Tokyo Grill (Northfield, MN)


There isn’t much worth reviewing, food-wise, in Northfield, the small Minnesota town in which we live, and so I haven’t reviewed much: only El Triunfo, a small, unpretentious Mexican restaurant and store. For a town with two colleges, we certainly don’t have the usual college town staples: there’s no Thai or Vietnamese; the two Chinese places are execrable and the one surviving Indian place is not much better, despite a welcome change in ownership. Beyond that is mostly sandwiches and the Ole Store, whose food falls quite a bit short of its pretensions and its local reputation and popularity. Which brings us to Tokyo Grill, a Japanese restaurant on Highway 3 that opened about five years ago (I want to say), and of which the best that can probably be said is that it is mostly inoffensive. I hadn’t planned to review it either—I’d only eaten there twice in the years since its opening—but a friend mock-criticized me for not reviewing more local places just a couple of days before I was scheduled to take a visiting guest there, and so here we are.  Continue reading

Lao Sze Chuan (Minneapolis)


Sometime in the last year, Lao Sze Chuan, a Chicago-based mini-empire of Szechuan restaurants, opened a branch in Minneapolis. As I don’t really follow the Twin Cities food media very closely, I missed this. A chance reference to it on Facebook alerted me to its existence recently, and shortly thereafter we descended upon them with a group of friends to see if this was a worthy addition to the Twin Cities’ unexpectedly strong Sichuan scene. Short answer: it is. More annoying answer: it’s nothing very special, however. And while the original bills itself as “the best Chinese restaurant in America”, this one is not the best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities; nor is it, for that matter, the best Sichuan restaurant within a 1/4 mile radius. That award would go to Tea House, which is walking distance from Lao Sze Chuan. The best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area, of course, continues to be Grand SzechuanContinue reading

Simplee Pho (Apple Valley, MN)


As I’ve noted before, of all (relatively) recently arrived immigrant cuisines, Vietnamese may be the most friendly to the stereotypical Midwestern palate. This is particularly true of pho-centered restaurants—which is pretty much what all Vietnamese restaurants in Minnesota are. Mild broth, rice noodles, lots of meat: it’s no surprise that Minnesotans have taken to pho in a big way—especially given our bastard winters. And in recent years, as new housing developments have popped up along Hwy 77/Cedar Avenue between where we live in the hamlets of Rice County and south Minneapolis, Vietnamese restaurants have also popped up to help feed them. I have already reviewed Pho Everest in Lakeville. Here now is a report on several meals eaten over the last few months at Apple Valley’s Simplee Pho.  Continue reading

Spicy Chicken Fry


South Indian food continues to be identified in the US—and to be fair, in North India as well—with vegetarian food of the idli-dosa-sambhar variety. The notion that South India is largely vegetarian is a hard one to shake—it showed up last year in a New York Times feature on Kerala as well (it’s hard to understand how anyone could spend a lot of time in Kerala and believe that it is a “a land where vegetarianism is the predominant eating style”). In fact, the southern states are far more non-vegetarian than most of the rest of India—if you want to meet a lot of vegetarians, it’s actually to the north that you have to go. Whether it’s in Kerala or Tamil Nadu or Karnataka or Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, fish and meat are everywhere. And these dishes are often pretty spicy indeed. In fact, the cuisine of Andhra Pradesh is up there with some of the hottest cuisines in the world. One of the Andhra dishes that I particularly like to seek out when I am in India is the chicken fry or kodi vepudu. In its flavours and textures it is very unlike most North Indian chicken dishes. The recipe I have today is an attempt to approximate the flavours of some of the versions I’ve eaten, in restaurants and friends’ homes in India. It is not canonical, but the results are quite tasty. Give it a go.  Continue reading

Tilia, Again (Minneapolis)


Our last meal at Tilia was enjoyable in some ways, not so enjoyable in others. And while I ended that review by saying I could see us returning at some point, it took four and a half years for that to actually happen—and that on account of a mistake. I had planned to take a friend who was visiting from India to dinner at Tenant—the successor restaurant to the late, lamented Piccolo—but when we arrived there, we discovered, to my chagrin, that I had somehow in fact made a reservation for the middle of June! And they had no room for us. Casting about for a place in the relative vicinity, I called Tilia and they said they had enough space. And so off we went. Alas, being able to get a table at short notice was one of the few highlights of the meal. Continue reading

Hmongtown Marketplace: Shopping


On Tuesday I posted a brief writeup of our recent lunch at Hmongtown Marketplace in St. Paul. Lunch was only part of our visit. We spent as much time after the meal walking around the market and buying vegetables etc. If you’ve never been to Hmongtown Marketplace, you should know that the market sections are by far the largest part of the space. The larger part of the market is indoors, in two large warehouses/sheds that sit on either side of a central outdoor space. This outdoor space has stalls selling clothes and cds/dvds and also a large green market. During the height of the growing season, this green market is filled with produce sellers (there’s also live poultry available); currently, it is filled with vendors selling vegetable and plant starters—and if you’re a home gardener, you should go check them out this weekend. There’s also a green market indoors all year around, and this part of the market is already on the go. In other words, you don’t need to wait another month to go vegetable/fruit shopping here. Go now.  Continue reading

Hmongtown Marketplace: Food


This is my second account of eating at Hmongtown Marketplace. I posted the previous three and a half years ago. If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about the demographics of the Hmong in Minnesota, and also in a bit of description of the market as a whole, please take a look at that post—I won’t repeat it here. We went back this past weekend with a friend in town from India. She’s a documentary film-maker and when I offered her a list of Twin Cities food experiences she might be interested in, this was at the top of her list. It had been a couple of years since our last visit, and I was curious to see what the condition of the market would be—given the success of the larger and relatively shinier Hmong Village, a bit further north in St. Paul. Well, I was glad to see that they’re still thriving.  Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli IV (St. Paul, MN)


Rounding out my recent run of reviews of the mainstays of the Thai restaurant scene on University Avenue, here is my fourth review of Bangkok Thai Deli. (Here are my recent reviews of On’s Kitchen, Lao-Thai, Thai Cafe, and Thai Garden.) Like almost everyone else, we have Bangkok Thai Deli at the top of our Twin Cities Thai ranking, usually just a bit behind On’s Kitchen (which, as you probably know, began as a breakaway from Bangkok Thai Deli when they were still in their original space). I’ve always felt that at their respective bests, On’s is superior; on the other hand, Bangkok Thai Deli has been less variable for us, and given the very different ethnic demographic they draw, the food tends to come out hotter and less sweet as a default. Well, we thought the meal I’m reporting on here was superior to our last meal at On’s, even though there were a couple of dishes that disappointed (one of which was a dud).  Continue reading

La Colonia (Minneapolis)


My previous restaurant review was of Andale, the excellent taqueria in Richfield, in the south metro. With this review I go further north in the metro area, to Northeast Minneapolis (locally known just as Northeast), and further south in Latin America, to La Colonia on Central Avenue. Their specialty is Colombian and Ecuadorian food. I don’t know very much about either cuisine. My only previous encounter with Ecuadorian food was at Chimborazo—further up Central—and I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten at a Colombian restaurant before. As such I am the furthest thing from an expert on this food. I can tell you with certainty, however, that you are likely to leave a big meal at La Colonia wanting to lie down and that it may take you many, many hours to emerge from a meat coma.  Continue reading

Andale Mercado (Richfield, MN)


I posted a review on Tuesday of a recent lunch at Andale Taqueria in Richfield. We enjoyed that meal very much. We also enjoyed browsing their neighbouring mercado/grocery store after lunch. I’d originally planned to report on both simultaneously, but for the sake of my sanity, decided to break it into two separate posts (resizing photographs is no fun). I’m not sure if the mercado or the taqueria came first for the proprietors of Andale—if you know more about this, please write in below—but they’re an excellent 1-2 punch. Indeed, the market is a good alternative to the restaurant for heartier food to go. Continue reading

Andale Taqueria (Richfield, MN)


I made a pledge a while ago to explore more of the Twin Cities’ Mexican food scene but haven’t really made good on it. This is finally going to be the year I do it. It’s certainly not a risky proposition—as, for example, a pledge to explore more of the local sushi scene would be. Mexican food in Minnesota is actually pretty good. And I am happy to tell you that some of this pretty good Mexican food can be found at Andale Taqueria in Richfield. We stopped in there for lunch on Easter Sunday with friends and liked everything we had—and some things we liked a lot indeed.  Continue reading

“Steamed” Red Snapper with Ginger and Soy Sauce


Before lunch at Ichiddo Ramen last week we popped into Shuang Hur—the large East Asian market a couple of blocks away on University Avenue in St. Paul. We stop in there from time to time, mostly in search of whole fish that aren’t available in mainstream American markets—think anything with heads still attached—and, in particular, mackerel. On this occasion, however, it was some very fresh-looking whole red snappers that caught my eye. I picked the smallest one they had (still pretty large), had them pack it in a bag of ice and headed off to lunch (they also had some Indian mackerel, and I picked up a couple of pounds of those too). Two days later I cooked it for lunch, improvizing my way towards a dish we really enjoy at Grand Szechuan. The result was not identical but it was very good. And it’s very easy too.  Continue reading

Ichiddo Ramen (St. Paul)

Here is my second report on ramen in the Twin Cities. The first was of UniDeli, the quick service counter in the middle of the excellent United Noodles store in Minneapolis. Today I move across town to the St. Paul location of Ichiddo Ramen on University Avenue. They currently have thrree Twin Cities locations—the others are in Minneapolis—with more set to open in Roseville, Eden Prairie and Maple Grove. (Interestingly, they also have an outlet in Las Vegas.) I’m not sure which of the Twin Cities locations is the original but they all seem to have the same menu. They were recommended to me by a friend in response to my appeal, at the end of my UniDeli write-up, for more Twin Cities ramen recommendations. Accordingly, when I had to be in the vicinity last week for a spot of bidness we made plans to meet up there. Both our partners needed little arm-twisting to accompany us and between us we sampled enough for me to be able to say that I have a decent sense of their quality. That quality, I thought, is better than at UniDeli.  Continue reading

Tea House II (Minneapolis)


Our first visit to Tea House in Minneapolis was almost three years ago. In my review of that meal I noted that while it was fine on the whole, nothing about it made it worth driving 20 more minutes each way over going to Grand Szechuan. However, after our recent return to Szechuan in Roseville, I figured we should give Tea House another try too—especially as occasional commenter, Jim Grinsfelder always speaks highly of them. Well, we went back a few weekends ago with most of our regular eating-out crew. And I am very happy to say that we liked this meal more than our first. Read on to see what we ate.  Continue reading