BEST RESTAURANT—MINNEAPOLIS - 2007
La Belle Vie
La Belle Vie is the best restaurant in Minneapolis for one simple reason: They work faster, harder, and better than anyone else in town right now. Take the baccala ($12). All over the world, this salt-cured cod is a dry and cakey tool of survival, not delight. But the kitchen staff at La Belle Vie, led by chef Tim McKee, decided to cure the stuff themselves, and the result is a strangely light, flaky, potent, and tart concentration of cod—the unusual mouthful that makes you say, "Hey, those million baccala I had before, they were junk." Just six months ago, the lounge was a sleepy misfit, a place to hide away for a romantic meal when you didn't feel like springing for the whole rigmarole in the main dining room. Not content with that, the restaurant debuted a (no longer) secret, $40 lounge-only four-course tasting menu, and—badda bing, badda bang—now just in and of itself the lounge is the best restaurant in Minnesota. What else? The service is nearly flawless. The wine options have expanded to be both more affordable ($7- to $8-a-glass European wines fill out the list) and more impressive to wine collectors: The eight-course tasting menu now comes with an option to not merely pair wine with each course, but to pair the best of the best with each course. The restaurant's consistency has been remarkable, too, in terms of both the quality of the food emerging from the kitchen and the high level of service on display in the dining rooms. Hard work for them? Oh yeah. But sweet work for us!