Bagundi 2 (Delhi, January 2020)


From the North East to the south and to a restaurant I first ate at on my trip to Delhi in December 2018. Bagundi, located in M block on the Connaught Place outer circle, features the food of Andhra Pradesh. The state in fact split into two in 2014, or rather a new state, Telangana was carved out of the north-western parts of the old Andhra Pradesh. As far as I can make out, Bagundi’s conception of Andhra food is not affecting by these border re-drawings: their menu features most of the dishes I would have expected to see on an Andhra menu prior to 2014.
Continue reading

Hornbill (Delhi, January 2020)


Back to Humayunpur, back to another restaurant featuring the food of a North Eastern state. On Sunday I reviewed a dinner at the Manipuri restaurant, Eat Pham—a dinner we really enjoyed. A few days later we went back to the same market and embarked on a very similar hunt for another restaurant, Hornbill, which serves food from Nagaland. While our Eat Pham outing was our first encounter with Manipuri food, Hornbill was our second Naga meal in Delhi in as many trips as a family. We were last here all together in January 2016 (I’ve come on my own in between a few times) and on that trip one of our favourite meals was at Dzükou in Hauz Khas. Dzükou has since closed in that location. I’ve heard tell it has reopened in Vasant Kunj, but we didn’t need to go quite that far from Noida when there are a number of Naga places in Humayunpur and environs, and Hornbill particularly well-reviewed among them. We descended on them with the same friends we’d eaten at Dzükou with four years ago. Here is what we found after we found the restaurant. Continue reading

Demi (Minneapolis)


Demi is Chef Gavin Kaysen’s third fine dining restaurant (I think) in the Twin Cities metro. He made waves a few years ago when he returned from a long and successful stint cooking in New York to open Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. That restaurant was an immediate sensation, receiving rave reviews and becoming almost immediately one of the hottest tickets in town. We’ve eaten there twice and enjoyed both meals (here and here). Indeed, we’d say that it is the best more or less traditional fine dining restaurant we’ve eaten at in the Twin Cities (this includes the long-gone La Belle Vie, which we found rather overrated on our one visit there). Kaysen’s second restaurant, Bellecour opened in Wayzata a few years later. It presents a menu in a more straight-ahead French bistro tradition (we have not eaten there yet). Demi, which opened in early 2019, offers a third expression yet of Kaysen’s cuisine. Continue reading

The Categorical Eat Pham (Delhi, January 2020)


We’re coming to the end of our stay in Delhi on this trip (we’ve been here for almost two weeks). Coming “home” to Delhi has become progressively alienating in the 26+ years since I left for graduate school in the US. For the first  few years it was like falling back easily into a mother tongue you don’t speak in your day-to-day life. After that as the Indian economy liberalized and the mediascape and urban landscape began to transform radically, trips “home” began to feel increasingly foreign: familiar roads and places became harder to map, my old points of reference were no longer reliable. And, of course, as my life in the US—work, marriage, children—became more established the question of which was “home” became more blurred. This is, of course, a familiar immigrant story. Though there is a great deal of class privilege encoded in the fact that I have been able to be a regular visitor to India (for weeks at a time) ever since I left, I don’t want to claim that there’s anything exceptional about this sort of thing. But for me this trip has been different. Continue reading

Krungthep Thai (St. Paul, MN)


I have reviewed a Twin Cities restaurant named Krungthep Thai before. This both isn’t and is that restaurant. Confusing, I know. That Krungthep Thai was located on Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis—the so-called “Eat Street”; the real Eat Street, of course, is University Ave. in St. Paul. It closed some years ago and Khun Nai Thai (which I have also reviewed) opened in its space. This Krung Thep Thai then popped up on Rice Street. in St. Paul a couple of years later. Both were/are satellite locations of Bangkok Thai Deli, which sits, along with On’s Kitchen, atop the Twin Cities Thai food scene. Now, while we liked our meal at Krungthep Thai mostly fine, we found it to be an inferior facsimile of Bangkok Thai Deli. For this reason, I was reluctant to go try this new incarnation. But curiosity and greed finally overcame my hesitation. Accordingly we descended on them last month with friends we eat out with often. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Chana Masala


This is a dish prepared in two ways that are unusual for me. First, it uses non-Rancho Gordo chickpeas. That is because this uses kala chana or black chickpeas (though in practice they’re usually a dark brown). These smaller, darker chickpeas have been eaten in India much longer than the relatively recently arrived garbanzo bean or Kabuli chana—which name likely refers to its direction of entry. Kala chana has an earthier flavour and denser texture than Kabuli chanaa and maintains its shape as it cooks. Rancho Gordo does not currently sell kala chana (though I have heard a rumour this may change in the near future). It is, however, easily found in South Asian groceries and also on Amazon. Non-Rancho Gordo beans means a longer stovetop cooking time but if you use a pressure cooker—as I do—this is not an issue. Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2019 (Bloomington, MN)


Here is my annual report from meals eaten at Grand Szechuan, the restaurant we eat at more often than any other in the Twin Cities metro. It is probably our family’s favourite restaurant in the area, one we eat at over and over again without repeating too many dishes from their voluminous menu. Twin Cities restaurant reviewers often make inflated claims for the quality of our restaurants relative to those in major cities. Oddly, Grand Szechuan never seems to be brought up in these conversations—odd, because in our opinion it is the one restaurant in the area serving any kind of Asian cuisine that would hold its own in Los Angeles. I’m not saying it would be in the top tier of Sichuan restaurants in Los Angeles but it would be a successful restaurant (and in fact their menu includes things we have not seen at our favourite restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley). Of course, I am referring here only to their Sichuan menu (which is the bulk of their menu). I have no idea what their American Chinese offerings are like; they’re probably good but they’re not the reason to go here. Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, Oct-Dec 2019 + The Year in Food


After spending a lot of the summer out of the Twin Cities, I was here for the rest of the year. We ate out on our regular schedule—roughly once a week—and I posted my accounts of most those meals in due course (a few will be reported on this month). Here now is my list of the top five dishes eaten in the Twin Cities in that period. My rules, as always for these lists, are: no more than one dish listed per restaurant; and, as far as possible, only those dishes listed that are reliably on the menu of the restaurant in question. This means that I will not be listing anything from the excellent lunch thalis I’ve eaten at Kabob’s in Bloomington, as the dishes on the thalis vary from day to day. I would, however, recommend that you go eat one of those thalis soon, perhaps even today. As a bonus, in this recap of the last quarter of the year, I throw in for free a list of my best meals of the year in the Twin Cities and also my best meals of the year, period. Continue reading

Roasted Beet Soup with Cracked Cumin


What is this, a roasted vegetable soup blog? Last week I had a recipe for a soup made with roasted carrots; two weeks ago I had a recipe for a soup made with pan-roasted asparagus; this week I have a recipe for a soup made with roasted beets. If you’ve made the two other soups and fretted that they were not carroty or asparagusy enough then you will be happy to learn that this soup is quite beet-forward. It includes very few other ingredients and a relatively light touch with spices. It does, like the other two, require blending the soup.

Is this an Indian dish? You may well ponder this question after eating this soup or even just after reading the recipe. Well, it’s not a traditional preparation. There aren’t a whole lot of soups per se in the broader Indian repertoire (caveat: it’s a large country) and this does not follow any sort of traditional recipe. But to me it tastes very Indian. I could see making a dish of sauteed beets with much the same ingredients, save the stock. I’d say it’s an Indian dish insofar as it deploys an Indian flavour palette and an Indian technique: adding a tadka of cumin seeds and curry leaves at the end just as you would do with most dals. If you like beets, give it a shot. Continue reading

Coming to Terms with Joe Beef


I ate at Joe Beef for the third time this summer. As those who’ve read my earlier reviews of dinners at Montreal’s temple to gastronomic excess (here and here) know, Joe Beef is my favourite restaurant in its genre in North America. I refer to “the curse of Joe Beef” often when contemplating the lesser offerings of more expensive restaurants in the Twin Cities. Going to Montreal and not eating at Joe Beef seemed unthinkable to me. And so when a trip to Montreal with colleagues materialized earlier this year making a reservation at Joe Beef was one of the the first things I did—I would be taking along with me a couple of friends who’ve heard me rave about the restaurant for some years now. It would be my first dinner there in the summer. Let me explain why we then almost didn’t go and why we finally did. Bewarned: I am going to spend rather less time talking about the meal than about other things. Continue reading

Roasted Carrot Soup with Tamarind


The very first vegetable soup I ever made was a carrot soup, the recipe for which I found, of all places, on the Williams-Sonoma website. That bookmarked link no longer goes anywhere but the recipe lives on in my kitchen as a sort-of template for a large number of vegetable soups: carrots cooked with sauteed leeks in stock till softened, pureed and given some brightness with acid. The recipe I have for you today differs in some important ways—there are no potatoes in this, the acid comes from tamarind, and I add toasted spices and finally the nutty zing of a mustard seed-curry leaf tadka. But the structure is still the same. My thanks to whoever it was that put that recipe up on the Williams-Sonoma site back in the day. Continue reading

Lat14 (Golden Valley, MN)


As I recently noted, the last few years have seen a dramatic upswing in high-end Twin Cities restaurants featuring the cuisines of minority communities. If—as I observed—in the case of Mexican cuisine(s) this phenomenon seems to involve mostly non-Mexican chefs and restaurateurs, in the case of Southeast Asian cuisines the situation is different. Young Joni, whose chef Ann Kim won the Beard award for “Best Chef: Midwest” this year, is probably the most celebrated of these restaurants. Hai Hai, whose chef Christina Nguyen, was nominated for the same award, is not too far behind. (For what it’s worth, we enjoyed our meal at Hai Hai a lot more than our meal at Young Joni.) Lat14, which opened last year in Golden Valley, is the most recent entry in the broad genre. We were there with friends a few weeks ago, and ate a goodly portion of the menu. Here is my review of that meal. Continue reading

Asparagus Soup with Coconut Milk and Lime


The other day I had the rare opportunity to take an undisturbed afternoon nap. As would naturally happen to anyone, when just on the verge of falling asleep my mind summoned forth the image of the bag of aspargus I had in the fridge. I’d used some of it for last week’s panch mishali torkari but there was still a lot of it left. Asparagus, as you know, is not a restful vegetable and the next thing I knew I had an idea for asparagus soup racing through my head. I leapt out of bed and went into the kitchen and made it. And it was good. Being kind, I am willing to share the recipe with you. Things to note are there two. First, despite asparagus being the main ingredient, this is not very asparagusy—you can address this if you so desire by simply using more asparagus. Second, the flavours here are not at all Indian, more Southeast Asian. Okay, lets make soup. Continue reading

Kumar’s Mess and the Changing Face of Indian Food in the Twin Cities Metro (Apple Valley, MN)


We are well into the Golden Age of Indian food in the Twin Cities metro. You might not have a sense of this from the local food media’s restaurant coverage but over the course of the last half-decade or so the Indian population of the Twin Cities metro has been growing steadily and newer restaurants have been opening to cater to this market. As I’ve noted in a number of write-ups on the blog, the new(er) population is likely highly skewed towards South Indians. This can be seen both in what’s on offer in Indian groceries around the metro (see my look at TBS Mart in Bloomington, for example) and in the fact that more and more restaurants have opened in the last few years that have menus focused on South Indian dishes. (I’ve reviewed a few of these—Persis, Bay Leaf, Hyderabad Indian Grill.) Continue reading