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

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

Joy’s Pattaya Thai (Richfield, MN)

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

Spice (Savage, MN)

Spice Thai: Satay
Spice is located in Savage, one of Minneapolis’ southern suburbs. And if the prosaic town of Savage can’t quite live up to its name, Spice also fails to deliver on its promise of “[T]he…only authentic Thai Cuisine South of the River”. (I’m not sure, by the way, if the restaurant’s name is just Spice or Spice Thai.) Once upon a time I would not have bothered to eat at a Thai restaurant in the suburbs, but having been pleasantly surprised by Thai Curry House we were optimistic. Well, if recent history has taught us anything it is that optimism leads naturally to dull disappointment. So it was for us at Spice. Our lunch here a few weeks ago was very disappointing. I know I said I’d be changing the focus of my restaurant reviews with a view towards supporting immigrant-run places but I can’t bring myself to say that a place like Spice is better than it is.  Continue reading

Thai Curry House (Burnsville, MN)

Thai Curry House: Guay Tiew
Living an hour south of the Twin Cities is no fun if you enjoy eating out. We live in a town with two colleges that somehow does not have a single Thai or Vietnamese restaurant—though given the state of our Chinese restaurants and the lone Indian restaurant that’s probably not a bad thing. The only decent food in town, really, is very casual Mexican at El Triunfo and there’s only so many times we can eat there in a month. Things don’t improve very much as you go further north. Not, in fact, until you cross the river into Bloomington: there Grand Szechuan heaves into view. But if you were looking for Thai food it used to be that you’d have to go much further to get anything that even went past passable status.

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Taste of Thai Yai (Apple Valley, MN)

A Taste of Thai Yai, Apple Valley
When I first started reviewing Twin Cities restaurants a snarky friend who lives on a coast cracked that it wouldn’t be long before I’d find myself reviewing marginal places in the suburbs. Well, fuck you, man, that’s not what’s happening here. There are still plenty of places in the Twin Cities I’m interested in reviewing; it’s just that I want to take a wider look at the Asian food scene here, especially the places a bit closer to us. I’m on record as saying that On’s Kitchen and Bangkok Thai Deli are the only Thai places in the area worth talking about but if we can find at least a couple of places within easier reach that aren’t totally heinous then that’s something. Well, I guess this might be it. Sort of. What we ate ranged from the unacceptable to the just about acceptable, but more was in the acceptable end of the spectrum than I feared would be the case when friends invited us to join us there this past weekend. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli III

Bangkok Thai Deli: Stir-Fried Spicy Catfish
Following my mega Grand Szechuan round-up from last week, here is a report on a collection of meals eaten at Bangkok Thai Deli at various points in 2015 as well. In the past I’ve described Bangkok Thai Deli as being alongside On’s Kitchen at the top of the Twin Cities’ somewhat meager Thai scene. Based on our meals this year, I am sorry to say that I think it has dropped quite clearly to the second position. While we’ve eaten some very tasty things there, there’s been a lot of inconsistency and even some meals that were somewhat blah on the whole. We’ve still eaten there more than at On’s because we only get up to the Cities on the weekends and On’s is closed on Sundays, which puts it at a bit of a disadvantage vis a vis our wallets. As with my last Grand Szechuan post, what follows is a slideshow, with descriptions, of dishes that were (mostly) not reported on in my previous reviews (here and here).

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On’s Kitchen 2

Pad Sator
No, On’s Kitchen hasn’t opened a second location: this is my second review of On’s Kitchen. It’s not the only time we’ve eaten there since the first review, it’s only the second review I’ve gotten around to writing; and, in fact, it’s a compendium of our two most recent meals there. In the time since the first review—way back in late 2013 when I’d first started to post restaurant write-ups on the blog—I’ve covered a number of the other Thai places that get attention from Twin Cities foodies and food media and have confirmed what everyone knows to be true: at the top are On’s Kitchen and Bangkok Thai Deli and everyone else is well below that. What not everyone wants to say, however, is that even the better places below them are not even really in the same weight division. But rather than dwell on the shortcomings of the rest of the scene, I’ll note once again how lucky we are, in a region without a large Thai population, to have two Thai restaurants that offer up very good renditions of more than your standard-issue Thai restaurant fare, and where it is possible to get even the standard-issue fare cooked at a high level and unsweetened or otherwise watered down. Continue reading

Karta Thai

Pad Kee Mow

Karta Thai was recommended to me in a Chowhound discussion on Thai Food in the Twin Cities. The proposition advanced by some (and supported by me) and argued by others there was that most Thai restaurants in the area continue to suffer from the “too sweet” malady. My sub-argument was that outside of Bangkok Thai Deli and On’s Kitchen in St. Paul Thai food in the Twin Cities is also pedestrian at best. Since then we’ve eaten at Sen Yai Sen Lek, which I’d put just above pedestrian (though much better than the likes of Supatra). Karta Thai it was suggested was also a dependable place, offering solid execution of a standard menu. As we’re often in the neighbourhood for food shopping, and as solidly executed Thai food is something we’re always happy to eat, we stopped in some weeks ago. Herewith the report. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli II (Saint Paul, MN)

Bangkok Thai Deli: Tilapia

After our decent but not particularly special meal at Sen Yai Sen Lek we were left with a hankering for some better Thai food. So when we found ourselves heading to the Children’s Museum in Saint Paul a few Sundays ago we followed that visit with a return to Bangkok Thai Deli for lunch (see here for my writeup of a previous meal there). On’s Kitchen is closed on Sundays or else we would have gone there, but really there’s not so very much separating On’s and Bangkok Thai Deli these days. Well, there is the fact that Bangkok Thai Deli is usually crammed for Sunday lunch which means the likelihood of both a wait and fairly spotty service, both of which we encountered. Continue reading

Sen Yai Sen Lek (Minneapolis)

Sen Yai Sen Lek: Kao Soy

An ongoing conversation on the MSP Chowhound forum about the disease of sweetness that plagues Twin Cities Thai restaurants reminded me that we had been meaning to eat at Sen Yai Sen Lek for some time now and had not gotten around to it, despite being up in that neighbourhood on a near-weekly basis for our Indian and Korean grocery shopping. Well, as of last weekend that box on our itinerary has been checked.

It was a pleasant meal on the whole, but nothing to get terribly excited about. And certainly nothing to drive through snow to get to as we did. (Though, as my wife noted with resignation, the real reason for the outing, and the endangerment of the entire family on the highway, was to get to a whisky sale even further up north on Central Avenue.) Continue reading

Supatra Thai

Supatra Thai: Grilled ChickenIn my recent post about dim sum in the Twin Cities I complained more generally about the state of Asian cuisines in the area, saying of Thai that “[W]e have two Thai restaurants that are quite good on their day (On’s Kitchen, Bangkok Thai Deli) and a large number that are mediocre at best.” I’ve previously reviewed one of those mediocre restaurants (Krungthep Thai) and here, alas, is a review of another: Supatra Thai. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli

Last week I wrote up a meal at Krungthep Thai in Minneapolis, the recent off-shoot of Bangkok Thai Deli in St. Paul and noted at the end that it had inspired us to return to Bangkok Thai Deli for lunch. Here is the write-up of that meal.

We’d eaten at Bangkok Thai Deli for quite some time until On Khumchaya left to open her own place. We had a few less than great meals at Bangkok Thai Deli in the intervening period until we learned a) that there had been a change in the kitchen and b) of the existence of the excellent On’s Kitchen. We defected double-quick and hadn’t been back since. I’m not sure why our mediocre meal at Krungthep Thai made us want to check out the mothership once more but it did. And I’m glad it did. Continue reading

Krungthep Thai

This is just a brief report on a lunch a few weeks ago at Krungthep Thai in Minneapolis, an Eat Street offshoot of the Bangkok Thai Deli in St. Paul. As noted before, the Bangkok Thai Deli was where On of On’s Kitchen used to cook, and they seem to be the launching pad for new Thai places in the cities. Krungthep Thai has been named the best Thai restaurant in Minneapolis by City Pages and the best Thai restaurant in the Twin Cities by Mpls. St. Paul Magazine, and while when we first came to Minnesota that would have been an utterly meaningless accolade, the scene is now much improved and so we were interested to check it out. Continue reading