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

UniDeli (Minneapolis)


United Noodles is a Twin Cities institution. For those of you not in the Twin Cities, it is a pan-Asian grocery store that stocks a large portion of what a home cook looking to make Japanese, Chinese or Korean food at home might need—and their South Asian selection will get you by as well. From vegetables not sold at regular groceries to skin-on pork belly and fish with their heads still on, from a variety of dried mushrooms to a variety of dried chiles, United Noodles is as close as you can get to a one-stop shop for stocking a pan-Asian pantry. Of course, there are stores dedicated to Korean (Dong Yang), Vietnamese and Hmong (Shuang Hur), and South Asian (a whole bunch off Central Ave. in Northeast Minneapolis, or TBS Mart in Richfield) food but United Noodles is where you can shop for most of what you need of most of those cuisines (plus Thai). And at UniDeli, the quick service counter at the center of the store, you can grab a pretty decent lunch as well, whether you are buying anything else or no.  Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, January-March 2018


I present this with apologies to Heavy Table for ripping off one of their features (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery etc.). I’ll only be doing this four times a year, not every week—so not very much ripping off. It’s a simple idea: the best five dishes I’ve eaten in the last quarter of the year in the Twin Cities. The emphasis is on dishes that are still/always available. If I’ve eaten something I liked a lot at a restaurant whose menu updates often, I will not include it here unless I ate it so recently that it would still be available for an appreciable amount of time to whichever poor schmuck might actually be influenced by one of my posts to go seek it out. This first installment accordingly does not include anything I ate at my birthday dinner at Spoon and Stable (the fusili with lamb ragu that I really liked is already gone). It does include a number of tasty things you can still find easily for much less than you’d pay at Spoon and Stable.  Continue reading

Szechuan II (Roseville, MN)


At the end of last week’s review of an excellent dinner at Demera I noted that this week’s review would be of a disappointing Sichuan meal. This is that meal, eaten at Szechuan (in Roseville). I should say right off the bat, however, that it was not by any means a bad meal; it was, however, disappointing on account of some changes in the menu and how it was presented on their website when we decided to go eat there. This menu presentation raised our expectations in a specific way and those were far from met. Anyone unencumbered by those expectations—which would be almost anyone else eating there—would have far less to complain about. What am I talking about? Read on to find out and then keep reading to see what we actually ate and what we thought of it.  Continue reading

Demera (St. Paul)


Here is only my second review of an Ethiopian restaurant in the Twin Cities. I reviewed Fasika last fall and had planned to get to more Ethiopian places before the year ended. Alas, as with most of my well-intentioned plans—okay, all of them—I didn’t stick to it. And so my review of Demera comes 3-4 months after I’d thought it would. It is also located on University Avenue in St. Paul, a mile or two away from Fasika. It doesn’t have the reputation or name-recognition of Fasika—and it’s not easy to spot or easy on the eyes from the outside—but based on our recent dinner, I might say the food is better here.  Continue reading

Lao Thai (St. Paul)


My last four Minnesota restaurant reviews have been re-reviews—of House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, On’s Kitchen and A&L Chinese. One of the nice things about being an independent blogger is that there’s no compulsion to only review new places or places you haven’t been to before. And I hope that to my few readers from the Twin Cities (and environs) there’s some value to seeing follow-up reports from places that the professionals haven’t covered in a few years or more. This week’s review, however, is of a place I’ve not only not reviewed before, I’d not eaten there before the meal covered in this review: Lao Thai, or as they also bill themselves, Family Lao Thai. It’s another institution on University Avenue in St. Paul: opposite Trieu Chau and not too far away from Thai Garden or Thai Cafe. As the name proclaims, their food is a mix of Thai and Lao; and I am happy to tell you that you should go and eat their food.  Continue reading

House of Curry II (Rosemount, MN)


Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: House of Curry is the best South Asian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area; and it’s not even close. Now you may say that comparing a Sri Lankan restaurant to the Twin Cities’ Indian restaurants is misguided but you’d be wrong. Sri Lankan food is closer to South Indian food—especially of Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu—than either are to North Indian food of any kind. And Sri Lankan food is also closer to North Indian food than North Indian food is to the cuisines of the states of the North East. In South Asia political geography does not always map on to cultural connections. And though the food served at House of Curry is some distance from the Bengali flavours of my own home state, it still checks most of my boxes; when I eat it I feel at home. And this makes sense also because the food at House of Curry tastes like good home cooking. If you haven’t been, you should go. And if like us at the first of the two meals covered here, you haven’t been in a couple of years you should go soon. We are happy to drive 20 minutes to Rosemount to eat there and we’d happily drive further as well. So should you.  Continue reading

Spoon and Stable II


After a long run of reviews of more affordable places in the Twin Cities metro area, here is a review of a recent dinner at one of the top contenders to be the Twin Cities’ best fine dining restaurant: Spoon and Stable. We enjoyed our first dinner there in late 2015, less than a year after they opened, and had always meant to go back soon for another meal. However, more than three years past their opening they remain a difficult reservation and so it took almost 2.5 years for us to finally get back (I don’t mean to suggest that we were trying to get a table every month after that first meal). I guess it’s a positive development that we were able to get in on a Friday this time—but even booking a month ahead, the best we could do was 9.15. Anyway, this dinner was as good as the first in some ways, lesser and better in others.  Continue reading

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