Last July, David Fhima told the Strib that setting his eyes on the former Forum Cafeteria space for the first time was like meeting his wife: “It’s a stunning, stunning space. When I walked in, it was like seeing Lori for the first time. You know, ‘That’s it, that’s the girl.’”
So perhaps you'll feel bowled over in the same way on September 28, when Fhima's La Belle Epoque is set to open at 40 S. Seventh St. in downtown Minneapolis. Fhima and his designers have given the building "a modern yet delicate touch," according to a release last week—a necessity, given that much of the 1930s-era Art Deco building, with its tile and mirrors and chandeliers, is un-alterable thanks to historic preservation laws.
Fhima's initial plans were for a “French bistro with a little bit of an American flair" called Bistro 3.7.3. La Belle Epoque. Now, the building that previously housed Scotties on 7th, Goodfellows, and Il Foro is Fhima's La Belle Epoque, with chef Patrick Atanalian overseeing the kitchen.
It sounds as though the Franco focus hasn't changed, and not only in name—Fhima and Atanalian launched into a conversation en français when Mpls/St. Paul Mag dropped by last week. The mag adds that Fhima's will boast a brand new patio, along with what should be a mean bar program overseen by Shawn Jones, who previously cut his teeth at Bittercube and wet your whistles at Parlour Bar.
If you recognize Fhima's name, that's because he's the restaurateur behind Twin Cities eateries including Mpls. Cafe, Louis XIII, LoTo, Faces Mears Park, and the eponymous Fhima's in St. Paul. (All have since shuttered.) He's also the guy cooking for the T-Wolves and the Lynx, a task he's been carrying out from his Seventh Street kitchens with renovations underway.
Back in 2010, City Pages noted that "as reliably as the sun rises and sets and the local lakes freeze and thaw, restaurateur/chef David Fhima opens and closes restaurants." Perhaps a new venture in the stunning surrounds of a legendary downtown building will get the proverbial monkey off of his back?
Or... keep the lynx in the kitchen?