Thai Cafe, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We ate at Thai Cafe for the first time late in 2017, really liked the meal despite a major misstep (a number of dishes came out sans heat), and vowed to come back again soon. Predictably, it took us almost another year to make it back, but make it back we did. With us were most of the people who had joined us on the first occasion. We were a large group—eight adults and our two brats—and we got a large number of dishes that we hadn’t tried on that first visit (please read that review if you have not already done so). I am pleased to report that the second meal was not a letdown—in fact, it was better than the first.  Continue reading

Peninsula, Again (Minneapolis)


I recently re-reviewed Homi two years after my first report. Next week I’ll have a return visit to a Thai restaurant in St. Paul that I first reviewed last year. In between those here is a second review of a restaurant in Minneapolis that I first reviewed four years ago. Peninsula remains the pre-eminent Malaysian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area—though it must be admitted that that is not saying very much. Of the two other Malaysian places we’ve been to here, one is just about passable (Satay 2 Go in Apple Valley) and our meal at the other was atrocious (Singapore in south Minneapolis, now closed). As far as I know, there are no others; please correct me below if this is incorrect. Anyway, Peninsula, I am glad to report, remains pretty consistently what they were four and even ten years ago and if you navigate their menu carefully it is very possible to eat a good meal.  Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, July-September 2018

It’s October and therefore it is time for my list of top 5 dishes eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the third quarter of the year. The ground rules for this series of posts are a) that the dishes have to be ones that are either regularly available at the restaurants or still available at the time of the post; and b) that only dish will be listed per restaurant. Rule 1 prevents me from listing our favourite dishes from our dinner at Tenant in early September—their menu turns over every six weeks. And Rule 2 prevents me from listing three dishes from our recent lunch at Thai Cafe. The observant Twin Cities reader will notice that there are four restaurants in this list that are not just located in St. Paul but are located along one street in St. Paul. University Ave. in St. Paul is, in my opinion, the greatest food street in the area—I may have a separate post this month extolling its virtues. But to be fair, we just happened to not eat very much in Minneapolis in the last few months. Minneapolis may be better for high-end food but the food we crave most is more recent immigrant food, especially from Asia, and St. Paul is, on the whole, far superior to Minneapolis for those cuisines.  Continue reading

Homi, Again (St. Paul, MN)


A nice thing about reviewing restaurants on your own blog is that there’s no compulsion to only go to new(er) places—you can go back and revisit places and see if they’ve maintained their standards (and in some cases, to see if they’ve gotten better). I’ve done a fair bit of that this year with returns to Tilia, Hmongtown Marketplace, Bangkok Thai Deli, Szechuan, Tea House, House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, A&L Chinese, On’s Kitchen and Grand Szechuan. Here now is my second report on what is now probably our favourite Mexican restaurant, Homi, on University Avenue in St. Paul. I posted my first write-up just over two years ago. We’ve eaten there a few more times since and this seems like a good time for a re-visit on the blog. This report covers meals eaten over the last year and a half, though the pictures are all from two dinners, one last summer, and one two weekends ago. I am happy to report that Homi is still very good.  Continue reading

Tenant (Minneapolis)


We have been trying to get to Tenant for a while now. They opened in the Spring of 2017, while we were in London for three months. When we got back we cut back on our eating out for a while on account of the reckless eating we’d engaged in for an extended period abroad. And because of their limited seating and their constrained reservation system we couldn’t find a date that worked later in 2017. We finally made reservations this April but just a few days before the weather took a turn for the worse, a blizzard was predicted and we had to cancel (the blizzard did come to pass).
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Sota Hot & Cold (St. Paul, MN)


Because I am so up on hot food trends—in Minnesota and beyond—I had no idea that Thai rolled ice cream was a thing. But it is and has been in Minnesota for at least a year. Sota Hot & Cold opened in August 2017 in the front of the ex-Mai Village space on University Avenue in St. Paul. It now opens into Tapestry—which opened earlier this year—and the now connected sushi bar, Monkon Sushi. Apart from an entry they share a long connected kitchen and I saw some staff members in both spaces. I mention this because when I asked one of the staff at Sota if the businesses had shared ownership, she said no but it seems clear they do: Pheang Vang shows up as the person behind both ventures. Anyway, we ended up at Sota Hot & Cold last night when friends we’d just eaten dinner with at Homi suggested it. Perhaps because of the heat, lots of other people had the same idea and it was really quite busy. And the ice cream was good. Herewith a quick look at the place.  Continue reading

Lekali Pasal: A Nepali Store in the Hmongtown Marketplace (St. Paul. MN)


I happened upon Lekali Pasal in mid-May, the last time I was at Hmongtown Marketplace and have been meaning to write it up briefly ever since. Well, better late than never. I didn’t actually go looking for it. I had a friend in town from Bombay and took her to Hmongtown Marketplace. While wandering the outdoor market, vaguely South Asian signage caught our eyes and when we investigated it turned out to be a Nepali store. Now it’s true I hadn’t been to Hmongtown Marketplace for a few years but I think this place is relatively new. At least I’d like to believe that I’d otherwise have noticed it. Anyway, here’s what you can find there.  Continue reading

Kolap: Cambodian Cuisine in St. Paul


It took us 10 years of living within 50 minutes drive of it to finally get to Cheng Heng, the Twin Cities’ premier Cambodian restaurant. I reviewed it earlier this year and described it as probably the only Cambodian restaurant in the area. I was informed in the comments that there was in fact another not too far away: Kolap. You can certainly—accurately—see this as evidence of how unreliable a guide I am to the Twin Cities’ food scene. On the other hand, you might also be able to see it as evidence of how little attention these restaurants—and others not too far away from them on University Ave. that specialize in cuisines from other Southeast Asian countries—get from the local mainstream food media. That’s my alibi, at any rate. It is, of course, not the case that Kolap is totally obscure: in looking it up I discovered that the New York Times had included it two years ago in a piece on the diverse food scene of St. Paul. The New York Times may from time to time associate Minnesota with things like grape salad, but it also apparently does a better job than the local media sometimes of highlighting hidden jewels. In any event, it did not take us as long to get to Kolap after learning of its existence as it had to get to Cheng Heng. We ate there with friends a couple of weeks ago. Here is my report.  Continue reading

Ruam Mit Thai (St. Paul)


Ruam Mit Thai has been around in St. Paul for at least a couple of decades now. I’m not sure, however, if they’ve always been at the current location or if the ownership has remained the same—if anyone reading this knows any of this or a near-definitive date of opening, please write in below. They are currently located on St. Peter St., just by the Children’s Museum. We are given to haunting the Children’s Museum in the summer and this year we finally decided to give Ruam Mit Thai a try. This report draws on three meals eaten this month. One with just me and the brats and two with the missus along as well. Read on to see how we fared.  Continue reading

Scenes from India Fest, 2018 (St. Paul, MN)


Last year, at just about this time we spent a good part of the day at the Little Africa festival in St. Paul. We were planning to do the same again this year but in the weeks prior I learned that India Fest was scheduled on the same day. I’ve been vaguely aware of India Fest—organized by the India Association of Minnesota—for some time now but had never previously been moved to attend. But now that our boys are getting older we’re trying to expose them to as much of their parents’ Korean and Indian heritage as we can and so we decided to go. And a very interesting event it turned out to be.  Continue reading

Ngon Bistro (St. Paul)


Ngon Bistro is a St. Paul institution at this point and I’m a little embarrassed that it has taken me so long to get around to reviewing it for the blog. It’s a bit of an anomaly in the Twin Cities in that it is a high-end Asian restaurant. The much newer Hai Hai is more casual, and the same was true of the recently shuttered Rabbit Hole too. I am not suggesting that Ngon Bistro is stuffy or formal; but in terms of menu format and prices, they are much closer to places like Spoon and Stable and Meritage. In other ways, Ngon Bistro is similar to the erstwhile Rabbit Hole in that they too seek to translate an Asian cuisine—in this case Vietnamese—into the menu formats and culinary idioms of mainstream American dining. Comparing our meals at the two places it’s easy to say that Ngon Bistro does it much better.  Continue reading

Saigon Palace (Burnsville, MN)


After my review of Pho Valley a couple of weeks ago I thought I was done for the foreseeable future with reviews of Vietnamese restaurants in the South Metro. The only other one I was aware of is a place in Eagan that is of interest only because Yelp reviews suggest you are more likely to be sworn at than to eat well if you go there. (I am actually tempted to go there for that reason.) Saigon Palace is not that restaurant. It is located in Burnsville, right off 35W (if going north on the highway, get off on Burnsville Parkway and go right and it’ll be in the first strip mall on the right). I discovered its existence while casting about for places to eat relatively close to the Works Museum (which the brats enjoy very much) and it seemed worth a try. As luck would have it, I had a number of reasons to be in that neighbourhood over the next couple of weeks and so went back a number of times, twice with the missus. Herewith, my report.  Continue reading

Hana Market (Bloomington, MN)


Korean food does not have a very high profile in Minnesota. This is not because there are very few Koreans in Minnesota. As of the 2010 census, the numbers were not so far below the Vietnamese and the Twin Cities are dotted with Vietnamese restaurants. On the other hand, in the metro area there are very few Korean restaurants worth comment. This is probably down to the fact that despite decades of immigration, Korean food remains on the fringes of mainstream American consciousness—well behind Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and even Vietnamese. Unless you’re in Los Angeles or New York or the Bay Area, you’re not going to come across a concentrated Korean population with an ecosystem of restaurants catering to in-culture diners; and for whatever reason, awareness of Korean food remains low elsewhere in the US among those who don’t habitually eat outside their own cultural comfort zone. So it is in Minnesota, even though the number of families here with Korean connections via adoption is quite high relative to most of the USContinue reading

Pho Valley (Apple Valley, MN)


Following my reviews of Pho Everest in Lakeville, Cam Ranh Bay in Burnsville and Simplee Pho in Apple Valley, here is another report on a no-frills but solid Vietnamese place in the Twin Cities South Metro: Pho Valley in Apple Valley. They mostly sling pho and they’re in Apple Valley and hence the name, I assume. They’ve been open somewhere between one and two years and are located in the mega strip mall at the intersection of Cedar Avenue and 150th/County Road 42. It’s a larger restaurant than Simplee Pho but has a more limited menu. On the plus side, most of what I’ve had of what they put out has been mostly pretty solid.  Continue reading