La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Avenue
At last, Friday arrived. After a long week for both of us and several reasons to celebrate, we made the reservation we’d been coveting since the moment Minneapolis became home. And thanks to incredibly thoughtful in-laws, our celebration was even sweeter with a gift card in our back pocket.
La Belle Vie is nestled on a side street just around the corner from Loring Park. That evening, a table in the lounge had our names on it. Dim lighting set the mood for a relaxed yet intimate Friday night, contributing to an overall atmosphere I can only describe as fashionably comfortable. Taking a seat just past the great bar, the setting felt similar to a dinner party in the home of some well-to-do, art-conscious friend (at least, it did until we had to pay the bill).
Placing our order didn’t take long. We came for the tasting menu and accompanying wine flight, and so turned the decisions over to the kitchen and bar specialists. Before the first course, the chef sent two separate amuse bouche – a light, Gruyère puff pastry with a strong flavor, followed by delicately prepared sweetbreads and microgreens. After that, the tasting was in full swing. Our first wine selection – a crisp, sparkling white – was a refreshing match with the starter course: petite scallops, beets and foie gras. Each item was presented atop a specific reduction in portions sized just right for an ample taste.
Without much of a rest between courses, the trout was quickly in front of us. A tangy, bold Chardonnay was a nice pair, but the trout didn’t need any help – it shone brightly on its own, earning the honor as our favorite item of the night. The flaky filet rested next to cuttlefish pasta, all over braised butter lettuce. Each bite melted instantly, so we had to consciously appreciate each one before it disappeared from our plates. Next – the final savory portion of the tasting – was a juicy portion of lamb with a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon. A sauce of dried cherries and port surrounding the meat was the dish’s strength. Though since lamb can often be enough of a feature, we thought the decadent sauce bordered on extravagance. That said, we could only enjoy the tender roast and tart flavors with a rich camembert soufflé.
Dessert was a beautiful finish to the entire presentation and a fitting choice for the arrival of spring: caramelized citrus pound cake with apricot Chantilly, cream cheese ice cream and juicy miniature orange slices. The wine pairing was a sweet white similar to nectar that proved to be too much alongside an already quite-sweet treat. When our plates were cleared, we enjoyed our final bonus complements of the chef – a plate of various pastry tastes ranging from lemon fudge to a jelly-filled shortbread cookie. Our top pick: a round “brownie-bar” topped with almonds and pistachios. To top it all off, we extended our stay a bit further to enjoy an after-dinner drink and try the locally respected bartender’s infamous mixes.
The quality of La Belle Vie’s food and ambiance was remarkable and we were pleased to find the same with the service. Staff was respectful yet amicable. Everyone from the waitress to our multiple servers knew the intricacies of each dish and cocktail, and was helpful in answering our questions and providing recommendations. Noteworthy service rounded out a tremendous experience.
This spot is already back on our wish list. Perhaps we’ll find cause for celebration just to enjoy another impressive evening. Whatever the reason, we’ll return – if anything, for another reminder that we truly do live La Belle Vie.
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Ambiance/Environment: ♠♠♠♠ 1/2
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠♠ 1/2
Service: ♠♠♠♠ 1/2
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠♠ 1/2
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠♠ 1/2