In a Minneapolis suburb, French cuisine, tradition and charm

  • Kristin Vukovic
  • The New York Times
Dec 04, 2017
ELIESA JOHNSON/NYT
-- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE SUNDAY, DEC. 3, 2017. -- An undated handout photo showing the poulet rôti with pommes purée, buttered baby leeks and jus at Bellecour in Wayzata, Minn. Since Gavin Kaysen, previously the chef de cuisine at Café Boulud in New York, opened Bellecour in March, the restaurant has become a destination for foodies and Francophiles across the Twin Cities and beyond. (Eliesa Johnson via The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED MINN BISTRO BY KRISTIN VUKOVIC. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED.

Gavin Kaysen, previously the chef de cuisine at Café Boulud in New York, where he earned the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award and a Michelin star, returned to his Minnesota hometown in 2014 to open Minneapolis’ revered Spoon and Stable. This March, he added to his portfolio by opening Bellecour in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata; since then, it has become a destination for foodies and Francophiles across the Twin Cities and beyond.

He named the bistro after a historic town square in Lyon, France, hometown to Daniel Boulud and Paul Bocuse, both mentors to Kaysen. (“My time with Daniel was my Ph.D. in this business,” he said.) Indeed, Bellecour pays homage to friends and family who were instrumental in Kaysen’s success. Tributes are sprinkled throughout the restaurant: French fry cones are emblazoned with quotes from Bocuse; the signature house coffee blend is named after Kaysen’s grandmother, Dorothy; a framed photo of her handwritten recipes adorns a wall of the bakery, which serves fresh pastries starting at 7 a.m.

The inviting, airy space is in a prime spot on Lake Street, steps from Lake Minnetonka. Kaysen’s wife, Linda, collaborated on the interior, which features an open kitchen and intimate dining spaces, including a garden room and an outdoor patio, with a sophisticated yet relaxed vibe. “Bellecour is the brother that you’re always happy to go hang out with,” Gavin Kaysen said. “I want it to always mimic that comfort.”

On a Sunday evening in July in the 84-seat dining room, our meal began with herby cocktails including the Chouette 75, a variation on the French 75 with herbes de Provence syrup and floating violets. Hors d’oeuvres included a buttery standout of house-smoked salmon with salmon roe, pickled red onion, olive rice crackers and playful dots of chive crème fraîche.

Kaysen likes to riff on classic French dishes, and does so with panache. The locally sourced duck à l’orange, dry aged for eight to 14 days, is set atop a bed of creamy Parmesan polenta with thin sheets of turnips. Nicolas Giraud, the director of wines and a Burgundy native, paired the dish with a stunning Beaujolais from the 1,200-bottle cellar. Succulent short rib on the bone, sourced from neighboring Wisconsin, is braised overnight, grilled and smoked; mushroom duxelles and sauce au poivre add the requisite French touches. Cauliflower rôti, softened on the spit for two hours, with capers, raisins and Madras curry, served as a perfect side dish to share.

Our table also raved about the gluten-free chocolate opera cake with espresso buttercream and candied almonds from executive pastry chef Diane Yang, a James Beard Award semifinalist for outstanding pastry chef.

“French food is not food in itself; it’s the experience of hospitality,” Kaysen said. “It’s why their Sunday lunch is six hours long. It’s not about the food, it’s about the family and the traditions that are then created from those Sundays. And I just love that.”

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Additional Information:

Bellecour, 739 Lake St. East, Wayzata, Minn.; 952-444-5200; bellecourrestaurant.com. An average dinner for two, without drinks or tip, is about $110.