Sunday night prix fixe at Levain (MSP)
I had been wondering about the prix fixe menu at Levain, so we went a couple of weeks ago and again tonight. I thought I would share some details in case anyone else is curious too.
The menu from a couple weeks ago is posted on their blog at www.cafelevain.com -- first course was a salad of frisee with julienned apples, and some pate (I'm not a pate fan, so I preferred my husband's first course from the vegetarian version, which omitted the pate and added golden beets with local honey). Second course was a golden beet soup with haricots verts, red beet, Fischer smoked ham, sherry vinaigrette, chive, hazelnut oil. Third course, grass-fed strip steak with butter-poached prawn with potato puree and wild mushrooms. (The blog has a more detailed rundown, this is just what I remember.) I thought the beet soup was phenomenal. It's not the kind of thing I would have normally ordered, but I loved it. Frisee was great too. And for me, steak is always a safe bet.
Tonight was a potato soup with mirepoix (very tiny dice as a garnish), breadcrumbs, basil oil, roasted Kadejan chicken, and truffle oil (I don't recall that being listed in the menu, but I knew it had truffle oil the minute they brought me the bowl). I'm getting a little truffle-oiled out, I think I would have preferred the soup without it. But I liked the chicken and garnishes, nice texture additions to the soup. Second course, "crispy Arctic char" with mussels, fingerling potatoes, fennel, tomato broth. I love shellfish but am Not A Fish Person; DH got my char and gallantly offered me his mussels. Third course, braised beef short rib with truffled polenta (see above comment on truffle oil...), brussels sprouts, spinach, and frisee salad. The beef was fantastically tender and full of flavor.
I love food but have a lot of strong dislikes -- most organ meats, most fish, eggplant come to mind. I tend to order the classics. So a tasting menu is usually a dicey proposition for me. A couple weeks ago I was steering clear of the pate and tonight the char, which I felt a little guilty about in a place where the chef can see your plate from where he's standing. ;) (Sorry Adam; but I loved everything else.)
They also have a limited a la carte menu on Sunday nights, where they provide a choice of two simple classics -- beef short rib with potato puree and asparagus; roast chicken; etc. I sure appreciate that option. The prospect of Arctic char almost drove me to a la carte tonight, but I took a chance (I did like the mussels).
The vegetarian 3-course option is $20, the version with meat is $25. Well worth it.
I've been curious, too, but somehow always manage to find myself occupied on Sunday nights, so thank you for letting me live vicariously through you with this terrific report! I find it interesting that the third course isn't dessert (personally, I prefer three savory courses, so, it's a good thing, from my perspective.)
re: The Dairy Queen
Actually, it worked out for the best, because we wound up going around the corner to Pumphouse Creamery, where I immediately fell in love with the sea-salt-caramel-praline-pecan ice cream ::swoon::... :)
I could happily make a weekly habit of Sunday night dinners at Levain. My husband has usually been the type who wants to "save" good restaurants for special occasions, so I'm trying to convince him that Sunday is by definition a special occasion.
We stumbled into Levain unaware on Sunday night and were so surprised and excited about the prix fixe menu! We don't eat red meat so we were even more excited that they had a vegetarian version! 20 bucks for 3 courses! Awesome! And they were all very good. We had the same potato soup that fendel mentioned but without the chicken. So silky and tasty.
The second veggie course was gnocchi with roasted grapes and white asparagus. I loved this course. It was so earthy. Probably the best gnocchi I have had and I am a gnocchi fan.
The last course was the polenta fendel mentioned without the short ribs. Again - earthy yummy and probably the best brussel sprouts I have had and again - brussel sprout fan here!
I prefer savory courses as well because I feel you can always add on dessert if you want. I was too stuffed and didn't and I wish I had know about pumphouse creamery - for sure next Sunday. We are making this a tradition! We also had the wine pairing which was 12 bucks! Seriously, I feel like this is the best deal around.
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We went again tonight, so I thought I'd report back... We were there from 5:30 to about 7, and there were about 8-10 diners (including us) for most of that time -- so I was sorry to see that business was a little slow tonight. I hope it picks up later for them.
I was craving mushrooms, so the braised short rib on the a la carte menu caught my eye -- short rib with potato puree and local mushrooms (roasted, I think). But I couldn't pass up the prix fixe menu. First course was a local watercress soup, pureed, with pea tendrils, creme fraiche, thin strips of lemon zest, and julienned Fischer Farms ham. I love what they do with soup there.
Second course, dayboat scallops with white asparagus, English peas, haricots verts, and a frisee salad with (I think) a truffle-oil vinagrette. Wow. The scallops had a beautiful golden-brown crust and were absolutely sweet and tender. Best scallops I've ever had.
Third course, poached Kadejan Farms chicken breast over spinach, with gnocchi, brussels sprouts, and a little salad of pea tendrils (I think), thinly sliced radishes, and julienned Fuji apples. Poached chicken breast is usually not my idea of a good time, but this was lovely. So tender that a butter knife to cut it was overkill. I always like Kadejan chicken. The gnocchi, which seemed a little dry to me the last time I had them, were perfect tonight, moist and light.
DH had the wine pairing and enjoyed it.
The vegetarian version substituted local mushrooms for the dayboat scallops, omitted the ham from the soup, and for the third course I think they just did gnocchi and vegetables, although I admit my recollection of the vegetarian menu is a little hazy. I'm a hopeless carnivore.
Dessert was sea salt ice cream at Pumphouse Creamery around the corner. Bliss.
I kinda wish Levain would post the prix fixe menus on the website, but that would probably be a lot of work on top of posting the regular menus. So maybe we 'hounds can step up. If any of you guys go on a Sunday night and have a chance to share your experience, describe the menu, etc., that would be great. I'll try to do so when I go. I might make it next Sunday.
We are big Levain fans. The regular menu is great too, but we are really enjoying the prix fixe on Sunday nights, so that's when we usually go.
We went tonight and had another excellent meal... I thought I would pass along this report for those who might be curious about what's been on the Levain tasting menus, or who need a nudge to go try the Sunday night dinners.
First course was "local kohlrabi soup" -- kohlrabi! Who knew? I've never even had kohlrabi before, but it was a beautiful soup, full of subtle flavor, with pea tendrils and shreds of Fischer ham. This is one of the reasons I love the tasting menu. I would never have said, with a regular menu, "Hey! I'll have the kohlrabi soup." But it was fabulous.
Second course was salmon with peas and haricots verts in a sauce that had capers... my husband loved it and said it was very tender. They were kind enough to substitute a gnocchi course for me (wish I liked salmon! but no), and it had carmelized brussels sprouts, pea tendrils, and morels. Wow...
Third course, hanger steak with local greens and mushrooms, and some fingerling potatoes that were perfectly cooked, with a lovely flavor I couldn't quite place...
And of course, slices of baguette with this amazing chive aioli (which is right up there with their sublime basil aioli in my book).
The a la carte menu, as I recall, included the soup, the salmon, a burger...
More and more local ingredients are showing up, now that the Minnesota growing season is underway. I have got to get back there more often.