A&L Chinese: Dim Sum Again (Inver Grove Heights, MN)


Back in November I wrote up a very disappointing dim sum meal at Yangtze in St. Louis Park and ended by noting that I’d give A&L Chinese one more shot, and that if it turned out as bad as our meal at Yangtze I’d be done with dim sum in the Twin Cities metro. Accordingly, with a lot riding on it, I returned to A&L last weekend with most of the group of people who’ve been accompanying me to the Twin Cities meals I’ve recently reviewed. I’m glad to say that while the meal was nothing very special it was a lot better than the Yangtze debacle and that A&L Chinese remains the one passable option for dim sum in the area.  Continue reading

On’s Kitchen III (St. Paul)


After an iffy report from Minneapolis (of dinner at Kado no Mise), I have a very positive report from St. Paul: of lunch at one of the most reliable restaurants in the Twin Cities, On’s Kitchen. This is my third review of the Twin Cities’s best Thai restaurant. We’ve eaten there several times since my previous review and somehow it’s been 2.5 years since I’ve got to writing them up again. We were there for lunch last weekend with a small subset of our usual dining out crew and we ordered a number of old favourite dishes plus some we haven’t eaten so often. It was all very good.  Continue reading

Kado no Mise (Minneapolis)


Well, it has been two and a half years since my last foray into a sushi bar proclaimed excellent by the local media. Since that less than inspiring meal a new contender has emerged on the scene: Kado no Mise. Unpromisingly, it features the same chef from Origami, Shige Furukawa, who presided over our disastrous lunch there in 2014, and it’s in the same space. At this point you would think that I would know better than to fall for praise that’s so easily dished out in this area but hope of good raw fish springs eternal in my cold, cold heart. And so when an old friend from our Colorado days blew into town on work I made a reservation at Kado no Mise’s bar and met her there for dinner on a Wednesday night. I’m pleased to say that the meal was not a disaster. I’m less pleased to say that it was, nonetheless, passable at best and that a few things were not very good at all.  Continue reading

Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant (St. Paul, MN)


Babani’s claims to be the first Kurdish restaurant in the United States. I say “claims” not because I have any reason to doubt them but because their origin story starts with the wonderful first sentence, “There was, there wasn’t…” This origin story, which is plastered on their website and on their menu (you can read it below) may be—despite some poor proofreading—the most original in the admittedly not-very studied genre of restaurant origin stories: charming despite presenting some rather old-fashioned views of the relationship between men and women; substituting for desultory listings of kitchen antecedents and wealthy backers, a playful tale of immigrant movement and desire that is as touching as it is tall.

A Kurdish restaurant in Minnesota? Why not? There are plenty of us here who never expected to end up in a place like this, so different from the climates—emotional and physical—we grew up in. The story of what it means to be Minnesotan is still being written. Continue reading

Cheng Heng: Cambodian Cuisine in St. Paul


Cambodian cuisine does not have a very high profile in the US. I’m not aware of any city that is reputed to have a significant Cambodian population, leave alone a significant Cambodian restaurant presence. Well, the greater L.A. metro area, probably, but even there there isn’t much talk of South East Asian cuisines beyond Vietnamese. While Minnesota’s Cambodian population is quite a bit lower than its Hmong and Vietnamese populations, we do have the fifth highest Cambodian population in the US outside California. As far as I know, this population is only represented by one major Cambodian restaurant: the venerable Cheng Heng on University Avenue in St. Paul. A Cambodian island in a sea of Thai, Vietnamese and Lao eateries, Cheng Heng has been around longer than most of them—about 21 years now. I’m embarrassed to say that even though this is our 11th year in Minnesota, we only just got around to eating there this past weekend. And I’m very sorry we waited this long as we really enjoyed the meal.  Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2017 (Bloomington, MN)


Grand Szechuan is the Twin Cities area restaurant we eat at most often. Rather than report on every meal, for the last few years I’ve been posting yearly roundups instead. This year we weren’t there as often as usual. This is largely because we were gone for a chunk of the year, and given how much we ate out in the UK, and the fact that it was good to be back in our own kitchen, we didn’t eat out very much for the first few months after our return either. This roundup therefore includes a few dishes eaten at meals in the mid and late summer but mostly comprises a blowout meal we ate there this last Sunday with what has become our regular eating-out crew. As last restaurant meals of the year go, it was a very good one. And we ate so much that it also ended up being our last meal of the year—we passed on dinner.  Continue reading

Thai Cafe (St. Paul)


My survey of the Twin Cities Thai restaurant scene continues and we’re once again on University Avenue in St. Paul. We ended up at Thai Garden last week (see the review) while attempting to eat at Thai Cafe—they were closed for a few days at the end of last week. We managed to fulfill the quest a week later. Our party included everyone who was at the Thai Garden lunch plus a couple more adults. We managed to eat quite a bit of the menu. And if we weren’t quite as impressed with Thai Garden as some of its press had led us to expect we might be, I am happy to report that Thai Cafe lived up to their own laudatory press. Indeed, after the first couple of dishes we were ready to place it on the On’s Kitchen level. And if not for an unfortunate error that marred the second half of the meal (see below), we might well have ended up there, at least at the level of the cooking.  Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

Pho Tau Bay (Minneapolis)


In the last year I’ve posted a number of reviews of Vietnamese restaurants in the Twin Cities and environs. There are two major thoroughfares in the area where the best of these can be found. One is University Avenue in St. Paul (home to Trieu Chau); the other is Nicollet “Eat Street” Avenue in Minneapolis. I’m yet to cover University Avenue in any detail but have already posted write-ups of two Vietnamese restaurants at the north end of Eat Street (Pho Hoa and Pho 79). Close to the middle of the street is the one that’s the most popular one of them all, Quang. This is not a review of Quang but of the restaurant that is at the very south end, the very end of Eat Street: Pho Tau Bay. It’s not exactly unknown but it’s also not talked about as much as it should be when it comes to Vietnamese food in the Twin Cities. Here’s a brief write-up.  Continue reading