Photo by Caitlin Abrams
CōV in Wayzata
There’s no doubting Dean Vlahos has the magic touch. He’s the guy who saw the need for an upscale sports bar back in the ’90s and launched Champps to a national audience. He also brought something to the lives of the upwardly mobile 40-somethings party set by creating Redstone. So it should be no surprise that CōV in Wayzata, his newest venture, is hitting the sweet spot.
In the battle for Wayzata, Vlahos is currently winning in a big way. Will he stay on top? That remains to be seen. His track record for that tells a different story. But right now, CōV, his complete gutting and overhaul of the popular Sunsets spot, has been busy from open to close, packed with hour-plus waits (no reservations).
Sure, people were used to frequenting this location, and it’s right in the middle of town, but I think the biggest draw is the gorgeous Nantucket styling of the space. With cream clapboard walls and navy blue accents, sail cloth deck chairs, and walls that open to the lake, this is what Wayzata has always wanted to be seen as: The Hamptons of Minneapolis. It fits with the old-money vibe in town. It’s aspirational, and above all it’s warm, inviting, and comfortable with a pleasing and friendly staff.
But this is a restaurant and not a country club, so what about the food? The opening chef was Cory York, who had schooling from locally founded Oceanaire, and it shows in the crab cake. This barely-held-together baseball is all lump crabmeat with just a notion of Old Bay–laced Dijon bread mix. It’s generous. It’s luscious. It’s the best crab cake in the whole metro, especially since Oceanaire (now owned by Landry’s) has dumbed down theirs.
Beyond that, I was happy with a zippy little crawfish flatbread that didn’t scrimp on the locally caught mudbugs nor overwhelm them with too much Asiago and Manchego cheese. A shrimp roll, overflowing from a buttery toasted roll with crispy little shrimps, had a nice kick from spicy aioli, and oysters, both raw and grilled, were adeptly handled and did not disappoint.
The sea bass dish was beautifully cooked with bok choy and succotash, but at $44 it seemed steep. Likewise, I found some of the prices to be strangely high for the value: Eight grilled chicken wings with barely a sense of hot sauce and a swipe of blue cheese “fondue” ran $15, a bowl of day boat ceviche with mostly corn, zero scallops, and two shrimp was $15, even a prosciutto mac ’n’ cheese with barely a half slice of the salty ham rang in at $20. Not that the crowds were complaining. We did find value in the New York strip with blue cheese gnocchi, which was a massive portion on a hubcap platter for $40, though the sauce was so rich and overwhelming on the plate that I don’t know how anyone could finish it.
Overall I don’t think the food is trying to be cutting edge or breaking any boundaries. It’s merely trying to be upscale casual, so the bar is set a little bit lower. The food doesn’t really dazzle, but for the most part it satisfies and is much better than it was at Sunsets, which seems to be just fine for the locals. The fact is, the place is a scene where the nouveau riche and the prepsters can go and feel good about hanging out, so we’ll call it Wayzata’s clubhouse.
If you caught my “opening chef” comment a few paragraphs ago, it’s true that just as I was writing this I found out that Cory York was no longer employed by CōV. It didn’t escape me that most of the dishes I liked were seafood dishes, and that is a learned skill. What’s to come? Vlahos is a driven man. Before this he overhauled the old Sunshine Factory to become Pub 42, and the Woodbury location of Sunsets is now called Craft Kitchen & Bar, decked with barn wood and denim (waiting for the call from Mr. Colicchio with a cease and desist). Neither of them shines very brightly. They exist in that middle-scape of dining and don’t seem to have been given the detailed attention that CōV has. Then again, it seems that all he really has to do is not screw it up to win. 700 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-473-5253, covwayzata.com