Bantam King (Washington D.C.)


My first report from our brief sojourn in DC last week was of our first meal: dinner at Baby Wale. I’d planned to go in order but instead here is a report of our last formal meal in DC: ramen at Bantam King. As with Baby Wale, Bantam King was a recommendation from the excellent community at DonRockwell.com. We’d originally planned to do our ramen eating at Daikaya but it turned out that they were participating in Restaurant Week and were only serving a Restaurant Week menu for dinner with a minimum spend of $35/head. We were only too happy to swap it out for Bantam King. And then we were quite happy with our meal. Continue reading

World’s Best Donuts (Grand Marais, MN)


For a small tourist town Grand Marais engenders quite a lot of disagreement about its restaurants. For every person who told me we had to be sure to eat at Angry Trout, another said it was overrated; some said the Dockside Fish Market was great, others said it had declined in the last few years; a few said the Naniboujou Lodge‘s dining room was a must-do, others advised steering clear. There were only two places that rose above this discord: Crooked Spoon Cafe and the provocatively named World’s Best Donuts. As it happened, we enjoyed our lunch at Crooked Spoon more than any of the other sit-down meals we had on our brief sojourn in the North Shore; but the only place we went to more than once was World’s Best Donuts. Here’s a quick look at why. Continue reading

Baby Wale (Washington D.C.)


We’ve been in DC since the beginning of the week. Our major agenda here is non-stop visits to the various Smithsonian museums with the boys and trying to eat reasonably well, with lunches in the vicinity of the museums and dinners not too far from our hotel by the Convention Center. For the meals I received a number of excellent recommendations from members of the excellent DonRockwell.com forums—easily the best resource for DC area dining tips (and more). Among the places mentioned within walking distance of our hotel was Baby Wale. My kids were very excited when I told them we were going there and then less excited when they learned that the name referred not to infant cetaceans but to a type of fabric. Now, like them, you may be wondering why anyone would choose to name their restaurant Baby Wale. The answer is that this is the second restaurant opened (some 5-6 years ago) by the proprietors of a long-standing restaurant named Corduroy. That restaurant is in fact next door and is a fairly formal affair. Baby Wale is an altogether more informal place, from decor/feel to the casual livery of the servers to the menu. It’s not exactly a family restaurant—really more of a pub—but the menu worked really well for our family. And early’ish on a Monday night (well, I don’t know if 7.30 is that early) it was perfectly fine with two small kids. Herewith the details on our meal. Continue reading

Smoked Fish and Fudge (Grand Marais, MN)


No, not at the same time. Just a quick look at two quick stops we made in Grand Marais at the beginning and end of our North Shore sojourn in early July.

Dockside Fish & Seafood was actually originally on my list of places to stop at for lunch—friends who’d eaten there some years ago recommended their fish and chips highly. However, on a Facebook group a number of people said that ownership had changed and that quality had dipped and so we opted to eat lunch at the Angry Trout right alongside instead. And I wish we’d eaten lunch at Dockside on our second day instead of at the Naniboujou Lodge—there’s no way it could have been more underwhelming than that meal was. Continue reading

Damas (Montreal)


In my recent review of the South Indian restaurant, Thanjai I noted that Montreal is home to a large number of restaurants from non-Francophone immigrant communities. I may have given the impression that these restaurants are all relatively obscure. This is not true. Indeed, my review today is of a Syrian restaurant that is one of the city’s most popular: Damas. It has been open for about 10 years now (I think), moving into its new, expanded digs about five years ago. On my first and second trips to Montreal in 2015 and 2016 no one told me I had to eat there. But this time it was probably the place most people told me to go to. I was planning dinner with old graduate school friends who live in Montreal, and they who once had the (now closed) Hotel Herman as their favourite restaurant in the city now said Damas is now in that spot. And so that is where we ended up for dinner on a Wednesday night. Continue reading

Cheng Heng II (St. Paul, MN)


One of my favourite meals of 2018 was eaten very early in the year, at the Twin Cities’ premier Cambodian restaurant, Cheng Heng on University Ave. in St Paul (where else?). We went there with a lot of friends and we all loved the food. It had taken us more than 10 years to get there and we resolved to come back very soon. Of course, as happens with most of our resolutions, we didn’t end up actually keeping it. We did make it to St. Paul’s other excellent Camboadian restaurant, Kolap, later in the year but it wasn’t until this past weekend that we finally made it back to Cheng Heng. There isn’t much of a point to this lead-up except to say that I hope you are better than us at going to Cheng Heng because it really is a very good restaurant and we really should all go there more often. Yes, we liked this lunch a lot too. Continue reading

Thanjai (Montreal)


South Indian food in Montreal? Why not? While associated with cooking in the French idiom, Montreal is home to a large number of restaurants featuring the cuisines of the large number of immigrant communities that can be found in the city. Jewish concerns like Schwartz’s and St. Viateur may be the most famous, having become iconically Montrealer. The Portuguese presence is also long established as are immigrants from Francophone countries such as Haiti and Vietnam. But there are other communities as well—Montreal is home to a dizzying array of languages. On our final full day in the city we spent the morning in conversation with two non-profit groups in the Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood that work with immigrant communities, especially people from lower income brackets. Right next to the building that houses the second group is Thanjai, a restaurant recommended to us for dosas. All 13 of us accordingly descended on them for lunch. Herewith an account of our experience. Continue reading

Lunch at the Naniboujou Lodge (Grand Marais)


The Naniboujou Lodge is located about 15 minutes north of Grand Marais proper. Granted I had not really looked into the North Shore until days before arriving there for the first time earlier this month, but I have to say that I am a bit surprised I had not previously heard of the Naniboujou Lodge. This because it’s a place that might be best described as…unusual. And in the recent/current cultural climate in the US it might also have been expected to have become a bit controversial. But as far as I know, this hasn’t really happened. Now, I’m not wishing controversy on the place or its owners, but when you read up on its history and look at the pictures below of the design of its dining room you might get a sense of why I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it caught up in cultural appropriation discussions. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Rosewood (Toronto)


Here is some better dim sum than last reported on from Minnesota. The dim sum at Rosewood in Toronto was nothing amazing on its own terms but was on a whole other level than that at Mandarin Kitchen which was no good at all. Of course, Toronto is one of the major centers of Chinese immigration and cuisine in North America, and for Cantonese food in particular Vancouver is said by the knowledgable to be the only metro above it. However, the best Chinese food in Toronto is now found not in the city proper but in the suburbs of Scarborough, Markham and Richmond Hill. The old Chinatown is no longer the center of Chinese food in the city. However, my group was staying close to Chinatown and we did not have space in our itinerary for a long round-trip just to eat brunch. And so a couple of us cast about for plausible places in Chinatown and Rosewood showed up on both our radars. Continue reading

Tenant II (Minneapolis)


Tenant opened in the old Piccolo space, just a month or so after that great restaurant closed in the spring of 2017 (though in Minnesota it may still have been winter). We tried to go eat there a few times that first year but it wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that we finally managed it. We really liked that meal and wanted to go back a lot sooner than in another year and a half. Alas, between our schedules, travel and the difficulty of scoring seats at the tiny restaurant it was almost another year before we made it back for our second meal. That was last weekend. We liked this meal even more and I think we are both ready to say that it may in fact now be our favourite and quite likely the best fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities metro. Depending on your view of fine dining in the Twin Cities you may think this faint or high praise but either way Tenant is very good indeed. And we are already plotting a return in September. Continue reading

The Crooked Spoon Cafe (Grand Marais, MN)


Back to the North Shore. My previous review of a Grand Marais restaurant really bothered a few people on a North Shore Facebook group. I thought it was a positive review with a couple of caveats but it appears that for some people anything short of a rave qualifies as a pan. One of them went so far as to tell me that I should preface all my reviews with the phrase, “I have no credibility but this is my opinion…” Accordingly, I inform you that I have no credibility but this post contains my opinions of our lunch at the Crooked Spoon Cafe, eaten a couple of days after our lunch at the Angry Trout. Please don’t take it too personally but I liked it.  Continue reading

Quetzal (Toronto)


Back to Toronto. As you probably do not recall, I was there with for a few days with a group of colleagues in June. On the first night the entire group ate a banquet dinner at Crown Princess together. On the second night I ate dinner by myself at Canis. On the third and final night two members of the group joined me for dinner at Quetzal, a modern Mexican restaurant that has garnered strong reviews since its opening last year. I gather that the strongest of the reviews came when the original chefs were on board. Early in 2019, however, there was a parting of the ways over artistic differences and a new regime took charge. I was advised that it was still worth a visit and so I decided to make the reservation. Continue reading

Golden Horseshoe II: Sichuan Boogaloo (St. Paul, MN)


I have a double bill for you today. Having already posted a pan of a bad meal at an inexplicably praised restaurant let me now counter the negativity with a rave for a very good meal at an inexplicably ignored restaurant: Golden Horseshoe, the Sichuan residency at Cook St. Paul. I have already posted a longer review of our first dinner there. This will be a much shorter post with the aim of urging those of you who have not yet gone to go. And to inform/remind you that time is running out on the possibility of going. The residency was supposed to run through the end of August but is now terminating at the end of July. Sunday, July 28 will be the last service. As they only do dinner Thursdays to Sundays (5-9 pm) this means you have eight opportunities left to go. Go this week if you can; you’ll probably want to go again and will kick yourself if you don’t leave yourself the opportunity. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Mandarin Kitchen (Bloomington, MN)


Oh boy, this post is going to win me even more friends and well-wishers in the Twin Cities food world.

My views on dim sum in the Twin Cities have never been popular. Many people here say that the dim sum scene in the Twin Cities is very good. In this they are supported by members of the local food media. Exhibit A for this position is Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington, a restaurant whose dim sum selection has recently been described by one critic who dislikes me intensely as “dizzying, dazzling”. Alas, our opinion—the missus and mine—has always been that Mandarin Kitchen is in fact the worst of a ho-hum lot. We liked Jun Bo in Richfield better (before it closed) and still prefer Yangtze in St. Louis Park and the far less written about A&L Chinese in Inver Grove Heights. However, our last meal at Mandarin Kitchen was some years ago. That meal was so bad we’d sworn to never go back; but my parents are in town again and they always want to go to dim sum and Mandarin Kitchen is the most conveniently located of all dim sum houses for us. And so we decided to go back and see if things have improved. Here are our findings. Continue reading