Khâluna (Minneapolis)


In December 2019—just a few months before you-know-what happened—we ate dinner at Lat14 in Golden Valley and rather enjoyed it. We’d planned to go back but then ended up spending most of the next 2 years at home. By the time we began to get back into the dining out groove in Minnesota, the chef/owner of Lat14, Ann Ahmed, had a new restaurant in South Minneapolis: Khâluna. We had quite enjoyed our meal at Lat14 and so were looking forward to eating her food at Khâluna as well. Reservations, however, were hard to come by until I managed to score one for mid-January. And then the omicron spike happened in a big way and we had to cancel. It took another three months for me to finally make it there. I ate dinner there for the first time in early April along with some colleagues. I liked it so much that I immediately made another reservation to go back with the missus and some of our regular dining crew. We ate that meal this past weekend. I’d originally thought I’d post an account of both meals at the same time but after resizing 45+ photographs from the first meal, I gave that up. So what follows is an account of my first meal there. You’ll have to wait a few weeks for the second. Continue reading

Basil Cafe, In Person (St. Paul, MN)


We first happened upon Basil Cafe during the height of the pandemic, almost exactly one year ago. They’d only opened in 2019 and we hadn’t had a chance to eat there before everything closed to in-person dining in 2020. Thankfully, they survived not only that first year but also the next and seem to be going strong now as things slowly return to something approaching normalcy. We too have been eating out more often this year—and so while our 2021 meal had been takeout, this past weekend we finally made it in to eat there in person. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 74: On’s Kitchen in the New Year


It took till February but we finally made it to the Twin Cities for a meal in 2022. My first Minnesota report for the year was of Mexican lunch from a favourite in our town, El Triunfo. The next weekend I ventured a bit further north to Burnsville to pick up Indian food from India Palace. This past weekend we finally made it up to St. Paul for a Thai meal. The original plan had been to go back to Basil Cafe, whose food we quite enjoyed last spring. But they didn’t seem to be open: Google showed them closed all week except on Tuesday and I couldn’t raise them on the phone either. I hope this is a temporary situation. Well, it was with no reluctance or disappointment at all that we fell back on On’s Kitchen instead. We thought about eating in but in the end it was takeout again. This time, however, we didn’t bring the food back to our place, driving instead only a few minutes to the home of friends who often join us on our Twin Cities outings. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 69: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


It has been a dangerously long time since our last Thai meal. That was takeout from Krungthep Thai in St. Paul. Having gone more than two months since then without Thai food, urgent action was required. Accordingly, on Sunday I drove to Bangkok Thai Deli on University Avenue and picked up a rather large order. It was a warm November weekend in southern Minnesota and so we had what was likely our last pandemic takeout meal on our deck with friends. There’s snow on the forecast for this weekend and it’s going to keep getting colder and we never did get around to buying any of those patio heaters. Well, as last hurrahs go, this was a good one. This was one of the best Thai meals we’ve had over the course of the pandemic. All of it would have been better coming straight from the restaurant’s kitchen to one of its tables, but it was pretty good even reheated after a long drive. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 67: Krungthep Thai (St. Paul, MN)


Having gone back to Grand Szechuan for our previous pandemic takeout outing it followed naturally that this weekend’s takeout would be Thai. It was tempting to just go back to one of our University Ave. standbys—Bangkok Thai Deli, On’s or Thai Cafe—or to hit up newcomer Basil Cafe again; but in the end we decided to return to Krungthep Thai where we had an excellent meal back in late 2019 and which we’d inexplicably never gone back to. Well, it’s not that inexplicable, I guess—they’re a bit further out for us than the University Ave. stalwarts. Anyway, we did go back to pick up some food and bring it back to eat on our deck with friends. And I am pleased to report it was again an excellent lunch and perhaps the best of our recent takeout Thai meals. Details follow. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 64: Karen Thai (St. Paul)


It had been more than two months since our last Thai meal (at Basil Cafe on—where else?—University Ave. in St. Paul) and that seemed like a dangerous situation to be in. Accordingly, on Saturday I drove up to Exit 110A on Highway 35E to Karen Thai in St. Paul for our latest pandemic takeout meal, bringing food back to eat on our deck with friends just as we had been doing last summer. The restaurant has been open for three or four years and I first heard about them about two years ago. I’m not sure why it took us so long to get there but multiple nudges from people online finally saw us fixing that oversight. Here is how it went. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 55: Basil Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


In my recent review of takeout from On’s Kitchen I noted that we would not go three months between Thai meals again and as it happens we didn’t even go three weeks. This past weekend we went back to University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street) to pick up another round of Thai takeout. Not to On’s again and not to Bangkok Thai Deli or even Thai Cafe either. In fact, we went to a place we’d never been before and which I’d not even really registered the existence of till someone recommended it to me in a discussion on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook page: Basil Cafe. Recommendations from strangers for Asian restaurants of any kind in the Twin Cities can be hit or miss—usually more miss than hit—and this is particularly true of Thai food, the preferences for which in the area seem to run towards the sweet and standard. And so I won’t deny that I was a bit skeptical going in. I am, however, very happy to say that we did in fact enjoy the food a lot. Here are the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 53: Back to On’s Kitchen (St. Paul, MN)


Back in the winter we went 3 months between Thai meals, going after a very good lunch from On’s Kitchen in November on a long, unplanned and unfortunate fast that we only broke with takeout from Bangkok Thai Deli in February. We haven’t made a mistake like that since, having been back a month later in March to Thai Cafe. And, less than a month past that meal, we went back this past weekend to On’s Kitchen to pick up another large order to eat on our deck with friends. The weather this weekend was nowhere as warm as on the previous but as long as it isn’t snowy or icy or raining we’re eating outside with vaccinated and cautious friends every chance we get. This too was a good meal, if falling a bit short, on the whole, of November’s. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 49: Back to Thai Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


After Mediterranean, Indian and Mexican meals in the past three weeks (at Gyros Grill, Godavari and El Triunfo) we were jonesing for something Southeast Asian and Thai in particular. Having eaten takeout from Bangkok Thai Deli relatively recently we were looking to go somewhere else. On’s Kitchen was the natural second choice but it turned out they were closed for one of their regular breaks (till today, I think). Then I thought that we might give Ruam Mit Thai another go—we weren’t overly impressed when we ate there a couple of times a few years ago but I recently received reports of improvement there under new ownership. I called and it turned out they too were closed on Saturday for maintenance. Then I though I would give Phi Chay, the successor to Supatra Thai (another place we didn’t think too highly off when we ate there some years ago), a go. But it turns out they’re only open on weekends. I thought about Thai Garden and Krungthep Thai but then decided to just go back to another tried and true place: Thai Cafe. And a good decision it was too as the meal turned out to be rather good indeed. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 45: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


It has somehow been three whole months since our last Thai meal. That was from On’s Kitchen on University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, as I never get tired of repeating) and was a very good meal. Here now is a report on a large meal brought home from their peers, Bangkok Thai Deli, a little further up (or down, depending on your perspective) University Ave: Bangkok Thai Deli. We’ve got food from them earlier in the pandemic as well—back in the summer when it was possible to eat outside with friends. Now it’s best not to be outside in Minnesota. The last week and a half has been unfeasibly cold (the minimum today/Sunday is forecast for -24f and the maximum only at -7f). Thankfully, at a maximum of around 0f things weren’t quite that bad on Saturday when I drove up to pick up this meal. Here are the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 32: On’s Kitchen (St. Paul, MN)


It took us a while to get to On’s Kitchen on our pandemic takeout outings. We’ve got food from Bangkok Thai Deli and Thai Cafe since the lockdown eased in the early part of the summer but it took us another few months to go back to On’s. This is partly because we’ve been trying a number of restaurants we haven’t been to before or in many years (Vietnamese places like Pho Pasteur and iPho and also Indian places like Indian Masala and Godavari). But to be honest it’s also because we weren’t very enthused by our last pre-pandemic meal at On’s. That was in September of 2019 and after posting that review I learned that On had retired from the kitchen earlier that year—momentous news from the Twin Cities’ best Thai restaurant that you think would have been reported by all the professional critics but who am I kidding? Anyway, given that it had been our favourite Thai restaurant in Minnesota for many years, it didn’t seem right to stay away and so I drove up last Saturday to pick up a large order to eat on our deck with our usual crew. Despite the good weather, or rather because of it, we skipped going to a park for a walk—we figured there’d be larger crowds and so just did a long walk in our own neighbourhood. The walk was good but I’m happy to say the food was better. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 19: Thai Cafe (St. Paul)


We are big fans of Thai Cafe, which was recently named the Twin Cities’ “Best Thai Restaurant” by City Pages. These awards, like all such in the genre, should not be taken too seriously—they name Magic Noodle the “Best Restaurant in St. Paul”, for example—but Thai Cafe is indeed a deserving contender: we’ve consistently ranked them third behind Bangkok Thai Deli and On’s Kitchen, and with On’s retirement they may have moved up a spot (though Krungthep Thai, Bangkok Thai Deli’s satellite location is also a contender). They’ve been closed for most of the pandemic and have not reopened now either for in-person dining. The restaurant is just too small for social distancing. As of a week ago, Monday, however, they are open for curbside/parking lot takeout. We’ve been missing their sour pork rib a lot and so Saturday found us in their parking lot waiting for our order. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 13: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


We began the pandemic getting takeout food only from places in our town or within a 20 minute or so drive. We then expanded our range to Bloomington and then to South Minneapolis. Now, more than three months in, we’ve finally made it up to St. Paul; and—with apologies to Joy’s Thai of Lakeville—we’ve finally eaten really good Thai food for the first time since this madness began. Yes, I drove up to University Avenue and picked up a box full of food for another socially distanced lunch on a deck with friends. A 50 minute drive to get there only to turn around and drive another 50 minutes back: but it was worth it. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 04: Joy’s Thai (Lakeville, MN)


An unexpected aspect of the pandemic is that it has led me to realize that I miss some flavours so much that I am willing to eat replacement-level food in order to be able to taste them. The flavours of Thai food are the major ones in this category. We’re covered at home for most Indian and Korean food; Grand Szechuan and El Triunfo scratch our Sichuan and Mexican itches very satisfactorily. However, there is no Thai food in our town, we don’t have a pantry or fridge stocked with Thai ingredients, and our favourite Thai restaurants in St. Paul are a two-hour roundtrip, which—at least for now—seems like a bit much for takeout (check in with me again after a few more weeks of isolation though). As a result, I went to Lakeville last weekend to pick up a large order from Joy’s Thai. We’ve eaten in there before and it’s not normally a place that we’d choose over a longer drive to the University Ave. stalwarts. But these are not normal times and any acceptable Thai food is more than acceptable. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli V (St. Paul, MN)


In January I posted a review of lunch at Krungthep Thai in St. Paul, the second incarnation of the Bangkok Thai Deli spin-off. I noted in that review that I thought that meal compared well with those we’d eaten at the mothership. In saying so I realized that we had somehow not been to Bangkok Thai Deli in almost two years. That error needed to be righted and this past weekend we got around to doing so. We descended on them on Saturday with a few friends we eat out with often. I can report that we had a very good meal. I can also confirm my impression that Krungthep Thai is on par with the original. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Thai Street Market (St. Paul, MN)


Thai Street Market, which opened a couple of years ago is located in the northeast quadrant of St. Paul, just short of the northwestern snout of Maplewood (a very oddly shaped city; I cannot be the first to think that the top bit looks like the outline of a drawing of a dog’s head). I’ve been seeing very positive notices of it online for a while now but it’s been hard for us to go past the University Ave. stalwarts while on the hunt for Thai food. After a very satisfying exploration late last year of Krungthep Thai‘s menu, however, we were finally motivated to give Thai Street Market a go. In fact, it is also located on Rice St., just about a mile north of Krungthep Thai. We descended on them this weekend with four of our regular eating out crew. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Krungthep Thai (St. Paul, MN)


I have reviewed a Twin Cities restaurant named Krungthep Thai before. This both isn’t and is that restaurant. Confusing, I know. That Krungthep Thai was located on Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis—the so-called “Eat Street”; the real Eat Street, of course, is University Ave. in St. Paul. It closed some years ago and Khun Nai Thai (which I have also reviewed) opened in its space. This Krung Thep Thai then popped up on Rice Street. in St. Paul a couple of years later. Both were/are satellite locations of Bangkok Thai Deli, which sits, along with On’s Kitchen, atop the Twin Cities Thai food scene. Now, while we liked our meal at Krungthep Thai mostly fine, we found it to be an inferior facsimile of Bangkok Thai Deli. For this reason, I was reluctant to go try this new incarnation. But curiosity and greed finally overcame my hesitation. Accordingly we descended on them last month with friends we eat out with often. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Lat14 (Golden Valley, MN)


As I recently noted, the last few years have seen a dramatic upswing in high-end Twin Cities restaurants featuring the cuisines of minority communities. If—as I observed—in the case of Mexican cuisine(s) this phenomenon seems to involve mostly non-Mexican chefs and restaurateurs, in the case of Southeast Asian cuisines the situation is different. Young Joni, whose chef Ann Kim won the Beard award for “Best Chef: Midwest” this year, is probably the most celebrated of these restaurants. Hai Hai, whose chef Christina Nguyen, was nominated for the same award, is not too far behind. (For what it’s worth, we enjoyed our meal at Hai Hai a lot more than our meal at Young Joni.) Lat14, which opened last year in Golden Valley, is the most recent entry in the broad genre. We were there with friends a few weeks ago, and ate a goodly portion of the menu. Here is my review of that meal. Continue reading