Steak Tartare Capers, onions, parsley, cornichon, egg yolk and croutons
Pan Roasted Halibut Grilled Vegetables and tomato beurre blanc
Chocolate flourless cake with berry coulis and whipped cream
I had two instantaneous problems with Cavé Vin:
1. The location (5555 Xerxes Ave. South), dangerously close to a suburb [hork]
2. Seriously? ‘Cavé Vin’? Could you frog it up any more guys? (Hold on, let me translate that for you: Ribbit ribbit frog ribbit ribbit guys?)
To make matters worse – not that this is the fault of Cavé Vin – my dinner companion, ever culturally accurate, insisted on pronouncing ‘Vin’ as ‘vehh’, which is about the same sound I make when a small ice cube slides down my throat and sets off my gag reflex.
These gripes aside, I almost destroyed my T2 vertebra during the violent double-takes I executed while absorbing their Restaurant Week menu, an eye-pooping, profusion of Pavlovian saliva triggers that emphatically put everyone else’s Restaurant Week menus to shame.
Arriving at 7pm, I was relieved that we’d made reservations last week. The front room was packed. Indeed, if you decide, upon reading this bit of half-assed piece of food commentary, that you too would like to enjoy Buddha’s gift to Restaurant Week, you might already be effed. Though, allegedly, the back room wasn’t totally packed, so if you phone them right now, you may be able to squeeze in after 8:30pm.
Graciously given the choice, we opted for a tiny, two-seat table in an alcove by the front windows, kind of behind the bar. Having earned some kind of secret door prize from our idiosyncratic seating choice (or possibly they recognized me from 517th position of the Top Minnesota Blogs list), our greeter presented us with two red wine samples – they were practically half-pours – of a Malbec and a Côtes du Rhône. As it was Monday, half-priced bottle night at Cavé Vin, we ordered the very smooth Côtes du Rhône, which one is invited to re-cork and take home with them, as one that is driving should very well do, which we very well did.
I started with the “Steak Tartare Capers, onions, parsley, cornichon, egg yolk and croutons”. This was a safety order for me, as I have yet to have a steak tartare that I didn’t like (even that quivering pile of embryonic mass that I was served in Braşov, Romania this summer, that kept my lower intestines dancing for three days). Though I must say I’ve had better (most notably at a downtown Minneapolis joint that rhymes with ‘112 Peatery’), this was a valiant effort. What I’m assuming was the pulpified capers, cuz there’s no way it was the cornichon, had a bit of a kick that was not altogether unpleasant, but it definitely messed with the, or covered for the lack of, richness and decadent raw beef tang that I’m accustomed to. Of course those four slivers of crouton that that came with the plate was about 8 slivers too few, but I made up for it by applying for a bread advance from the basket that arrived when we first sat down which got me through those lean times.
I tasted a thumbnail’s worth of my companion’s “Beet and Roasted Fennel Salad Dijon vinaigrette”, which was all I needed to remind me for the 57th time that beets taste like ca-ca no matter what you say and I ain’t listening. La la la!!!
The entrées were, of course, interesting. The “Pan Roasted Halibut Grilled Vegetables and tomato beurre blanc” was a big risk for me, as I am almost continuously disappointed by expensive white fish dishes. The halibut alone had the appearance and taste of something that someone (not me) could have handily made at home. Though when liberally combined with the tangy sauce and shards of cagily sautéed zucchini, fennel and asparagus (hidden under the halibut in the picture) it was one of those explosive tasting moments that I’m sure are only conceived of after combining 25 separate ingredients during an all-nighter trial-and-error session with six buddies, several bottles of excellent wine and probably three or four monster spliffs.
My companion’s “Lamb Shank Potato Puree, mirepoix, gremolata and lamb demi” looked awfully pretty, with those pearl onions, the demi and the ‘miraculous granola’ (roughly translated). I scooped up a bit of the lamb after it literally fell of the bone and it was indeed tasty and my companion reported that it was both heroically non-greasy and, I quote, “umgh, umgh!”. So there you go.
We both opted for the “Chocolate flourless cake with berry coulis and whipped cream” for dessert, which was succulent, had a great personality and I had a really good time and all, but just between you and me, I was thinking about that super hot and slutty, batshit crazy mocha parfait from Cosmos the whole time.
Though overall I was slightly less awed than I’d hoped to be, the ridiculously tempting menu is still undeniably a Restaurant Week all-star and, being appropriately reverent, I’ll be returning to Cavé Vin on Wednesday night, with three companions so as to hopefully get a nibble of the remainder of the jaw-dropping menu all in one fell swoop.
I’m awarding tonight’s meal 3 and 1/2 “Oh Gods” out of five.
The fixed price dinner is $30.
Cavé Vin’s full Restaurant Week dinner menu is posted here.