Darling Husband and I had dinner Saturday at the new Minneapolis restaurant Vincent, owned by Vincent Francoual. (Francoual came to town several years ago after a stint as sous-chef at Le Bernardin in NYC, and made a name for himself locally as the chef at café un deux trois branch in Mpls.)
A very good, warm sliced baguette served in a terra-cotta flowerpot was brought after we ordered our wine ('96 Riddoch Estate shiraz). DH's starter: roasted acorn-and-butternut-squash soup. Totally vegetarian. Very smooth and tasty; topped with sesame seeds, which made the flavor more interesting. My starter: "carpaccio" of beets (I am *so over* this trend of calling anything thinly sliced "carpaccio") with a tiny frisée salad in the center and three medallions of goat cheese piped onto the beets. I adore beets and thought this starter was a winner. The beets had a bit of mustard vinaigrette drizzled on them and the salad was separately dressed with a non-mustardy vinaigrette.
DH's entrée: pan-roasted scarlet snapper on a bed of lobster risotto. Not so great. While we've both had red snapper before, neither of us had tried its scarlet cousin. Our server described it as a firmer-fleshed fish than red snapper . . . but mostly what it was was extremely fishy-tasting. I wonder whether it was simply past its prime, but Francoual is well-known for a deft hand with seafood and it would surprise me to see less-than-fresh fish leave his kitchen. The accompanying lobster risotto was a bit gummy and nothing remarkable.
My entrée came from the "pas trop faim" ("not too hungry") section of the menu: pan-seared scallops on a bed of braised leeks with orange sauce. Two PERFECTLY fresh, perfectly cooked scallops -- I cut them into miniscule pieces to savor them longer -- atop strips of leek that were unbelievably tough and chewy. The accompanying sauce wasn't unpleasant but the flavor of butter overwhelmed the orange flavor, if you can imagine that. . I also had a side order of haricots verts persillade, lightly sautéed with loads of garlic, shallots and parsley. The beans were good, nice and crunchy, but the shallots and garlic were still quite raw-tasting. They would've benefited from a little caramelization (although maybe that's a no-no for persillade? I'm not familiar with the correct technique).
For dessert, DH chose a roasted nectarine with muscat granité and sabayon. YUCK. The nectarine wasn't ripe to begin with, so when roasted it had a stringy texture (it reminded me of acorn squash) and not the least hint of sweetness. The granité didn't have much flavor and the sabayon tasted overwhelmingly of egg yolk. My dessert, "Melted Chocolate Cake," was actually a scoop of chocolate ganache about half the size of a tennis ball. Think chocolate truffle on steroids. Yummy, but I could only manage about three spoonfuls because it was so incredibly rich. I took the rest home, though. The "cake" was served on an espresso sauce that was quite fine.
Francoual made the rounds of all the tables while we were there, which was a nice touch. He caught us as we were eating our starters, so we were all smiles. I might've been less smiley if he'd stopped by later, but then again I probably would have been too chicken to say anything. Our server was very personable, but quite slow. The wine list is thoughtfully chosen, and there are some other things on the menu that sound interesting: wild-boar ravioli, napoleon of rabbit, roasted pheasant. Our bill totaled $111 -- wine, starters, entrées, dessert.
We walked away less than thrilled with our dinner overall (I felt like I had a better dinner than DH did), but we may give the place another try in a few months. I'm still dreaming about those scallops.
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