour. Portions weren’t huge, a nice change from the typical lunch stop. We both left happy – glad to avoid the brutal I-ate-out-for-lunch food coma that hampers afternoon productivity. Plus, Vincent’s kitchen knows French cuisine and executes it well. In fact, the smaller bites made us appreciate the fine flavors a bit more than we might have otherwise.
Our visit led to two conclusions: Vincent is a top-notch spot for French food done right, and Restaurant Week’s lunch-time deals (well, at least one of them) are actually quite a steal. Perhaps the most meaningful takeaway is the experience that will keep Vincent on our list of special-occasion places. But for that, forget dessert — we’ll opt for the French wine instead.
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠1/2
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠1/2
Total bill, including tip: $27