The Weekday Lunch Thali at Godavari (Eden Prairie, MN)

On the weekend I posted the second of two reports of the lunch thali meals I ate in New Jersey towards the end of April. The first of these was at Kathiyawadi Kitchen and was really excellent. The second was at Samudhra, and while I didn’t like it nearly as much as I had Kathiyawadi Kitchen’s thali, resizing the photographs from that meal earlier last week put me in the mood for another thali lunch. My hands-down favourite thali in the Twin Cities metro—and indeed my pick for best lunch deal in the area—used to be the weekday thali at Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington. Alas, as has been reported in the comments here on multiple occasions, Kabob’s no longer offers that thali. Nor, for that matter, does Kumar’s in Apple Valley still offer their weekday lunch thali—it’s been replaced by a buffet. Thankfully, Godavari in Eden Prairie—the restaurant that has topped all editions of my Twin Cities South Asian restaurant rankings—now offers a lunch thali. And so it was to Eden Prairie I went for lunch on the day after the last day of my term. Here is what I found. Continue reading


Some Recent Cooking (on Instagram)

As I’ve said before, cooking/recipe posts have gone on indefinite hiatus on the blog. I’m still cooking as much as always and in fact am still posting recipes. But I’m doing so only on Instagram, and with Reels/videos of the cooking process usually attached. These videos are of a stunningly high technical and aesthetic quality and I have been reliably informed that the series as a whole was in the running for a special jury award at Cannes this year before unseemly politics—I’m looking at you Martin Scorsese, you bastard!— torpedoed my chances. Anyway, if you follow me on Instagram—and even if you don’t—you can still marvel at the genius of these videos and enjoy these recipes anyway. There is no need to thank me. The first digest of these Instagram recipe posts included most of the Reels I’d posted between then and the beginning of the year. This digest does not include quite as many but you should watch them three or four times each anyway; and probably once more to be sure. Continue reading

Samudhra (Franklin Park, New Jersey)

The first, second, third and fifty-fifth thing you need to know about Samudhra, an Indian restaurant in Franklin Park, New Jersey, is that they have a very strict dress code. This may well be the only thing you need to know about them; it is almost certainly the only thing you will remember about them. It’ll pop up as the first thing you see when you go to their website. You’ll be told about it when you call to make a reservation. When you arrive, you’ll see it posted prominently on the window of their foyer. When you go in, you’ll see it posted inside the foyer as well. And just in case you haven’t gotten the message, you’ll see it again before you’re walked to your table. “A lot of people have tried to come and eat here in pajamas and chappals or what?”, I asked the host; he smiled embarrassedly and then launched into a saga of how they’ve had to call the police on inappropriately dressed people. My friend and I looked dubiously at him and he petered off. Thankfully, there are no further reminders inside the restaurant. Continue reading

Petite Leon II (Minneapolis)

We first ate at Petite Leon in late 2021, after the end of the Delta wave and right at the start of the Omicron wave. The pandemic isn’t over yet, of course, but those days do seem behind us (I hope not to jinx anything). Anyway, Petite Leon then was our first indoor meal in months and we really liked it. I said then that the menu as we experienced it then was not so much Mexican as a hybridizing of Mexican ingredients and approaches with ingredients and flavours from other parts of the world: the kind of cooking, in short, that once might have been thought of as fusion but which in this incarnation I prefer to describe as Global Cosmopolitan. Anyway, though not everything at that meal was great, the average was pretty high. And so we’d expected we’d be back in 2022. Well, it took a little longer but we finally got back there with a couple of friends this past weekend. And though there were a couple of dishes that didn’t land for us, this meal may have been even better than the first. Herewith the details. Continue reading

El Itacate (Maplewood, MN)

The quality of the Twin Cities’ Mexican food scene seems to still be more of a secret than it should be. Inside and outside the state, I suspect this largely stems from stereotypical ideas of who is recognized as Minnesotan. Now, it’s true that Minnesota is still overwhelmingly white and that of largely northern European extraction. But non-white populations are rising steadily—and Hispanics in general, and Mexicans in particular, are a large part of that. As per the 2020 census, there are now >340,000 Hispanics in the state, making them the third-largest racial group in the state (African Americans are in second place); the growth in this population has accounted for >25% of the entire population growth of the state in the last 20 years. (And keep in mind that it is believed that the 2020 census may have significantly undercounted the Hispanic population.) With this growing population it is hardly surprising that the number of Hispanic and, in particular, Mexican restaurants is also steadily growing. There may not be huge regional variety yet in the food that’s available but much of what is now available is really quite good. That’s certainly the case at El Itacate, which opened in Maplewood just about three months ago. Continue reading

At Gwangjang Market (Seoul, March 2023)

I said of Namdaemun Market that it was my second favourite place to visit during my week in Seoul in March. All my visits there were during the day: I went there for lunch three days in a row. My absolute favourite place to visit, I visited only at night: I ate dinner there four nights in a row. I am referring to Gwangjang Market. Another of Seoul’s oldest markets, Gwangjang Market has a bit of a split personality. During the day the action is mostly centered on shopping. As evening approaches, however, the stores shut down and the food vendors who fill the central alleys between the stores begin to take over. My understanding is that some of these vendors sell their wares during the late mornings and afternoons as well; but it is in the evening you must go to get the full food experience. Continue reading

Friends Cafe (St. Paul, MN)

Friends Cafe opened six years or so ago on Rice Street in that part of the Twin Cities metro where St. Paul, Roseville and Maplewood combine to create geographical confusion. It’s located in a large strip mall on the northwest side of the Rice and Larpenteur intersection but frankly, I’m not sure which city it is technically in. The restaurant’s menu says Roseville; Google and the restaurant’s check says St. Paul; meanwhile, a restaurant across the street is apparently in Maplewood. I will leave this to other people to sort out. What I can tell you for sure is that I deeply regret having let it fall off my radar before and during the pandemic, and that I am deeply grateful to longtime blog reader, Jim Grinsfelder for jogging my memory about it a couple of weeks ago. Yes, we finally made it out there for a meal and it was really very good. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Kathiyawadi Kitchen (Sayreville, New Jersey)

I was recently in New York and New Jersey for a few days. I was there primarily for a few academic events connected to South Asian cinema, but also took the opportunity to meet up with some old friends. As half my commitments were in the New Brunswick area, I stayed in a hotel across the street from Newark Penn Station. I took the New Jersey transit train down to New Brunswick on both days in the mornings and then took it back up to New York Penn in the early evenings for my events/meetings there. My lunches therefore were in the vicinity of New Brunswick, and my dinners were in Manhattan. Now, of course, I was looking forward to eating a couple of good meals in New York, but, truth be told, I was more excited about the lunches in New Jersey. This because the friends I was eating with had picked out Indian restaurants for us to go eat thalis in. Here’s an account of that first meal, at Kathiyawadi Kitchen in Sayreville. Spoiler alert: It was rather excellent! And I say this as a confirmed carnivore even though it’s a vegetarian restaurant. Continue reading

Cheng Heng: The Return (St. Paul, MN)

In the last year and a half or so, as the pandemic entered its (hopefully) late and waning period, we’ve been eating in at restaurants pretty much as we had been prior to March 2020. In the Twin Cities metro we’ve eaten in that time at a number of newer/new to us restaurants (your Khalunas and Kalsadas, to take only the ones starting with the letter K); and we’ve also been going back to eat at many of our old favourites. Some of these have been at the high end (Alma, Spoon and Stable, Tenant) but not all. We’ve been back to Grand Szechuan, Kabob’s Indian Grill—both in Bloomington; and in St. Paul to On’s Kitchen, Bangkok Thai Deli and Trieu Chau. And this past weekend we went back to another St. Paul stalwart, located, like those aforementioned, on the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street: University Ave: Cheng Heng. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Some Recent Cooking (On Instagram)

As of this past February, cooking posts/recipes have gone on indefinite hiatus on the blog. I’m not saying I’ll never post recipes again here but it’s going to be a while, probably, before it becomes a regular feature again. However, I have been posting cooking content on Instagram, in the form of very shoddily produced cooking Reels. In the past I used to put up those videos without any detail attached and eventually post the recipes here. But now I’m posting the recipes themselves on Instagram. Sometimes they’re included with the Reels and sometimes in separate posts with pictures of ingredients and the finished dishes. It somehow feels more natural to do recipes that way—and if you’re not opposed to watching videos you can actually get a sense of how brown I get the onions for a particular dish, or what it looks like when the oil separates and so on. Anyway, frequent blog commenter but infrequent Instagram visitor, steveinmn recently asked if I could let people know on the blog when new cooking content goes up on my Insta feed. I said I’d do it in the form of a weekly or fortnightly digest, rather than for every new post, and here is the first one. This one lists all the Reels/posts with recipes from the last couple of months. Going forward, each digest will probably have far fewer links in it. Continue reading

Eating by the Water, Again (Goa, January 2023)

Just about three months after our return from India in February, here is my penultimate report from our brief sojourn in Goa in January. As we had on our last visit to Goa in 2020, we stayed at the home of friends in South Goa, in the village of Velim. North Goa is where all the action is. South Goa is relatively staid by comparison—and once you get down to Velim and environs, there’s really not much going on. This suits us as we are not in search of action on these holidays: we want to be on the beach as much as possible and eat good Goan food and that’s pretty much it. Well, the first of those things is easily available near Velim. We love Cavelossim Beach, which is just about 10 minutes from the house and very not crowded (at least till sunset); we spend most of our time there on sun beds in front of one of the many shacks or in the water. The food is a more complicated story. Continue reading

Kumar’s, April 2023 (Apple Valley, MN)

Here is a report on a recent, unplanned weeknight dinner at Kumar’s. I ended up here with a small group from work after we were thwarted in our attempts to have a decent sit-down dinner in our own town. This because the acceptable options were either closed (it was a Monday) or about to close (it was close to 8 pm by the time the event we were at ended). Rather than eat fast food we decided to drive 20 minutes to Apple Valley, to Kumar’s (which thankfully was still seating people when we got there a bit after 8.30). And so it was that I came to eat my first dine-in non-buffet meal at Kumar’s. Continue reading

At Namdaemun Market, Pt. 2: Eating (Seoul, March 2023)

Here is my third report from the place that was my second favourite to visit in Seoul on my trip in March: Namdaemun Market. I went there three days in a row and ate lunch there on all three days. My first report was of my lunch there on the second visit, eaten at their famous Kalguksu Alley. My second report was a broader look at the market, focussing on the dry and wet market sections and their other famous food alley: Hairtail Alley (I did not eat there on this trip). This report gives you a look at the other food vendors of the market—the ones who are set up, formally or informally on the market’s main drags. A few are restaurants; some have restaurant’ish spaces attached; some are counters—you eat standing there; some are street vendors—you take your food and eat it somewhere else. Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Spring 2023 (Minneapolis)

Our dinners at Alma last spring, summer and fall were among the highlights of our dining out in all of 2022. If we hadn’t been gone in the winter, we would have eaten there again. No surprise then that we showed up again to eat their current spring menu. Of course, in between the dinner last fall and this one came their invitation to me to do an Indian pop-up with them—which went off quite successfully (I’d like to think) at the end of February. I note/remind you of this at the very outset to foreground the fact that whereas until the end of last year I was just a very big fan of their cooking philosophy, I am now a little more entangled with them and my critical detachment is doubtless at least a little strained. There was no special treatment at this dinner, no comps of any kind—but if you choose to view my enthusiasm for this meal as contaminated, I will understand. For yes, we very much enjoyed this dinner as well and I don’t really have any criticisms in what follows. Except maybe that the root vegetable pavé, the picture of which on Instagram spurred me to make this reservation, was no longer on the menu. Them’s the breaks. Continue reading

Cota Cozinha (Goa, January 2023)

I’d said I’d post my next Goa food report on Saturday and here it is instead on Sunday. Such is life. This lunch takes us back to Betalbatim, but not to Martin’s Corner. The friends who’d recommended Pentagon had also recommended Cota Cozinha as superior to the current incarnation of Martin’s Corner. Now, you may recall from my review of Pentagon that weren’t so very impressed by our meal there (though we did like it); and so, I had my expectations a bit lowered for this meal. I am happy to say, however, that it handily surpassed them. Indeed, it was a very good meal. Continue reading

At Namdaemun Market, Part 1

Back to Seoul, back to Namdaemun Market. My first report from the market was of an excellent lunch in the market’s famous Kalguksu Alley. I ate there on the day of my second visit to the market. I visited the market on three consecutive days and ate lunch there on three consecutive days. Why didn’t I eat at Kalguksu Alley on the first day? Well, I couldn’t find it. On that first visit I was also unable to find the market’s other famous food “alley”: Hairtail Alley; the specialty here is galchi jorim or braised/stewed hairtail fish. The main reason I was unable to find these alleys is that I didn’t know what I was looking for. I’d not really done any research on the market and had lazily assumed that everything would be very visible. Well, the market itself is quite obviously visible but there’s no signage for the food alleys—you kind of have to know where you’re going and what you’re looking for. In my post on that Kalguksu Alley lunch, I told you how to find it; in this post I offer a broader look at the market and finally a look at Hairtail Alley, which I more or less accidentally found myself in while wandering around after lunch in Kalguksu Alley. Continue reading

Meritage III (St. Paul, MN)

It’s been a while since we’ve eaten in St. Paul. In fact, since our first meal out in 2023—at Trieu Chau—we hadn’t eaten there at all till last week. This is not because of some blood feud we have developed with the city. It’s mostly due to the fact that we were gone for most of January and recovering from our trip in February—and then I was gone again for a chunk of March. We’ll be getting back to some of our favourites there again soon. In the meantime, here is a report on a recent dinner at Meritage. We were treated to it by friends and as they’re not strangers to my restaurant reviewing, food photographing ways—indeed they are depraved enough to encourage both activities—I took the opportunity to report on this meal as well. Continue reading

Joe’s River Cove (Goa, January 2023)

Our base of operations when in Goa is our friends’ house in the village of Velim in South Goa. Our normal order of business after eating breakfast is to head to Cavelossim Beach. We then either spend the whole day there—eating a passable lunch at one of the beach shacks—or taking a break to drive to lunch somewhere else in South Goa (for example, to Pentagon). It’s not that there aren’t places other than the shacks at which we could eat at in that general vicinity. But the choices are either the overpriced Fisherman’s Wharf or places on the Sal river like Star Light, which have a charm of their own but where the food is generally not particularly memorable. Joe’s River Cove is another of these places on the river. We passed it twice a day in January 2020 on the way to and back from the beach. On this trip, we finally made it in, on a day when we took a rare break from the beach to relax at home during the day and when we didn’t want to drive a long distance for dinner. Here’s what we found. Continue reading