Ten things you need to know about chef Gavin Kaysen’s new North Loop restaurant
Demi, the small-scaled sibling to Spoon and Stable and Bellecour, is scheduled to open in mid-February.
It’s Feb. 15, and it’s no coincidence that it’s the day after Valentine’s Day. “That’s on purpose,” said Kaysen. “I’ll deal with it in 2020. Valentine’s Day will be on a Friday next year, and we’ll do the whole weekend as Valentine’s. But this year, it’s not worth it.”
2. All seating will be made via prepaid online reservation.
The plan is to offer a 2-hour experience and a 2 1/2-hour experience. “We’re not saying how many courses we’re going to do,” said Kaysen. “The reason is two-fold. One, if we can see that you can consume more food, we’ll be happy to give you more. If you eat like me, you can eat 30 courses in two hours. But second — and frankly, more important — is when you put a course number on something, people start to count, and when you start to count, you start to lose some of the value and the romance of the experience. If I say, ‘OK, it’s a 15-course menu,’ at around course 10 you might be thinking, ‘Can I do five more?’ And you start to psyche yourself out. And I just want you to relax, I want you to enjoy the experience.”
3. The reservation pool is opening, soon.
The online service will commence the first week of February. “Our goal is to charge $95 for the 2-hour experience, and $125 for the 2 1/2-hour experience,” said Kaysen.
4. Demi will be up-close-and-personal dining.
Much of the cooking at the 20-seat restaurant will be performed in front of guests, who will be seated at a 20-seat, U-shaped counter that surrounds a cooking station and is flanked by a second cooking line. “I’ll be here a lot, because this is your dream as a cook, to be this close to people,” said Kaysen. There will be a ratio of two guests per one member of the staff. “The whole intention is that the cooks have to know how to serve, and the servers have to know how to help the cooks,” said Kaysen. “Everybody is equal.” The team is headed by Spoon and Stable veterans, including chef de cuisine Adam Ritter and general manager Tristan Pitre.
4. The 1,200-square foot space was designed by Linda Kaysen — she’s Kaysen’s spouse — and Shea Design, the Minneapolis firm behind the look of Kaysen’s two four-star properties, Spoon and Stable and Bellecour.
“It was rewarding to be part of Gavin’s team, where every aspect of the space was thoughtfully designed, curated and executed,” said architect David Shea. For those interested in the design details, the dining counter is fashioned from walnut, the adjacent central work station is covered in milky Carrara marble, the velvet-covered swivel counter stools are West Elm’s “Mid Century” model and the walls are painted Benjamin Moore’s jewel-like Vandenberg Blue. “My wife picked that color out,” said Kaysen. “I expressed to her that I wanted more of a dark space compared to our other spaces, which are so light. So she picked this color because it’s so rich, and warm.”
5. The restaurant is peppered with plenty of artist-designed details.
Kaysen’s brother Sean Kaysen crafted beautiful wood service trays and boxes, including sleek storage containers for the custom steak knives that were created for the restaurant by Jackson Schwartz of Hennepin Made in Minneapolis; the knives’ handles were fashioned from a tree on nearby Nicollet Island that was felled by lightning. The delicate, one-of-a-kind ceramics — made by Chicago potter Ashley Lin — just might make the restaurant’s dishwasher the most valuable person on the payroll. (Provided photos, above, by Libby Anderson).
6. The place is subtly steeped in history.
The building dates to the late 19th century, and the original tenant, the Barrington Hall coffee company, is referenced throughout. Sean Kaysen fashioned parts from three coffee roasters into the planters that greet guests on the sidewalk. After Barrington Hall invoices and brochures were discovered in the building’s attic, Twin Cities artist Laurie Borggreve cleverly incorporated some of their elements into a memorable artwork that graces the dining room.
7. There’s a poetic side to the restaurant.
Seemingly looking ahead more than a century, a Barrington Hall brochure featured the following poem, named “Lucile” by the 19th-century poet English Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton:
“We may live without poetry, music, and art
We may live without conscience, and live without heart,
We may live without friends, we may live without books,
But civilized man cannot live without cooks.”
Nice, right? “At one point, we talked about calling the restaurant ‘Lucile,’” said Kaysen.
8. Demi was designed to be conversation-friendly.
“I think it’ll have energy, but I don’t think it’ll be super-loud,” said Kaysen. “And I think it needs some energy. If it’s 20 people and it feels like church, then I’m going to have a problem with that.”
9. The menu will change frequently.
“The goal is to try to change it at least once a month,” said Kaysen. “We might find staples on the menu that always stay the same. For example, no matter what time of year, the very first thing you’ll get is a broth. Maybe in the summer it’s a cold broth, and in the wintertime it’s a warm broth, because your hands are so cold from being outside.”
10. The restaurant is located on the same North Loop block as Spoon and Stable; they face one another across an alley.
“We have a guest who eats at the Spoon all the time, he’s the best,” said Kaysen. “When we first opened, he said, ‘You know, Gavin, the main landmark in the North Loop is Sex World, and you’re going to change that.’ That’s a lot of pressure.”