Sad day. Very sad.
The closing of La Belle Vie came out to the blue. Maybe people on the insider track knew it was coming, but a casual post by a friend on Facebook tipped me off to the news. Absolutely out of nowhere, bam! The best restaurant in town is closing in two weeks.
This sucks. Bigtime.
Here’s the thing: La Belle Vie was the best in town when it came to wine service. Proper, top notch, high test wine service.
The snobs and hipsters might say it doesn’t matter. Who cares about service from the correct side? Who cares about position of the stemware? Hell, at moments I’ve said it doesn’t matter myself (“just pop the cork and pour it, no worries”). But in the end having a dining destination where top notch wine service, done correctly by professionals who take pride in their craft, is an important thing in our local wine scene. And experiencing top level service is joy and a sight to behold.
I first visited La Belle Vie when they were in Stillwater. I was with Michel Chapoutier of all people (who fell asleep on the way there after complaining for 20 minutes about “what chef wants me to ride this far away!” … his assistant simply said “Michel, you should take a nap” and ten seconds later he was asleep. Twenty minutes after that he was spot on, fully awake, detailing the magic of biodynamic farming for the wine buyer. It was awesome).
La Belle Vie was the first restaurant in town to take stemware VERY seriously. You ordered a Burgundy? Here are the Burgundy stems. Oh, Pinot Noir from Oregon instead? Here are the Oregon Pinot Noir stems. Polished, spot free, placed at the same spot in front of everybody at the table, just above and to the right of the knife.
Outside of the very best restaurants of New York and San Francisco, nowhere else did I feel the level of quiet precision that La Belle Vie offered.
In recent times, Matt Anderson and sommelier Craig Coulter have run the ship with precision, always looking out for the customer and helping everybody who walked through the doors feel like they were the most awesome, most important, most beautiful, most impressive, most important person on the planet. That was their gift, and why La Belle Vie was different from the other restaurants in town.
I raise a glass to the crew, to Tim McKee, to former partner and sommelier Bill Summerville, to Matt and Craig, to Jonny, to Michael aka YoungChef2, and to the dozens of friends that have helped make La Belle Vie what it is/was.
My fear is that there will never be another restaurant like this. My fear is that top level service and top level food will not be popular enough to warrant demand. Maybe it has to be a smaller restaurant, maybe it has to be less ambitious, I don’t know. All I know is get you ass to LBV for at least a bite at the bar and quick glass. It’s the end of an era.
Photo by sommelier Craig Coulter