Is this the best lunch deal in the Twin Cities metro? I think it might be. It’s certainly the best Indian lunch deal—and for that matter this was the best Indian meal of any kind I’ve had in Minnesota in 12+ years. I ate it at what is almost literally a hole in the wall in Bloomington, in the same large strip mall that houses TBS Mart. I’ve noticed it out of the corner of my eye over the years but always assumed it was a Middle Eastern place; there’s another Indian place right there and I suppose I assumed there wouldn’t be two Indian places right next to each other like that. Anyway, the lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot. And specifically an idiot who has been denying himself not just an excellent lunch thali for almost a decade now but also the nostalgic charge of eating it in a place that evokes the no-frills canteens and mess halls that are a commonplace in Indian cities. Here, specifically, is what I—and maybe you—had been missing. Continue reading
I was sworn in as a citizen of the US yesterday/today, along with another 999 people—all of us together representing 96 nationalities before the start of the ceremony. Many of my fellow new citizens doubtless come from countries that allow dual citizenship but India does not. India offers a status called “Overseas Citizen of India” but it is not full citizenship and does not come with a passport. Yesterday/today, therefore, was my last day with a valid Indian passport. Despite being someone who is not very persuaded by the claims of nationalism—culture is a different thing and is not tied to citizenship—I found myself somewhat melancholy about this prospect in the days leading up and after my naturalization interview. I’m never going to stop being Indian; despite having lived here for 26 years I’m not able to flip a switch and think of myself as American; but Indian-American I am now for sure. It’ll take a while to sort all this out in my head but to start with I decided to mark this stage in my translation with a lunch buffet at an Indian restaurant and to eat some of the dishes that Americans so love to eat in Indian restaurants. The only question was which one. Continue reading
Another week, another Indian lunch buffet in Bloomington. I’ve been meaning to check out Hyderabad Indian Grill* in Bloomington since trying some of their food at India Fest, 2018 at the St. Paul Capitol last August (the next edition is on August 10). And on a trip up to Minneapolis this week I managed to stop in. They’re located further north than Surabhi and on the other side of the freeway (at the intersection of American and Penn, in the big strip that includes a Fresh Thyme market). They opened a year and a half or so ago—fitting well with my hypothesis that a new wave of South Indian-leaning restaurants have been opening in the Twin Ciites metro in recent years following an increase in the South Indian population in the area. Apart from the name of the restaurant there aren’t so very many nods to the South Indian connection in the lunch buffet (and even the a la carte menu seems less South Indian-leaning than at Persis) but they don’t put out the standard North Indian curry house spread. And on the strength of my meal today I’d recommend it for those looking for a good Indian lunch buffet in the area. Continue reading
My renewed survey of the Twin Cities Metro’s Indian restaurant scene took an unexpected turn last week. I had an appointment in Minneapolis that ran a little longer than I’d expected and I found myself on the highway, approaching Bloomington and feeling too hungry to wait to get home to eat lunch. I remembered just in time that I’d been told that there was an Indian restaurant named Surabhi right off the exit at 98th street that was supposedly quite good. And so I did something I rarely choose to do: I stopped at an Indian restaurant for their lunch buffet. Did I regret this as soon as I started eating? Read on. Continue reading
My renewed slow-motion survey of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro continues. The last stop was at Persis Biryani Indian Grill in Eagan back in February (see that post to see why I started this survey back up after the disaster that was my previous attempt to explore the local Indian restaurant scene). At the time that I reviewed Persis a number of people online waxed rhapsodic as well about the branch of Bay Leaf in Eagan, about a mile or so from Persis (the original location is in Eden Prairie). It took us a while to get there but last night we finally got there. How was the meal? Read on. Continue reading
As those who’ve known me a while know, I am not very high on Indian food in the US. Yes, there are some very good restaurants (Rasika in DC, for example) but the cuisine as a whole still seems trapped in the cream and nut paste-laden chicken tikka masala/dal makhni/korma rut that it was in when I arrived in the US in 1993. This is certainly true of the vast majority of curry houses, most of which essentially have the same standardized menu. I don’t fault the restaurants—they serve what the market wants and in most American markets there aren’t enough Indians or other South Asians to ask for very much more. But I rarely want that stuff even when it’s done well. Continue reading
As recently mentioned, one of my food goals for 2019 is to explore more of the Twin Cities metro’s Indian food scene. I’d tried to do this a few years ago but gave up after not terribly encouraging results (we had a decent meal at Bawarchi in Plymouth and a rather disastrous meal at Dosa King in Spring Lake Park). Since then we’ve restricted our South Asian food outings to House of Curry in Rosemount. However, in the last couple of years I’ve begun to suspect that there’s a chance that there may have been some improvement in the scene. For one thing, it appears to me that the Indian population in the area may have grown—I guess the census will confirm or contradict this next year—and that there’s been an uptick in a younger South Indian population. This seemed borne out at the 2018 India Fest in St. Paul in August where the food vendors were predominantly Hyderabadi, and the food was pretty good too. However, having been burned before by long drives for unremarkable food, I decided to start closer to home in the south metro. And so when Mike McGuinness of the excellent Twin Cities East Metro Foodies Facebook group mentioned that there was now a branch in Apple Valley of his favourite Indian restaurant in the Cities, Darbar India Grill, we decided to start there. Continue reading
The Midtown Global Market was the first place I ever ate at in Minnesota. This was a little less than a year before we moved to Minnesota, and just a few months after it opened in May, 2006. I was visiting St. Paul on work and my friend Mike and I drove over to check it out. I got some wonderful octopus tacos from La Sirena Gorda and Mike got tacos from Los Ocampo’s counter, if I remember correctly. It was a vibrant, fun space and it made an impression on me that was quite different from the image of Minnesota I’d put together from my years in the western US. (This impression was bolstered later that weekend at a meal at Saigon in St. Paul.) A few months later we had to decide whether to remain in Colorado or make a jump to Minnesota, and this impression of a culturally diverse Minnesota helped make up our minds—it also probably didn’t hurt that it was very warm in the Twin Cities during my visit in early November, 2006.
Well, November isn’t always warm here, and La Sirena Gorda, alas, is long gone—as are some of our other early favourites there—but the Midtown Market is still going strong, with new food outlets and merchants who are excellent in their own right; indeed, it seems very entrenched now in the local scene. Here is a quick look at it for the benefit of those who have somehow never been, or have not been in a while. Continue reading
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
After a hiatus of a few weeks my slow-motion survey of South Asian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro area starts back up again with this review of a recent dinner at Malabari Kitchen in Minneapolis, which specializes in food from the southern Indian state of Kerala. I am pleased to report that this meal was much better than the previous and did not jeopardize the future of the series. (See here for my review of a lunch at Bawarchi, and here for my review of the Dosa King meal that almost brought this series to an end.) While not everything about the meal and experience was good it’s still a place I would recommend to people interested in exploring Indian food. Continue reading
More like Dosa Pretender. This was not a good meal and has put my proposed slow-motion survey of Indian food in the Twin Cities metro area in some jeopardy as it has led my wife to beg off attending any more of these meals—she thought our meal at Bawarchi was fine but nothing worth driving two hours for; but this she thought barely approached acceptability; and I’m not sure if the friend who accompanied us is enthused at the prospect of a possible repeat of this experience.
Caveats: We ate lunch on a Saturday and it was the predictable buffet. It is entirely possible that they do better at dinner (though reports I’ve since received suggest that that may not be very much better). Also, it’s only one meal; maybe we caught them on a bad morning. Who knows? I’m certainly not going back again to investigate.
What we ate—please click on an image below, if you dare, to launch a larger slideshow with detailed captions Continue reading
As mentioned a few days ago, I am starting a slow-motion survey of some of the luminaries of the Indian restaurant scene in the greater Twin Cities metro area. Why? Read on. (Or if you want to just skip to the review of Bawarchi scroll down a fair bit.)
I’ve lived in the US for 21 years now and learned from experience long ago to avoid most Indian restaurants, regardless of location. Short version of the reason: almost all of them run the gamut from mediocre to very bad. And somehow, most American foodies don’t get this even if in the last 10-15 years their awareness of and ability to make meaningful distinctions with various other Asian cuisines has expanded dramatically. The most obvious and striking parallel is with China, another large country with a dizzying variety of regions and cuisines. While the dominant mode of Chinese food in the US is still the Panda Express model, the major metros have a fair bit of granularity, with Sichuan usually leading the way. Certainly, the knowledge base of the average American food writer and foodie is much higher re various Chinese cuisines than it used to be in 1993 (I take this arbitrary date as a reference point as that’s when I arrived in the US). The same, alas, is not true of Indian food—leave alone the average foodie I can’t think of a single well-known American food writer who can be trusted on Indian food. Continue reading