Thai Garden (St. Paul)


My last Twin Cities Thai outing—at Khun Nai Thai—in Minneapolis was middling at best. Some things were fine, some things were blah and some things were not very good. We’d thought we’d next return to one of our mainstays on University Avenue in St. Paul—Bangkok Thai Deli or On’s Kitchen—but I was persuaded by the comments on that review to try Thai Cafe next. Alas, an hour before we were scheduled to arrive there with friends we discovered that they were closed for a few days. On a whim we decided to go just a block up University to Thai Garden, a newer place that’s gotten some good press in the last year. The Heavy Table praised them in their Green Line Checklist, and Mecca Bos (then still with City Pages) gave it one of her more than slightly overwrought workouts. Our lunch started out looking like it was going to be in line with those reports but didn’t quite end that way.  Continue reading

Squash “Bisque”


I made this squash “bisque” with Indian spices for a dinner party recently and it turned out quite well. I put bisque in quotes because traditionally a bisque has shellfish or shellfish stock in it and this doesn’t. I was planning to deploy dried shrimp for that purpose but it turned out we were out. The Korean corner of the pantry, however, had some dried anchovies and so I used that instead. It came out very well. The picture here has mussels in it because when I heated up the leftovers a few days later, I brought it to a boil and threw in a pound of mussels. That made it even better. But it’s pretty good without the mussels (and would be very good with shrimp too) and, indeed, the recipe can be very easily adapted to make it vegetarian or even vegan (see below).  Continue reading

Masu Sushi & Noodles (Apple Valley, MN)


Apple Valley, a suburb of the Twin Cities, is not a place you’d probably look for Japanese food in and my experiences at Masu Sushi & Noodles suggest that it’s probably best if you don’t. It’s not bad per se but the best I could say of the best of what I ate was that it was inoffensive. This is generally true of the larger Japanese food scene in the area. Whether it’s the original Origami or newer places like Sushi Fix or Kyatchi, restaurants that would be marginal in most major cities in the US are talked about breathlessly here by the professionals as though they could hold their own anywhere. This makes it hard to know what to make of highly-praised newer places, whether at the high end (see, for example, the new sushi and kaiseki place by an ex-Origami chef) or at the more affordable end (see the newer noodle/ramen shops that have opened in Minneapolis). Well, I can tell you that Masu Sushi & Noodles in Apple Valley is not a place you should go to expecting good sushi or noodles. Believe me, I would be very happy if I could tell you otherwise. Unfortunately, they’ve put far more effort into their vaguely Orientalist decor than into their recipes and execution. Continue reading

Mushroom Masala


I didn’t eat mushrooms till I was in my late-teens. They are not really a part of Bengali cuisine—or at least the subsets of Bengali cuisine that are made in the two branches of my extended family—and even though we lived all over India, mushrooms never entered my mother’s kitchen when I was a kid. It wasn’t until we moved to Delhi, when I started college, that they flashed upon our consciousness and that my mother started cooking them. They were a winter delicacy and cheap and I thought they were incredibly exotic (as my only encounter with them had been in Western literature). I know very little even now about their place in Indian foodways writ large: I still tend to think of them as largely a north Indian thing. I’m probably wrong. Anyway, as you might guess, this is not a traditional recipe of any kind. It is, however, quite delicious.  Continue reading

Ma La Sichuan (London)


Here now, a scant 8.5 months after our first meal there and a mere 5.5 months after we returned from the UK, is a writeup of the first restaurant we ate at in London: Ma La Sichuan, a hop, skip and jump from the door of our flat in Westminster. When we were flat-hunting a few months earlier, long-distance via the help of a friend on the ground, one of the things that had caught our eye about the one we ended up taking was that it was about a 45 second walk from one of London’s better-reviewed Sichuan restaurants. We figured Ma La Sichuan would be our regular go-to for dining-in and taking out. Things didn’t quite work out that way, though we did eat here a few hours after arrival, after dropping our luggage off at the flat, and one more time after that. Why didn’t we eat here more often? Read on.  Continue reading

Tinga de Pavo


Most years I do a traditional roast turkey for Thanksgiving (though I spatchcock/butterfly it to cook it very quickly at high heat). No matter the size of the bird or how many guests we have, we usually have enough turkey left that we get sick of it after the first day of leftovers. Or at least that used to be the case until I started recycling most of it into a down and dirty version of tinga de pavo/pollo. Tinga de pollo is one of the signature dishes at our local Mexican restaurant, El Triunfo, but it’s very easy to make at home. Leftover roast turkey is perfect for this dish which calls for pre-cooked chicken (pollo) or turkey (pavo) breast, shredded and added to a simple sauce made with onions, garlic, tomatoes and chipotle chillies en adobo. Provided you have everything on hand, this is as easy a dish as you can hope to make with leftover turkey.  Continue reading

Khun Nai Thai Cuisine (Minneapolis)


Khun Nai Thai Cuisine sits in the location of the erstwhile Krungthep Thai on Nicollet Avenue. The previous was a satellite location of Bangkok Thai Deli (one of the two very good Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities—On’s Kitchen is the other). We ate there once a few years ago, and while we enjoyed a few things, there were some big problems with the meal—as a result, we never went back and then they eventually closed (I do not mean to suggest cause and effect). Even though we’ve never had good luck with any of the local Thai places outside the big 2, I was intrigued when I heard of Khun Nai; especially as they got a good review on Chowhound for their khao soi—the dish that was the biggest disappointment at our meal at Krungthep Thai. We’re always in the market for good khao soi, and decent Thai food in Minneapolis would be a good thing too. It took us a while to get out there but we did eventually make it in mid-October. And we liked our meal enough to go back again this past weekend. Did the positive streak continue? Read on. Continue reading

Sipson Tandoori (London)


Not counting lunch at Pret a Manger at the airport the next day, this was our last meal on our big UK trip earlier this year. We returned from Glasgow that afternoon to find that in the 10 days we’d been gone a heatwave had hit London. We managed to get from King’s Cross to Heathrow with our luggage without dying of heatstroke and took a cab to our hotel (in the ring of business hotels around Heathrow). The dinner options were to eat expensively at the hotel or to look for things close by. Sipson Tandoori was a short cab ride away and as the internet did not disclose mass deaths by food poisoning among its customers, it was there we repaired. It’s a regulation curry house but it seemed appropriate to end our UK eating at a regulation curry house. As it happened, it was not a bad meal.  Continue reading

Lyn 65 (Minneapolis)


I’ve been meaning to eat at Lyn 65 for some time now. Things in its favour: being located in Richfield, it’s a bit closer to us than restaurants in Minneapolis or St. Paul proper; the prices are quite a bit lower than at the big names in the aforementioned cities; and it’s not hard to get reservations. Thing that kept us from going: the menu never particularly grabbed our fancy. However, a few weeks ago I ended up there for dinner with a few friends after an event. It was an enjoyable enough meal. And though I wasn’t planning to write it up, I had my cellphone camera on hand and decided to go for it. Herewith some details.  Continue reading

Thairiffic (Glasgow)


After Tuesday’s review of a meal at an outpost of London’s Thai Square chain, here is a review of another basic Thai restaurant in the UK, this time in Glasgow. We used Glasgow entirely as a port of entry and departure for our Scotland trip in June. On our way in we arrived by train in the evening, had dinner at the closest Nando’s and left for Drumnadrochit the next morning. On our way out we arrived in the late afternoon from Islay via Tarbert and wanted to eat somewhere other than Nando’s. We looked around our hotel and spotted Thairiffic, a restaurant whose food, we reasoned, was bound to be better than its name.  Continue reading

Thai Square (London)


I said in my review of meals at Smoking Goat, the hip and casual Thai restaurant in Bloomsbury, that it’s not the kind of place where you should expect tom yum or drunken noodles or large bowls of curry. Thai Square, however, is. It’s a chain with a large number of locations in London (though very far from the ubiquity of Itsu) and they all serve fairly mainstream Thai food. Having walked by a number of their locations over our first few weeks in London, we finally succumbed to our curiosity on leaving the V&A at lunch time one Friday and seeing their South Kensington location close at hand. Herewith the details.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Yangtze (St. Louis Park, MN)

I wrote up dim sum at Yangtze a few years ago in my first post on dim sum in the Twin Cities. That post upset some people in the area. There’s a tendency among a subset of Twin Cities foodies and journalists to inflate the state of the local food scene and I took issue then with the notion that dim sum in the Twin Cities deserved high praise. Not only was it not on par in 2014 with dim sum in Denver more than 10 years ago but compared to that in cities in the US with significant Chinese populations, the best dim sum here seemed fourth rate. And that best dim sum here, in our opinion then, was at Yangtze. (Our last meal at Mandarin Kitchen was atrocious.) But it’s not like we like Yangtze enough to make the near two hour round-trip trek unless we have guests who really want to go.

Well, my parents were recently in town and since, as I’ve said before, even fourth rate American dim sum is better than what’s available in Delhi, we made the drive (in pouring rain). And we were hoping that maybe in the time since our last visit things had in fact improved. I am sorry to say that not only did our opinion of Twin Cities dim sum not improve from the experience but our opinion of Yangtze also took a hit.  Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Fall 2017


I’ve reviewed two previous dinners at Alma (one from 2014 and one from 2015). As I’ve said previously, before Piccolo became our favourite high-end restaurant in the Twin Cities, and a place we returned to again and again, Alma used to be the place we ate at most often. Now, of course, Piccolo is gone. And so, when the missus’ birthday rolled around earlier this month, we decided to go back again to Alma, for our first expensive meal in the Cities since Piccolo closed and we left for London. This was also our first meal there since Alma closed and reopened late last year after an extensive remodel. Continue reading

Salaam Namaste (London)


Salaam Namaste in the general Russell Square/Bloomsbury area, within walking distance of Chilli Cool and Noble Rot—and also the British Library and the Dickens Museum, for those whose lives are driven more by their brains than their bellies—would be one of the best Indian restaurants in most American cities. In London it occupies a middle ground between curry houses like Punjab and Ajanta and far more ambitious and fancy (and expensive) Michelin-bait places like Tamarind, Trishna, Quilon or the Cinnamon Club (yes, I know Cinnamon Club doesn’t actually have a Michelin star). Of the last mentioned set they’re closest in conception to Tamarind, presenting updated curry house fare along with putative regional fare. I organized a large group dinner here towards the end of our London sojourn.  Continue reading