Heures Joyeuses Chez Vincent


I bellied up to the bar at Vincent A Restaurant yesterday evening, and started to dig into what has to rate as the best happy hour deal in town: tap beers and wines by the glass for $3, appetizers for $3.50-$4, and the Vincent burger, stuffed with braised short rib for $8 (regularly $12.75). The happy hour, or heures joyeuses, runs Monday to Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

1100 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 630-1189

I ordered Joe’s Potato Hot Dish, a small cast-iron kettle filled with baby fingerling potatoes in a creamy chorizo and melted cheddar sauce ($3.50), and a socca, a thin chickpea pancake filled with shrimp, chorizo salami, parmesan and chevre ($4), washed down with a glass of Aramis Tannat-Cabernet blend.

Halfway through this little feast, up walks Vincent, with only one arm visible, making the rounds of the tables in the bar. It turns out he recently broke his collarbone in a bike accident, so his usefulness in the kitchen is limited. I started grilling him about restaurant news, and learned that Vincent plans to open a patio on the Nicollet mall by Memorial Day weekend, if the gods and city inspectors approve. Francoual still plans to compete in a triathlon in Paris in June, and in his annual team triathlon ride in support of Fraser, a local non-profit that serves special needs children and adults, in July.

This Thursday, as part of his Minnesota Chef Series, he’s teaming up with a young chef, Justin Schoville, from a hot new restaurant in Rochester called Sontes. Schoville will lead off with courses of octopus crumb cake with citrus, spiced cocoa and mint; and monkfish cheeks a la plancha, while Francoual will dish up the last two courses, a duo of roasted rabbit loin and rabbit shoulder; and a citrus tart with lemon sabayon. Cost is $60 all inclusive without wine, or $80 with wines. Call the restaurant at 612-630-1189 for reservations.

I was already pretty well stuffed when Vincent sent over another dish for me to try – a half order of his stuffed pig trotters appetizer ($12.75). The pigs feet are cooked “sous vide” (in a vacuum pouch at very low temperature) for 24 hours, and then combined into a forcemeat with ground pork, and served over cannelini beans with a quail egg, sunny-side up, and a subtle hint of aromatic black truffle sauce. Magnifique!

There’s lots more on the happy hour I would like to try, including the flat bread topped with smoked chicken, carmelized onions, blue cheese and red grapes; the breaded fried walleye fingers (which looked irresistible from a distance), and the seared chicken morsels marinated in coconut milk.