On the one-year anniversary of the day that La Belle Vie closed its doors, out came the news that the high-profile address has landed a new tenant.
He’s chef Don Saunders of the four-year-old Kenwood (2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., 612-377-3695, thekenwoodrestaurant.com), and he has big plans for the space, which is located on the ground floor of the patrician 510 Groveland residential co-op in Minneapolis.
“I realize the standard that has been set,” he said. “I’m excited by the challenge of upholding the space’s status, but I also want to make it my own.”
When 510 Lounge & Private Dining (510 Groveland Av., Mpls., 510mpls.com) opens next summer, it won’t be an instant replay of La Belle Vie.
With fine dining on the wane, Saunders plans to use the two formal dining rooms as private event spaces, targeting occasions as diverse as corporate dinners, family celebrations, wedding rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions (Saunders and his wife Jackie celebrated their nuptials dinner at La Belle Vie in 2010).
The lounge will remain open to the public, probably six to seven nights per week, starting early to capture the after-work crowd and serving “fairly late,” said Saunders.
Menu plans aren’t set in stone, but Saunders has some general ideas.
“I hate to use the word ‘snacks,’ because that implies ‘tiny,’ ” he said. Instead, he’s thinking of shareable dishes along the lines of beef tartare, oysters, ceviche and mussels in pistou broth, a Kenwood favorite. There will be a burger, too (a nod, perhaps, to La Belle Vie’s signature lamb burger) and extensive cheese and charcuterie selections.
The kitchen will be run by former Kenwood chef de cuisine Daniel Keenan. Another Kenwood vet, Peter Beard, will manage the front of the house and the beverage program.
Saunders likes the 510’s proximity to the Kenwood, a distance of about 14 blocks.
“And the two places will complement rather than compete with one another,” he said, noting that the Kenwood lacks a full liquor license as well as a private dining venue.
The 510 project is a bit of a homecoming for Saunders, who spent a year in the La Belle Vie kitchen. His tenure landed during the restaurant’s Stillwater era, which began in 1998 and ran until 2005, when it relocated into what had been the longtime home of the 510 Restaurant.
Don’t expect a lot of changes to the interior. The rooms’ old-money opulence — the chandeliers, the intricate crown moldings, the ornate fireplace — will remain, with tweaks overseen by the Minneapolis design firm Smart Associates.
“We’ll put our own print on it with furnishings, and colors,” said Saunders. “I love the history behind it. And it’s nice to go into a space where you don’t want to change anything, because it’s so awesome. ”