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MSP-Disappointed with La Belle Vie

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elrushbo Jan 19, 2008 08:47 AM

Had the Lounge Tasting Menu last night, similar to the regular 5 course menu. Had their truffle chips, ok but tasted like they just opened up a $2 bag of chips and marked it up to $5. The amuse, a little crab cake, was good. First course was was some kind of fall pasta, had squash broth, what tasted like pancetta, that course was spot on! Second was dourade, on asparagus and a couple sauces, again, good, not incredible, but good. Third was duck, which was terrible. Way undercooked, tough, and the sauces with it not particularly flavorful. Dessert was lousy. A plate that had a dollop of white chocolate ganache, which was good, then a little flourless chocolate cake, ok but not special, then a little molten chocolate cake-terrible!! It was crummy, flavorless, tasted like it came out of a Holly Hobbie oven.

Overall, I was disappointed. The service was excellent, but I expected a home run with the food and it wasn't even as good as Cosmos or Chambers Kitchen or even 20.21, all of which have far better ambience. I was expecting a home run, something worthy of a Michelin star after seeing the reviews, and it wasn't. Especially for the price, which is very high for Minneapolis. Spring in Chicago was far better, and less expensive. I'm feeling kinda soured on Minneapolis restaurants-if they aren't going to be worth the $$ I'm just going to wait until I'm in Chicago or Vegas and pay the big buck for food that is worthy of it.

  1. bob s Jan 20, 2008 04:18 PM

    Sorry to hear about the bad experience elrushbo. I happen to feel the same way about Alma as you do about La Belle Vie (sorry Kate, Anne, et al).

    I've had a couple of great meals in the dining room and we're thinking of heading to the lounge for dinner next week. Which brings me to my few questions.

    1) Does the lounge take reservations?

    2) What is the noise level like in the lounge? We'll be going with my parents and loud restaurants are hard.

    thanks for your help.

    9 Replies
    1. re: bob s
      e
      elrushbo Jan 20, 2008 04:26 PM

      Yes, the lounge does take reservations, and it is quiet, should be no problem. Maybe I was a bit harsh, and maybe I'd try the lounge again. I'd probably just order ala carte.

      1. re: elrushbo
        v
        vicks Jan 21, 2008 08:11 PM

        It happens. A kitchen can have an off night (or at least from the sound of it, an off table) but I think you need to give a place like La Belle Vie a second chance. Seriously, this is the first review Ive ever read saying anything below the experience being good. They are one of the top restaurants in town. There could have been one in a million reasons why you got served that duck, why the cake wasnt great, why the meal was only Ok. But the thing with LBV is, 19 times out of 20 (probably even higher than that), that just won't happen. They are usually always on top of their game - the thing about restaurants of any type is that there still is humans in that kitchen cooking your food, people screw up - it happens even in the greatest kitchens - I understand there is money involved - a lot in the case of LBV, but the great thing about a place like LBV, if your not happy with it - they will do anything and everything to make it right - you just have to say that the dessert was lackluster - their servers will pick up on that and should take care of it somehow. Duck was undercooked? Voice that to the server, have them prepare another and hopefully they will know to comp a portion of your meal. A restaurant of their caliber should know to do this. They are in the business of taking care of their guests, and making things right.

        I'm sorry that twentieth table happened to be you, but Id try going back in April or May. Once morels, ramps, peas, asparagus, etc. are in season. Ive been to LBV 3 times since they moved to Minneapolis, and the one time I went in the spring was the most inspirational meal I've had as a cook in the twin cities.

        1. re: vicks
          a
          ashii Jan 21, 2008 08:19 PM

          I will second that.
          But add... the food in the lounge is not quite the same as the cuisine in the dining area. I would return and be seated in the dining area. I have never actually enjoyed a full meal in the lounge- only tidbits to tide me over for the next martini. But never the less it was nothing like to total experience and divine perfection of cuisine that is offered in the dining area.

          1. re: vicks
            The Dairy Queen Jan 22, 2008 03:18 AM

            Vick's, not to nitpick, but it's not the first we've read on this board about this kind of experience at LBV. Kate_Bauer just said upthread her experience was very similar to elrushbo's. And, John Kessler of the AJC described his (one and only) experience dining in LBV's lounge (where he ordered off both the lounge and dining room menus) as "meh". http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44197... So, maybe there's something about the lounge that doesn't enable the food to shine, or maybe they had an off night, or whatever, but this isn't the first "meh" experience we've discussed here. I do agree with your point, though, that at the LBV caliber of restaurant, they would absolutely want to know that there was something amiss so that they could correct it for you right then.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen
              katebauer Jan 22, 2008 09:00 AM

              Just to note - our experience was in the dining room, not the lounge. The staff was very apologetic when I told them my salad was incredibly salty, and offered to replace it.

              Again, our experience wouldn't stop me from going there again, I just don't view it as this infallible place like others seem to. Meals I've had at Alma, Fugaise and Cosmos have been equal if not better, the advantage of LBV is that you get the classical setting and perfect French table service.

        2. re: bob s
          cherrylime Jan 20, 2008 06:49 PM

          As far as the noise level goes..I always think of La Belle Vie as a good place to eat and still have a conversation. I've been to the lounge a few times with people who I hadn't seen for awhile and we were able to talk. I'd even go as far as saying it's quiet there even when it's relatively full.

          As far as the food, each time I've been (and I've only eaten in the lounge at this location) I've found the food to be..perfect. We prefer the lounge mostly because it's so lovely. To me it feels distinctly minneapolis, in a way that some of the places that are over the top modern (decor wise) don't. I also always find the food inspiring. When eating out that's key for me since I'm a pretty ambitious cook. This fact also makes it even more difficult to find a meal impressive when we're really shelling out..It is definitely expensive, especially with drinks that can be $12 or more. When a place is that pricey, our standards shoot way up, and we've never been disappointed.

          1. re: cherrylime
            e
            elrushbo Jan 21, 2008 04:37 AM

            Where do you shop when you're making something 'ambitious?'

            1. re: elrushbo
              h
              Haricotsv2 Jan 21, 2008 04:52 AM

              Depends on what it is. Usually Kowalski's, Lunds, or Whole Foods. More and more though, Rainbow and Cub, as their international food stock has improved radically.

              1. re: elrushbo
                cherrylime Jan 21, 2008 06:17 AM

                Well, unfortunately I often have to go to several different markets..asian markets for some ingredients, seafood, certain cuts of meat. Same w/ Latino markets.

                Sometimes Surdyk's for gourmet ingredients (they have foie gras and certain vinegars you can't get elsewhere) Coastal seafoods sometimes. But yes, more and more I can find what I need at Cub for much less money than Byerly's or Lund's. And Cub carries New French Bakery Breads which are better than the Lund's and Byerly's breads. I prefer Rustica bread but that's not really on my side of town so I get it at Surdyk's...Lately though I've been baking my own bread. I guess that's why I said ambitious.. but what I really mean is slightly obsessive compulsive...

                Oh and during farmer's market season we get almost everything there, as well as some from our own garden..I forgot about that because this time of year it doesn't seem like we'll ever see anything green again..

          2. katebauer Jan 19, 2008 10:53 AM

            We went to La Belle Vie about 1.5 years ago and I experienced a similar situation. I had a fois gras appetizer which was amazing, a salad which was extremely salty, and a chicken entree, which they advertised would be the juiciest, most tender chicken I'd ever have, and it was nothing special. For dessert we got basically a fancy donut with fruit sauce and it was just okay.

            We haven't been back, mostly because we prefer Alma for a special night out, but I'm not averse to going back again at some point. I do think La Belle Vie has the best service of anywhere in the cities. I just experienced a not mind-blowing meal there.

            5 Replies
            1. re: katebauer
              e
              elrushbo Jan 20, 2008 05:57 AM

              I see a lot of praise for Alma here, might want to try it sometime.

              La Belle Vie is too expensive to take another chance on. I can't believe all the high praise they get from reviewers. Service was great but food was a major letdown. Reminds me of Trotter's in Chicago. Gets all these great reviews from magazines, one of the top 10-15 restaurants in the country they say, etc, and everyone I know who has been there did not like it at all.

              1. re: elrushbo
                The Dairy Queen Jan 20, 2008 06:11 AM

                Can someone explain to me what's wrong with Trotter's? (in this thread I just started on the Chicago board http://www.chowhound.com/topics/48120...)

                I keep seeing all kinds of off-hand remarks here on the Midwest board, and, really, I'd like to know specifically why people are disappointed by the place.

                Thank you,

                ~TDQ

                1. re: elrushbo
                  MSPD Jan 20, 2008 01:04 PM

                  "I can't believe all the high praise they get from reviewers."

                  I don't question the validity of your opinions at all, nor would I blame you for not giving the place a second chance. However, in both personal experience, and in reading comments from "reviewers" who have, by requirement, visited several times and experienced the full breadth of the menu, it's quite possible that your visit was an anomaly.

                  You may also want to consider that while the dishes read similarly, the lounge dishes and experience are significantly different from the dining room. This is also a restaurant that changes its menu with the seasons. Very rarely will two visits resemble one another. Finally, aside from the price point and geographic location, it's not really comparable to what they are doing at Cosmos, 20.21, and Chambers (none of which have a completely distinct lounge menu).

                  Again, I don't blame you for not liking the place. It's a shame what was probably a special occasion, complete with high expectations were met with a bum meal. I would encourage you not to write them off completely though as my experiences have been more similar to the "reviewers".

                  1. re: MSPD
                    e
                    elrushbo Jan 20, 2008 02:45 PM

                    Two of the lounge courses were exactly the same as the regular tasting menus, and that isn't an excuse. I don't expect the same experience twice, but I do expect a certain consistency of execution and attention to detail. No way should they have served duck like that. You shouldn't be sitting there struggling to cut a piece of meat, to the point where the server gives you a different knife. And the dessert. I expect a restaurant of that caliber to be on top of what they are putting on a plate for guests, and they weren't, more than once. Not to mention, the bread was also not that good. Not bad, but like cheap store bought bread.

                    The food at Cosmos? Every course on the tasting menu was excellent. Not one time did I think "I don't like what they did with this." It was better executed food. Would I try La Belle Vie again? Maybe the lounge, as their mixed drinks were fantastic. I just don't get to go to places like that often enough, I'm inclined to try other places first, unless a place really blows me away, and La Belle Vie just didn't.

                  2. re: elrushbo
                    Foureyes137 Jan 21, 2008 06:24 AM

                    Hello, my name is David. I've liked it at all several time. So I've fixed that for you.

                2. a
                  ashii Jan 19, 2008 10:41 AM

                  You must of had a bad night. I was there the same night and had the tasting menu in the dinning room, and it was excellent. Better even than the last 4 times i was there.
                  Cosmos? Chambers? 20.21!!!!
                  Maybe you need your tastebuds checked.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ashii
                    e
                    elrushbo Jan 20, 2008 05:39 AM

                    Nope, my tastebuds are fine. Their food wasn't that good. Only one dish out of four had 'wow' factor. I expected better, a lot better. Food at Cosmos was better. Only one dish in their tasting menu was slightly off, the rest were wonderful, and the Chocolate Globe was one of the most amazing desserts I have ever had anywhere! La Belle Vie should have been ashamed to serve that cake, very ameteurish. I seriously doubt I'd go back to La Belle Vie, there are other places I want to try. But I would go back to Cosmos in a heartbeat.

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