100 Favorite Dishes: No. 34, Cafe Levain's onion soup
As a countdown to the Best of the Twin Cities 2014, coming April 16, the Hot Dish is serving up 100 of our favorite local dishes.
It doesn't always take a complex dish to win over our hearts. When seamlessly executed, the simple and common dishes are sometimes the best.
Stroll into just about any restaurant and you'll find a bowl of French onion soup on the menu. While the cheesy, onion-rich delight only has a few components and is practically everywhere, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken seriously.
And taking onion soup seriously is what Café Levain is known for.
Soups to get you through the winter
The quiet south Minneapolis French bistro's onion soup is a tried and true masterpiece, knocking the rest far out of the park.
It starts with the beef broth -- the base and best part of the soup. Word is, it's left on a low simmer for hours, just to bring out a magically sweet undertone. There's no overpowering salty taste, as can often happen with beef stock. The caramelized onions come in just the right amount so that each bite is balanced between broth and onion, neither outweighing the other. They're tender, but not gooey -- another sign of meticulous timing.
The generous amount of Fontina cheese does not disappoint, topping the soup and overflowing into a crispy, clingy layer over the side of the bowl. The mouth-watering meal is then stacked with sweet fried onion rings and served piping hot.
Be warned: After you've indulged in Café Levain's onion soup, other renditions may fall short. The $9 masterpiece will forever be your benchmark, one that other French onion soups won't quite reach.
No. 43: Grand Café's fondue
No. 42: Saffron's Heart Beets
No. 41: Chatterbox's pork and waffles
No. 39: Broders' quadrucci con pollo