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Thanh Do (South MSP) - A Little Gem

Based on this thread, Hub and I (and Baby) went there over the weekend. Good service (prompt refills of water, THANK YOU!), pleasant atmosphere. Crowded. We waited ~20 min to be seated (we entered at 5:30 PM). Hub had chicken with asparagus, I had Mongolian beef. I wanted to try the cranberry curry, but it was listed as very spicy... I am teaching Baby to eat table food - which means eating bits off of my plate - so thus cannot eat spicy right now, too bad for me. :(

My dinner was really mediocre. Emphatically mediocre, if such a thing is possible. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything to get excited about. The veggies had passed through the crisp-tender stage to moderately soft, the meat was tender but bland, the sauce was brown but not particularly flavored (not garlicky or gingery or anything... just "brown flavor"). The accompanying rice was not very warm - as if it had been scooped from a rice cooker 15 minutes before serving and left to cool. Hub liked his dish and ate the whole thing (part that night, part the next day for lunch). I'm not sure that I would go back.

Lest you think I am a total grouch, we ate lunch earlier that day at Keefer Court, and I really liked the meal I had there. I had the "chicken and vegetable" on panfried noodles. "Vegetable" turned out to be baby bok choi. It was glazed in a simple clear ("white") sauce, the noodles were crispy on the edges and toasted but not burned. Service was a little slow (the staff alternates between waiting tables and serving a gazillion bakery customers), but the food was worth it. Everything was served as it was cooked - so while I had to wait about 10 minutes for my meal (while Hub ate his), mine was steaming hot when it came out of the kitchen. I'd definitely eat there again.

Keefer Court Bakery & Cafe
326 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

Feb 09, 2009
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP - fresh rice noodles?

I live in Northfield, ~45 min south of Minneapolis. Would love to get my hands on fresh rice noodles without driving all the way up to United Noodle (actually, I'm only assuming that they sell 'em there). It seems crazy to drive almost 2 hrs for a couple of dollar's worth of noodles.

Is there a market that caters to the SE Asian shopper and is, I don't know, in Apple Valley or Burnsville? Tiny hole-in-the-wall places are fine, so long as they have fresh rice noodles. Thanks for any leads.

Feb 02, 2009
joshi in General Midwest Archive

New in Rochester

The article I read was from the March 24 PB (Business section, A7). I still have it in my office, let's dig it up...

"To further localize the Rochester eatery, he [Alex Schwartzmann, owner] added specialty rolls to the menu with names like Hockey Roll, Broadway Roll and an Anesthesia Roll."

That's all it says about the specific roll. Like I said, I didn't see it on the menu when I was there - maybe it sounded too creepy and they pulled it? Dunno.

Apr 30, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

New in Rochester

I tried Sushi Itto last week. I had the oyakodon (the menu spells it "Hoyakodon" for some reason), which traditionally is made of chicken pieces and whisked egg simmered in dashi with some scallions and a little bit of leafy greens, served over white rice. (The name comes from chicken and egg ["oya" means "parent" in Japanese, "ko" means "child"] - chicken and egg, parent and child; "don" is short for "donburi," which means "bowl" - a bowl of rice.)

They breaded and deep fried the chicken pieces before simmering, which is not how the dish is traditionally prepared. However, it was flavorful and the presentation was nice. I enjoyed it. My dining companions had shrimp tempura and a Philadelphia roll (sushi roll with smoked salmon and cream cheese). They both said they enjoyed their meals, and both were prepared and plated attractively.

I was not inspired to try their sushi at all. I am unfortunately quite inflexible about how sushi ought to be prepared (and I am mostly "meh" about fusion cuisine in general). Anyway, nearly all of the specialty rolls had mayo or cream cheese as an ingredient, and for me, those are a total turn off in sushi. (And chipotle sauce in sushi? No thank you.) They did have some of the traditional stuff (tekka maki, kappa maki, etc), but I didn't try it - wasn't hungry after the oyakodon.

I had read the Post Bulletin "preview" of the place, and it mentioned a specialty "Anesthesia roll." I was dying of curiosity over that one - would it make your mouth numb? Would you fall asleep after eating it? But alas, it was not on the printed menu, and I didn't ask the waiter about it.

It was very crowded when we left (~12:30, weekday lunch hour), so I am hopeful that the restaurant is off to a good start. I would love to see more ethnic restaurants get established in the downtown area.

Apr 29, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

Kosher for Passover Chicken MSP?

Yep, I had a Reuben there - corned beef and swiss cheese (definitely not kosher). Really good sandwich, though, I'd go back in a heartbeat.

What about the Little Tel Aviv place? I haven't been there, but I know it's a kosher restaurant. They might be willing to put together a tray that you can freeze...? They have a page with "Meat catering" that you could look into.

Apr 09, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP: Twin Cities South of 494 finds

Husband and I went there a couple months ago on a weeknight, probably between 7 and 8 PM. It was JAM PACKED (never saw such a crowded restaurant in MN before), but the service was still fairly good. Our waitress seemed to dislike the job (she complained that the restaurant gave the staff few freebies - only bread, really), but that's all that I remember about her - so she must have performed her responsibilities just fine.

The food *was* expensive. I think we spent ~$70 (dinner for 2, no alcohol, 1 dessert), kinda crazy. On the plus side, they actually cooked my steak properly - I like rare to medium rare. They are sparse on the bread and butter but will refill the basket if you ask. I don't think I'll go again, it was a little too spendy.

Apr 08, 2008
joshi in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Most Controversial food opinion MPLS/St. Paul Edition

OJ, you have a good point there. As someone who did come from a bigger city (grew up in the Chicago burbs, went to grad school in central NJ [smack in the middle between Philly and NYC], and lived near Boston before coming here), I was disappointed when I first hit the restaurant scene in the cities and surrounding 'burbs. I've found some places that I like, that's for sure, but the number and variety were much smaller than I was accustomed to. I think that in addition to the "don't miss what you don't have" mentality, the demand for restaurants simply isn't strong, not the way it is in other parts of the country.

Case in point - I went to a "healthy living" cooking demo at Mayo (where I work), and the chef surveyed the audience: who never cooks, who cooks 1-2x a week, 3-5x a week, 6-7x a week. I'd say ~10% of the audience each raised their hand for the first 3 categories, and the other 70% raised their hand for the last category. NO WONDER there's such a lousy restaurant scene in Rochester.

In general, I don't think people eat in because there's no place to go - I think the restaurant culture is largely absent in much of Minnesota. But the fact that the Midwest chow board is lively with posts from 'hounds in MSP always encourages me.

Apr 01, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

Places we go to despite the food (MSP)

I hang my head every time this thread gets updated. Husband and I got to Perkins on a semi-regular basis (maybe once every 3 wks or so) - one of the waitresses even recognizes us now, and I sort of cringe when I think about that. It's the reality of living in Northfield and having a long commute (12-hr workdays). :(

In my pseudo-defense, can I say that the only thing that I've really liked at Perkins is their French fries? Those are actually quite tasty when freshly cooked.

Mar 27, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP Best Singapore/Malaysian food

I've gone to S2G probably 6 or so times and recommend them enthusiastically. I've enjoyed everything I've ever had there. It is good, homestyle cooking, comes out when it's hot (even if it means you start eating 5 minutes earlier than your partner). Some of the dishes are slim on vegetables - I remember having some kind of chicken dish that was sauced chicken, rice, and 3 cucumber slices for garnish. Prices are reasonable.

The people who run the place are nice, too. We go on weeknights, and they often have their kid(s?) there, but it's quiet. They do more takeout business than dine-in, probably because Apple Valley is quite the suburban area.

I haven't gone early enough to try many of their bakery offerings (we usually show up around 8 PM), but I've purchased their an pan (bean paste roll) and liked it.

Lastly, I also echo the sentiments about Peninsula. We don't get there often because it's quite a drive for us, but I love the food. It's been delicious every time.

Satay 2 Go
6670 150th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55124

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine
2608 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Mar 19, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP- Favorite Indian Food?

I'm not sure which restaurant AnneInMpls is talking about, but I went to Best of India in St Louis Park some months ago. I had to laugh when I saw the menu - it was almost a clone of the Chapati menu in Northfield. (I live in Nfield, too, and am quite familiar with the menu b/c hubby must have the chicken palak, veggie samosas, and aloo naan from Chapati once a week or he gets grumpy).

I tried the tomato soup for the first time at Best of India, liked it so much that I ordered it at Chapati, and learned that they use markedly different recipes. I liked the BoI version better (richer), but both were good. I thought the naan at BoI was better - perhaps because it came to us mere seconds after leaving the oven and was piping hot and glistening with butter. I had rogan josh when I was at BoI, and I liked it. It is heavy on the oil, but I think that is normal/authentic for the dish. I just dipped a spoon in and skimmed off some fat before taking my serving. The lamb was tender and flavorful; it was served in giant chunks but was tender enough that I didn't need a knife to separate it into smaller pieces. Serving sizes were generous - leftovers turned into lunch for 2 more days.

We were there on a Saturday night, around 7:00. We weren't the only people there, but it wasn't crowded, either - I think they had 2 other parties when we entered, and maybe 2 more came while we were eating. Service was prompt and polite, and the food came out steaming hot. If the menu weren't *so* similar to Chapati, I'd go there again, but seeing as I can get virtually the same stuff without the 45-min drive, I am not sure I'd go back unless I happened to be in the area.

1001 Division St S, Northfield, MN 55057

Best of India
8120 Minnetonka Blvd, Minneapolis, MN 55426

Mar 09, 2008
joshi in Minneapolis-St. Paul

MSP hounds: standard recs for the unadventurous (help me, please)

I second the Zelo recommendation. I took my grandparents-in-law there - our PopPop is, I kid you not, the pickiest eater still alive in his 80s. He has food habits of a fussy toddler (and God bless Grandmom for preparing food for him for decades). But I digress. PopPop thought Zelo was great - we were there ~1 year ago, he ordered a shrimp and pasta dish (shrimp with tomato sauce but no garlic or onions). He was very pleased with his dinner. The rest of us liked our meals, too - husband and grandmom are relatively conservative eaters, and I'm more of a 'hound, but we all enjoyed ourselves.

Mar 06, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP - Honeycrisp apples?

I went there today and picked up 2 bags of miniature, delicious Honeycrisps! (They are from Washington.)

Yum... Apple heaven...

Feb 23, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP - Honeycrisp apples?

Yes, I think the stickers on the apples that I ate indicated a Washington origin.

I'll check out the Lunds... and this Keepsake variety. Thanks, all!

Feb 22, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP - Honeycrisp apples?

My local grocery store (Cub) was selling Honeycrisp apples about 3 wks ago... I don't go to Cub often (I shop mostly at the co-op), but every time I've gone back, they've had every apple variety but the elusive HC. I've been eating Fuji apples in the meantime, but it just isn't the same. Until I ate a HC, I never knew that getting to the end of an apple could make me sad.

I live in Northfield but am willing to drive a bit. Any ideas?

Thanks in advance.

Feb 22, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP: anyone been to Osaka restaurant?

I don't know if Osaka is a chain, I just went to the hibachi/sushi restaurant called Osaka in Apple Valley. Someone my husband works with had mentioned eating there, and we thought we'd check it out. We live in Northfield, so anything in the cities is a little bit of a trek for us (~1 hr of driving each way).

I've tried a few Japanese restaurants since I moved to the area (OMG, almost 3 years ago now). I haven't found any that I've really liked, unfortunately, which means I've not found one that my parents would enjoy. To wit - Fuji-ya had really slow service the 1 time I went, the sushi came in slabs (I mean, when a single piece seems larger than, say, my tongue, that's a little too big), and the tuna had strips of gristle. Don't care to go back there.

Tiger Sushi at MOA (I know, I know) had only 2 or 3 menu items that didn't have cream cheese or mayonnaise in it. Cripes. I specifically asked the waiter, too, and that's what he said. Don't care to go back there.

Midori's Floating World (or whatever that's called) seemed all right, but I was with friends the one time I was there and was a bit too distracted to notice the food. (I hadn't seen this particular friend since high school graduation back in the early 90s, so we did more talking than eating.) I'd like to go back there again to check out the food more attentively.

I had a fairly good chirashizushi dinner at another Japanese restaurant in Apple Valley, Kami. I've eaten their chirashizushi twice, in fact. The fish seemed fresh both times, the service was a little slow but not horribly so, and the prices were in line with my expectations. My husband (not a sushi eater) has ordered sort of run-of-the-mill cooked entrees (chicken teriyaki, and I think yaki soba?), and they were average, nothing to write home about.

We had dinner once at Obento-ya - cute place, good food at decent prices, good service. We had gyoza for an appetizer. I had a compartmentalized bento meal, and I think my husband had curry rice (I don't see it on the menu, though - might have been a special). It's not fancy food - and considering the portion size, it seems like it would be a good lunch place. I didn't try the sushi. I'd go back there again.

I've also tried buying sushi-grade tuna at Coastal Seafoods, but the fish there is best when cooked. I found frozen slabs of mackerel for sushi at United Noodle, but I've never tried it. I've heard people say good things about the sushi at Origami, but I have not made it out there yet (hard to motivate my husband to go to sushi restaurants).

Fwiw, when my parents did come visit that 1 time, I took them to the state fair (they ate grilled pork chops on a stick), and we also went to Jun Bo for the dim sum on a Saturday. (They didn't state it outright, but I had the impression that they didn't like Jun Bo. They didn't eat much.) They weren't here for long. I think I cooked the rest of the time.

I'm not sure that my summary is particularly helpful. I know I sound kind of down on a lot of restaurants around here, but I grew up near Chicago, went to graduate school in central NJ (and often dined in NYC), and lived in Boston when I did my postdoc, so I was accustomed to (and spoiled by) large cities with sizable ethnic populations and authentic restaurants. Coming to Minnesota was a bit of a culinary culture shock.

The board on Chowhound has been a godsend for me - we've tried a number of enjoyable places after reading about them here. Most recently, we went to Kramrczuk's - loved the cabbage rolls. We've also gone to places like Cecil's Deli and Aribels - thumbs up for both. Husband and I have eaten at Peninsula on Eat Street numerous times and haven't had a single bad meal there. I like Quangs (also on Eat Street) a lot, but the pressed meat (meatloaf-like) dishes freak my husband out. There's a relatively new restaurant in Burnsville (Saigon Palace is the name, I think) - we had a custom dinner for a group recently (organized by a friend, but I think the menu was mostly chef's choice) that was pretty good (the shrimp egg rolls were astonishingly tasty).

Feb 19, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

MSP: anyone been to Osaka restaurant?

I went there last fall (Apple Valley). Husband and I did the hibachi table. The food was oversalted (and yet somehow still bland), and it was about as far away from authentic Japanese food as you can get. (Fwiw, I am Japanese-American [nissei] and know my way around Japanese cuisine.) The "cream" dipping sauce (did they call it "lobster sauce"?) was reminiscent of mayonnaise, like a loose, liquid, orangey mayo. I think the hibachi came with a side of fried noodles - and it was sweet, really odd and sugary.

I remember thinking that the meal was expensive for what it was. I don't recall what we ate specifically - probably husband had steak and I had chicken, 1 appetizer, no drinks (possibly hot tea), no dessert - and the bill was ~$50-60. If I'm going to pay that much, I'd really like it if the food was considerably better than what I could make at home. Ah well. The cook's display was typical - he juggled utensils, flipped shrimp tails into his hat, created the onion flame volcano, etc. He was no better or worse than other hibachi cooks. He seemed disappointed that no one at our table was drunk (more on that below).

The worst part of the experience was the atmosphere. I usually don't give a damn about atmosphere, I don't notice noise levels, ambiance, wallpaper, table lamps, whatever - I enter restaurants hoping only for polite, prompt service and delicious, hot food. Anyway, I think we were there on a weeknight, but the "happy hour" crowd was going strong. Other tables were full of loud, giggling, drunk people - and I even saw a hibachi cook take his water squeeze bottle and squirt women in the cleavage while onlookers literally hooted and screamed with delight. That was hard to ignore because every table seemed to have a cadre of completely drunk customers. Also, a lot of people were celebrating birthdays the night we were there - for each one, the waitstaff brought out a special something (dessert, maybe?) for the guest of honor. Every time, these colored disco lights would start pulsating, and someone would come out with a drum and/or a gong and rhythmically grunt some kind of happy birthday message. I wondered whether other folks at the restaurant assumed this was a traditional Japanese way to celebrate birthdays (uh, it's not).

I won't go back. I'd never bring my (Japanese) parents there. Much better food (and classier joints) exist elsewhere.

Feb 19, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

Rochester MN - yummy Indian restaurants?

I'm looking for recommendations for an Indian restaurant - especially if it has particularly good vegetarian curry, raita, and naan.

Walking distance from the Mayo Clinic campus would be ideal, but I'll take any suggestions.

Thanks in advance!

Jan 10, 2008
joshi in General Midwest Archive

Philly Cheesesteak in Minnesota


I was really excited when I read about this place - husband is a NJ native who has pined quite noisily for Philly pizzasteaks since we moved here 3 years ago. We saw the menu online and made the drive from Northfield (60 miles each way) - only to find, as you say, that it is now a pizza place. We were *so* disappointed. To add insult to injury, the pizza place was closed (and it was Saturday at 2 PM when we got there!).

Dec 30, 2007
joshi in Minneapolis-St. Paul

MSP Grilling supplies

Hope the thief is plagued by burnt steaks for the rest of his/her life! :(

I got a Weber kettle grill + cover via craigslist last year. You might look there. It was a hella cheaper than any sale at big box stores.

Aug 30, 2007
joshi in General Midwest Archive

Best places for Japanese options in MidWest?

My folks (1st gen immigrants from Japan) live in Skokie (near north Chicago 'burb) and have been shopping very happily at the Sea Ranch Grocery in Wilmette for a long time - at least 15 or 20 years. They do like to trip over to the Mitsuwa, natch, but they live ~10 minutes from Sea Ranch and find that it satisfies almost all of their grocery needs. A quick search of the Chow archives shows numerous positive reviews, particularly for the quality of the sushi.

Aug 27, 2007
joshi in General Midwest Archive

Best Sushi in Minnesota?

I tried Tiger a few months ago - I asked the waiter for sushi menu items (not tuna or cucumber rolls) that didn't contain mayonnaise or cream cheese, and even he was stumped. I thought that the $7-8 that I paid for about 5 bites of food was excessive. For that price, I'd rather eat a (maa-maa) sushi tray from Whole Foods.

I ate at Kami (Apple Valley) shortly after they opened - I tried the chirashi-zushi (the standard by which I judge the sushi when I first visit a Japanese restaurant) and was impressed by the freshness. Haven't gone back since, though, so I don't know if that was typical.

The c-z at Fuji-ya (Mpls) was presented as weirdly large slabs. I remember the tuna had hard gristle lines in it, and when I tried to bite through a piece, I couldn't.

Aug 20, 2007
joshi in General Midwest Archive