BEST RESTAURANT (MINNEAPOLIS)
La Belle Vie
Tim McKee's recent James Beard Award for Best Midwest Chef confirmed to the rest of the country what we already knew: Nobody has influenced the last decade of fine dining in the Twin Cities more than McKee. We could go on and on about the royal treatment you'll receive at McKee's first restaurant, La Belle Vie, from the moment the hostess greets you in the chandelier-lit lobby to the second your ever-professional, never-pretentious server sets down the petits fours. But what good are all the accolades if you can't afford to experience La Belle Vie yourself? That's why we'd rather use this paragraph to remind you of the best fine-dining deal in town: the $40, four-course tasting menu offered in La Belle Vie's lounge. Recently, one blowout meal began with pea-size bites of beets, bay scallops, and foie gras, then moved to ocean trout with braised butter lettuce and delicate, noodle-like strips of cuttlefish. After a lamb rib eye with Camembert soufflé and an intense cherry sauce, we received our very own dessert (none of this one-to-share-with-the-table business) of orange pound cake with apricot chantilly cream and cream-cheese ice cream. Had we not been so relaxed by the wine and our cozy corner booth, we would have cheered "Huzzah!" Fortunately, since the meal didn't blow our budget, we'll plan to do it next time.