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BEST LOCAL CHEF Minneapolis 2000 - Tim McKee

Yes, we get hate mail all year because of this category alone. And yes, we do understand the limitations: All our experiences with local chefs are buggered--er, buffered--by local service staffs, and we know there may well be a genius chef reading this who we have unfairly concluded can't serve food to temperature. With that caveat, it is our contention that anyone who has been given the gift of a meal at La Belle Vie and doesn't believe it's one of the best restaurants not just in the state but in the nation is a fool, a madman, or, most likely, a competing restaurateur. Example? A recent dinner might have started with potent salt-cod croquettes to greet the opening of a special bottle from the work of exacting, global, spicy genius that is the wine list; proceeded to an astonishing first course of translucent blue marlin carpaccio brightened with cilantro, followed by lamb's lettuce salad dressed with a cooked tuna sauce; and triumphed with an unforgettable presentation of grilled quail with sherried chorizo. And dessert? Dessert at La Belle Vie is like the knee-weakening aftershock of the only comparable experience we know of. And all that pleasure comes courtesy of maestro Tim McKee, a man who makes us glad to be alive.

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