Scallops with Orange Sauce. Photos by Mike Hnida
Scallops with Orange Sauce. Photos by Mike Hnida

A few days ago, I found myself seated across the aisle from United States Senator Amy Klobuchar: a woman of good taste—as far as dining choices go. We’d independently decided that Chloe was THE hot, new restaurant at which to secure a seat, soon after its long-awaited opening. It’s the baby of Chef Vincent Francoual, who, indeed, has named his new digs after his other new baby, toddler Chloe.

Yes, that Vincent: the one who drew throngs of foodies to his former, self-named kitchen on the Nicollet Mall across from Orchestra Hall. Performance nights, it was filled with the world’s musical virtuosi and their followers …. and the rest of the time, by Francophile foodies—which is, just about everyone.

This round, Chloe anchors a hotel near the stadium, ready to serve Vikings fans as well as fans of French bistro cooking. Aficionados of either stripe will find the famous Vincent burger a fine introduction to his style of delivering pleasure on a plate. It’s fabricated of pulled short rib mixed with ground beef, harboring a molten lode of smoked Gouda cheese. The plump patty is set upon a rich egg bun, sauced with cornichons (that’s French for crispy pickles) and served up with (he’s no dummy) a pile of frites ($19).

Steak Tartare

The room, which once housed a concept called Bacon, glows with a wall bold with teal, near which low booths of gray and pink invite guests to sit back and place a cocktail order. Plentiful bar seating, too.

Begin your meal with an app from a list of petites assiettes (aka starters), starting with a baguette, $8—in a break from French tradition, wherein it’s gratis (well, included in the service charge). Choose the onion soup our fine server recommended; escargot, poutine, an Alsatian pizza-like tart; or our choice, duck pate ($12-16).

It comes with baguette slices (so you’ll find you didn’t need to order one)—along with dabs of Dijon mustard and apricot relish: worthy sidekicks for slabs of pate. They proved lighter in both flavor and texture than those of the robust, rustic school.

Steak tartare is listed as a plat principal (main), but, in its smaller option ($15), it served as our second starter, and a tasty one it was. Don’t miss it! The sweet, burly raw beef has been roughly hand-chopped, then spruced up with cornichons, capers, shallots and chives. An egg yolk, lazing in its shell, begs you to whisk it into the concoction and spoon some on more slices of baguette.  “What makes it so red?” my friend wondered, before reading the menu’s fine print, which confesses to “um, a wee bit of ketchup.” Vive la France!

French Onion Soup

A quintet of shareable salads is on offer (most $12-19). We dove into the number called Vosgiennes, which stars Belgian endive tossed with bits of potato and apple (smart partnering on the kitchen’s part) in an overly abundant (and oily) bacon vinaigrette. (I’d vote for bacon lardons instead, perhaps.) Or choose the Nicoise, beet, or garden greens.

Now to summon our main—a harder decision, for sure. There’s a trio of galettes (buckwheat crepes, $15); La Table de Famille, a family-style serving of what grand-mère might be cooking (this evening, steak au poivre with potatoes and haricots, $51); a listing under Plat Principal (mains, $18 for skate wing to $38 for cassoulet). It tempts your taste buds with the likes of beef bourguignon, steak frites, calves’ liver and chicken fricassee. Or glance again at the menu to discover Once upon a Time, aka an homage to Vincent in the good old days.

And that’s where we ended up, ordering the Vincent burger and the famous scallops with orange sauce ($33). (Turns out, we didn’t have room for the burger. Next time.) Those scallops had been seared over high heat until crusty (and salty!) on one side, then left a shimmering and nubile ivory beyond. But that crusting provided an overpowering taste that prevailed over the critter’s innate delicacy—too bad. Lots of citrusy orange sauce moistened the fingerling coins and leaves of leeks which completed the plate.

Coconut, Chocolate, Banana, Whipped Cream Crepe

Dessert? Mais oui, merci. Summon a crepe with scads of topping from which to choose ($8). Or find a fave among the classics on offer ($10): floating island, or Vincent’s childhood favorite (and soon to be baby Chloe’s, he deems): vanilla ice cream, madeleines and chocolate sauce. Or make the choice a confirmed glutton would (therefore, count moi in): a triple presentation of traditional sweet conclusions: crème brulee, chocolate pot de crème and crème caramel. Trust me, they’re the best bistro fare on offer, and in the kitchen of Chloe, they succeed.

We sipped the last of our wine (BTG French labels $10-18), layered on our winter gear, said goodbye to Amy and, fat and happy, headed out into the night.

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