I present this with apologies to Heavy Table for ripping off one of their features (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery etc.). I’ll only be doing this four times a year, not every week—so not very much ripping off. It’s a simple idea: the best five dishes I’ve eaten in the last quarter of the year in the Twin Cities. The emphasis is on dishes that are still/always available. If I’ve eaten something I liked a lot at a restaurant whose menu updates often, I will not include it here unless I ate it so recently that it would still be available for an appreciable amount of time to whichever poor schmuck might actually be influenced by one of my posts to go seek it out. This first installment accordingly does not include anything I ate at my birthday dinner at Spoon and Stable (the fusili with lamb ragu that I really liked is already gone). It does include a number of tasty things you can still find easily for much less than you’d pay at Spoon and Stable.
In chronological order:
- Machu Angkor at Cheng Heng. Despite having lived in Minnesota since 2007, we only ate at Cheng Heng, the Twin Cities’ premier Cambodian restaurant, for the first time this January. A full account of our meal is in my review here; of the many things we enjoyed at that meal I’d single out the Machu Angkor, a sweet and sour soup with shrimp and tender lotus root. Great in cold weather and it’ll be great in the summer too.
- Dowjic at Babani’s Kurdish. Ditto on the inexplicably belated first meal at Babani’s, another St. Paul institution. And ditto on another sour soup. This is nothing like the Machu Angkor, of course, with the sourness coming from yogurt and lemon. Subtle and assertive at the same time, this too is a dish perfect for both Minnesota winters and summers.
- Mango Salad at On’s Kitchen. Now, On’s Kitchen we’ve been eating at for a long, long time and this mango salad is one of our very favourite dishes. We tend to get it at a very hot setting where the hot, sour and sweet notes are in perfect balance but odds are you will like the hell out of this salad of strips of green mango no matter how hot or mild you get it. Just great at our most recent outing.
- Key Siga Wot at Demera. We ate at Demera for the first time as well recently and it’s already our favourite Ethiopian restaurant in the Twin Cities. Different members of our group had a range of favourite dishes from our meal but mine was this spicy beef wot, which scratched home-style Indian meat curry itches for me without actually being a home-style Indian meat curry. Wonderful depth of flavour.
- Po La Fish with Pickled Vegetable Soup at Tea House, Minneapolis. Yes, yet another soup—it is still winter here, after all. But as with the Machu Angkor and the Dowjic, this is actually a soup for the summer: hot and sour and perfect to cool you down with. The sourness comes from pickled veg., the heat comes from red pepper, and floating in the chicken broth is rather a lot of poached fish. We ate this at a meal last weekend (the review is a couple of weeks away) and I think it’s going to be in our regular rotation there. If you like hot and sour soup (another Sichuan classic), you will love this.
For the visually inclined, a slideshow.