Cafe Levain

On Sunday, I visited Cafe Levain for an early dinner after a very lazy day at downtown Minneapolis. Cafe Levain is located in the "Shop and Dine" block at Chicago and 48th in the quite Nokomis neighborhood (except the soaring planes engine). It was featured in 2012's critics picks list of Minneapolis-St.Paul Magazine.

Cafe Levain's entrance is behind the Turtle Bread Company, and is actually quite hidden from the row of restaurants along the block. Once I stepped in, I noticed the big flower arrangement in the middle of the dining room. Tables are casually setup, and mirrors are hung just below the ceilings to create a sense of space in this perfectly geometrical room. Once I sat down, I quickly noticed the open kitchen, and the young Chef Adam Vickerman on duty. Unlike the usual busy and fast-paced open kitchen, the one at Cafe Levain is definitely a quieter version. Nevertheless, I was amused by the fragrant aroma of cooking from the kitchen.

Every Sunday evening, Cafe Levain offers a three-course Sunday prix fixe. My dining partner and I ordered the Roasted Pork Shoulder Tartine and Ahi Tuna from the Sunday prix fixe, as well as their famous Onion Soup and Charred Ahi Tuna from the regular menu.

The roasted pork shoulder tartine was amazing. The sweet and smokey BBQ pork was balanced with the tartness from the mixed-vegetable vinaigrette. Needless to say, the toast was perfectly buttered with a crisp layer on the outside yet soft in the inside. Also, the toppings did not make the bread soggy.

Roasted pork shoulder tartine - garden tomato, pole beans, basil, shaved cabbage, K.C. style BBQ sauce.

The onion soup on the other hand, was a miss. I was unsure if incorporating the nicely fried rings into the soup was a great idea. The onions became soggy and lumpy. The broth was on the saltier side.

Onion soup - beef broth, fontina, crouton, onion rings.

This was the entree from the Sunday prix fixe. The tuna was nicely seasoned and grilled - not overly or under cooked. But honestly, everything below the tuna was unpleasant. The broccoli were hard and tough, as if they were flakes of wood thrown into the oven. The smashed potatoes were overly creamy and the rhubarb compote was overly sweet. Definitely not a fan.

Ahi tuna - smashed red fingerling potatoes, broccoli, carrot, rhubarb compote, pickled mustard seeds.

On the other hand, this plate of charred ahi tuna from their regular menu was another hit of the day. The tuna was obviously rawer than the other dish, but maintained the rich seasoning and tenderness. I love the ratatouille on the bottom, but perhaps the oil was on the heavy side. The poached tuna confit on top of the charred ahi tuna adds some twist to the flavor, but in my opinion unnecessary. 

Charred ahi tuna - ratatouille, poached tuna confit, italian broccoli & cauliflower, extra virgin olive oil, sicilian oregano, olive

By the end of the second dish, I was way too full for the dessert. We were presented with this simple yet wonderful dessert. The peach sorbet was one of the nicest I have ever had. The tang was well balanced with the vanilla ice cream, and the peaches tasted just nice. Perhaps the granola was added for the "crunch", but sadly it was more chewy than crunchy. Toasted almonds to substitute for the granola would be great in my opinion.

Peach sorbet, malted vanilla ice cream, macerated peaches, granola.

Afterall, my experience at Cafe Levain was pleasant. Though it was kind of on the heavy side.

Cafe Levain

4762 Chicago Ave S

Minneapolis, MN 55407


My Rating: 3.5/5


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