Please continue to join me as I gaze at my navel. This blog marked its tenth anniversary on Friday. And if it weren’t enough that I posted a long look back at the life of the blog on that day, last night I also posted a brief retrospective of some of the whisky reviews I most enjoyed writing in that time. And this morning I have for you a list of restaurant reviews/reports that I am also particularly fond of (for different reasons). Some are of meals I enjoyed very much; some of meals I enjoyed not at all; and in some the food itself is somewhat beside the point. They’re drawn from across the life of the blog and include reviews from many of the locations I’ve covered: Minnesota, obviously, but also Delhi, Calcutta, the U.K. and Hong Kong; and elsewhere in the US, from Kansas City and New York. Nothing from Los Angeles, but that’s because my L.A reviews are largely functional. The ones I have chosen to highlight in this post have other commentary in them that recommends them.
A number of these have to do with Indian restaurant trends in India and elsewhere. The Sodabottleopenervala write-up looks at the arrival of the Dishoom aesthetic in the home country; the write-up of The Chilli Pickle (an unremarkable Brighton restaurant) considers the deployment of a new exoticism in Indian restaurant design in the West; the review of dinner at Baar Baar in Manhattan considers the forms “progressive” Indian cuisine often takes in the US. In Calcutta, I ponder the experience of eating at The Tollygunge Club. Meanwhile, the write-ups of Dzükou in Delhi and Kumar’s in Apple Valley, MN consider the changing profiles of regional Indian food at opposite ends of the world.
Elsewhere in Minnesota, I ponder the situation of Mexican food in our small town and in the considerably larger Twin Cities, and the gap between the affordable and high-end contexts in which Mexican food is served in a state with an expanding Mexican population. And I also look at meals eaten seven years apart at two local critical darlings, Travail and Owamni, that I found disappointing in different ways (both these reviews also got a lot of people in the Twin Cities very angry with me). The 112 Eatery/La Belle Vie post considers the changing face of fine dining in the Twin Cities and beyond in 2015.
Finally, there are two pieces that I like for different reasons (though both also have to do with food and place). There is a sentence I very much like in the write-up of Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City (and it was also a meal and experience I very much enjoyed); and the piece on eating congee for breakfast for five days straight at the same small restaurant in Hong Kong contains some insights into colonial discourse and the traveler/tourist dichotomy that I think hold up despite the post having been composed in one early morning sitting while jet-lagged in my hotel.
Here they are in chronological order (and rather than 10, I present a baker’s dozen):
- Travail (Robbinsdale, MN, August 2015)
- 112 Eatery…and Some Thoughts on La Belle Vie (Minneapolis, October 2015)
- Sodabottleopenervala (Delhi, January 2016)
- Dzükou (Delhi, January 2016)
- The Chilli Pickle (Brighton, UK, April 2017)
- Congee at Law Fu Kee (Hong Kong, December 2018)
- Baar Baar (New York, August 2019)
- A Return to Homi and the Question of Who Makes Money Cooking Mexican Food (St. Paul, December 2019)
- Kumar’s Mess and the Changing Face of Indian Food in the Twin Cities Metro (Apple Valley, MN, December 2019)
- Eating at the Tollygunge Club (Calcutta, Jan 2020)
- Pandemic Takeout from El Triunfo (Northfield, MN, March 2020)
- Arthur Bryant’s (Kansas City, August 2021)
- Owamni (Minneapolis, March 2022)
Don’t worry, this orgy of self-congratulation is not over yet. Soon, I’ll be posting a list of non restaurant-review food writing pieces as well. Till then I trust you will read these posts above over and over again.
So do you think the situation outlined in “A Return to Homi” has changed in the three years since you wrote that post?
Hard to say. There’s Petite Leon too now, of course, and in a different mode, Nixta (with its sit-down restaurant about to arrive). On the other hand, Popol Vuh has closed. And there are a few places in the mid-range that I had not considered at the time of that post. On the whole, though, I would say that the phenomenon of “ethnic” cuisines being mined for the high-end market while being otherwise ignored is still in play in the Twin Cities food media.
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Maybe your Saint Dinette post could be tacked on as a love note to St. Paul ;)
Or Joan’s in the Park…
Until last fall we lived walking distance to Joan’s, and nothing I’d read/trusted said to pull the trigger. Your piece was what I expected it to be. “High end” . . . Estelle we enjoyed in the Highland Park area. And the sadly closed Bar Brigade. Thankfully we had a better experience than you did at Luci Ancora, another place that nothing I’d read/trusted said to pull the trigger, but it was a last minute hail mary that turned out in our favor