What is the state of fine dining in MSP?
First, we must ask, did it ever even exist? McKee notes, “I think if you were to ask people in town which restaurants are fine dining, you’d get some answers, but I don’t really agree with that, and I would bet that the people at those restaurants wouldn’t really agree with that either,” continues McKee, “For example, I would imagine that people would say that Spoon & Stable is fine dining, but I don’t think that Gavin [Kaysen] would agree with that. I think that what we tend to hear a lot, is that people often equate an excellent dining experience with fine dining and that’s just not necessarily what it is.”
In the mind of McKee, fine dining is a whole package, formality and all. It tends to draw a specific demographic: those who covet the minutia of an experience. “Fine dining is performing at the highest level, and I think that what Spoon & Stable is doing is performing at the highest level for what they’re doing. They’re not trying to be ultra-refined in what they’re doing, which is what Per Se, Le Bernardin, and Daniel are doing. They’re aiming at a different target,” McKee explains.
Let’s look to Per Se as an example given their recent scrutiny. It also happens to be a restaurant that McKee has dined at on more than one occasion. “One thing that struck me about that article about Per Se, is that my experience with them is that they’re utterly perfect. The execution is always so precise and so geared toward perfection; that’s what my take away has always been.”
Recalling one of his past experiences, McKee says, “The last time I was there the wine was poured in the wrong glass. Instead of getting poured into a fresh glass it was poured into a recently empty glass, and that’s a huge faux pas. This is not execution for the average diner, this is the top of the top of the top, and they shouldn’t be making those mistakes. I think what happened with Pete Wells [New York Times] is that they made those mistakes and they shouldn’t have. He’s at that restaurant because they don’t make those mistakes, and when they do make those mistakes it’s glaringly obvious. And here, the waiter walked past a napkin on the floor, and that’s not acceptable anywhere, which means that it’s doubly unacceptable at Per Se.”