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 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
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
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
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
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
There is no Thai food of any kind in our little town, decent or otherwise. This has meant going all the way up to University Avenue in St. Paul anytime we have a big Thai craving. Our attempts to find plausible alternatives to these long drives to On’s Kitchen or Bangkok Thai Deli have so far led us to Thai Curry House in Burnsville (decent), Spice in Savage (not good) and Taste of Thai Yai in Apple Valley (somewhere in between). Accordingly, when Joy’s Pattaya Thai in Richfield was recommended in February by an occasional reader as a good option for Thai food in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis, I filed it away. My mental filing system being what it is, we only just ended up going there for the first time this past weekend. Here is an account of what we found. Continue reading
That Minnesota has a large Somali population is well known. Less well known is the fact that there are immigrants here from a number of other African nations as well—as per this article, in 2015 Minnesota had the 9th largest African population in the US and experts believe the number of immigrants—taking foreign and US born populations together—may be twice the reported number . Of this population the Twin Cities metro area was home to almost 25,000 Ethiopians in 2015—a dramatic rise since 2000 when the population was just above 6000. This is reflected in a sizable number of Ethiopian restaurants, many of which—and some would say, the best of which—can be found on or off University Avenue in St. Paul. The University/Snelling area in particular—a key node of “Little Africa”—has a number of Ethiopian businesses. Of these businesses, Fasika is one of the most iconic. After our visit to the Little Africa festival in August we were inspired to eat more Ethiopian food and Fasika seemed like the best place to renew the acquaintance. Continue reading
Though you wouldn’t know it from my unending stream of reviews of restaurants in London and Scotland—interrupted only by a writeup of the Little Africa festival in St. Paul last month—we’ve been back in Minnesota for almost three months now. And though you wouldn’t also know this from the blog, we’ve been eating a lot of one of the cuisines that Minnesota has far better exemplars of than London: Vietnamese (the other is Mexican). Accordingly, I am taking the opportunity to resume the slow-motion survey of noodle soup purveyors in the Twin Cities metro area that I’d commenced last winter with reviews of Pho Hoa, Pho 79 and Cam Ranh Bay. And what better place to start than Trieu Chau, which has been around for almost 30 years on University Avenue in St. Paul and remains one of the local gold standards for pho and more. No one in the broader Twin Cities area who likes Vietnamese food needs to be told about Trieu Chau but it’s always good to confirm that the old reliables are still reliable. Continue reading
On Saturday we went up to St. Paul to take in some of the 4th Annual Little Africa Fest. It was held in Hamline Park, at the corner of Lafond and Snelling (free admission). There are quite a few African restaurants and businesses in the area and there’s also a sizable immigrant African population: Somalis and Ethiopians, in particular, but also Eritreans and immigrants from various west African nations. This is a part of the Twin Cities that we have not previously seen much of or interacted with and we’re eager to close that gap. Our town in semi-rural, southern Minnesota is not remarkably culturally diverse (though there’s more diversity here than most might imagine) and as our kids get older it becomes more and more urgent for us to get them to see Minnesota as not just a sea of whiteness. Fortunately, the Twin Cities offer plenty of opportunities to expand cultural horizons. Continue reading
Ever since we found out about the impending closing back in December we’ve gone back with a number of friends who enjoy the restaurant as much as we do, and we did so again last Friday. We are going to miss this jewel of a restaurant dearly. Yes, there are some other excellent fine dining restaurants in the Twin Cities—and yes, we’ll go back more often to some of them now (Alma and Spoon and Stable especially)—but what Chef Flicker and his team have accomplished at Piccolo is something quite unique. Yes, his mark is on Esker Grove at the Walker and will doubtless be on Tenant, the new restaurant from two members of his Piccolo team which will take over the Piccolo space, but of all the major closings in recent years this is, in my view, the most irreplaceable. Chef Flicker himself will be moving on to something altogether more informal and while I’m sure it will be excellent it is not going to be Piccolo. God knows he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants but this is a big loss for our dining scene. Continue reading
It was almost three years ago that I first wrote up El Triunfo, a small family-run Mexican eatery and market in Northfield, MN. We’ve been eating there at a regular clip since and the time seems right to post a quick update on the blog. It’s not that there have been major changes to the menu. In fact, not only are there are no new things on the menu since I last reviewed them but a few things have dropped off the menu. Tragically, they no longer have goat barbacoa on the weekends (I was told a while ago that not enough people were ordering it) and some of the things on the regular menu have also dropped off. Business on the whole, however, I am happy to say, seems to be going really well. Continue reading
Back to Somali food, back to Burnsville. Tawakal is located a little further south from the Twin Cities than Nawal: going north or south on Highway 35, you take the Burnsville Parkway east, turn left on Nicollet and it’s almost immediately on the right in a strip mall anchored, as is the law in Minnesota, by a Caribou Coffee. It’s much more established than Nawal is: it’s been around a while, has been written up in various Twin Cities publications (the pieces are pasted to a wall) and abuts a grocery store and boutique of the same name. But what is the food like? Read on. Continue reading
Will this be an account of our last meal at Piccolo? I hope not but they seem to be entirely booked up from now through their closing on March 11. I’m hoping we can get in one more time but if not, at least our last meal there will have been excellent. After eating there in mid-December and again over the New Year’s weekend, we went back again in late-January with another set of friends who are also big fans and we were all well pleased.
This review and, if we can indeed get in one more time, that of our next meal there will be the exceptions to my recent shift of emphasis to smaller immigrant-run restaurants. Piccolo was our favourite restaurant in the Twin Cities and I wanted to say farewell. Next week we’ll be back to Somali food. Continue reading