Let’s not mince words. This is one of the saddest New Year’s I have spent as an eater in this town in as long as I can remember. Friday morning I woke up and amongst other things I reflected confidently on the happy State of the Food Union in the Twin Cities. I don’t ordinarily do that—I’m not that much of a food geek—it’s just that I was thinking about topics for Chowhounds the next morning. Then, on Friday night, I checked my e-mail and found this:
Restaurant Levain Closes
Restaurant Levain will no longer be open beyond its New Year’s Eve Dinner on December 31, 2006.
After 3 ½ years of operation, the four star fine dining Restaurant Levain closes its doors New Years Eve. Owner Harvey Thomas McLain says it was a, “wild, wonderful rollercoaster. I thank all the employees and customers for their support. Special thanks go to Chef Steven Brown for a consistent execution of spectacular food. I was always amazed at the subtle, complex and layered flavors in his foods.”
McLain has plans to convert the space into a simpler bistro type restaurant.
There are several redeemable options for those who hold gift certificates to Restaurant Levain: they may be applied to any of the three Turtle Bread locations, held on to for the upcoming restaurant or receive a cash refund at the Turtle Bread on 48th & Chicago.
Convert the space into a simpler bistro???? Aaaaaaaargggghhhhh. I don’t want a simpler bistro, I want Steven’s food. PLEASE, DEAR GOD, HEAR MY PRAYERS AND LET THE GRAVES FAMILY MAKE STEVEN AN OFFER HE CAN'T REFUSE AT COSMOS. And let me also state unequivocally that I found his cooking to be consistently some of the best I have ever eaten, anywhere. My wife (she is Steven’s biggest fan ever since she tasted his experimental smoky potato consommé with dashi and hana katsuo one night two years ago) and I are still reeling and frankly, much like when the Twins lost Liriano to elbow injury at the end of the season, losing one pitcher (or restaurant) can change the entire complexion of not only the playing field and the season, but also the league.
After being named our Restaurateur of the Year several years ago (I think it really is a curse now for sure), Harvey seemed poised to make a real dent in this town when he eventually opens up the restaurant in the old Turtle space . . . now he is really starting over. I am just beside myself. The last few R of the Y’s have had their tsuris for sure. Wayne Kostroski . . . closed Goodfellows, lost Michelle Gayer at Franklin St., retooled Tejas. Sam Ernst and Partners . . . closed Table of Contents and Red Fish Blue. Harvey . . . closed Levain. I know I am forgetting someone else . . . oh well, early Alzheimer's . . . .
The Woodmans' exit from Five was for all sorts of reasons, according to all the parties involved, but ultimately it began with food of that quality and price point not being popular enough. Then Seth left Cosmos to spend more time with family, but the lunch and weekday business there has been sketchy for over a year. Levain closes. Vincent now does a happy hour . . . What’s next?? Two-fers at Auriga? Early-bird specials at Alma? Tuesday taco bar night at La Belle Vie? Someone talk me down from the ledge, I am serious as a heart attack. I think I want to kill myself.
Is fine dining dead? More on this later after I get a chance to speak to Steven and Harvey and see what’s what.
P.S. Spotted at the Delano Pool in Miami over the holiday week—Lindsay Lohan strolling poolside with what looked to be a cocktail (surprise!) and Kate from our office who bumped into my South Beach crew on the same night.