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Salty Tart Patisserie now open at Midtown Global Market (MSP)

We have great things to say about Salty Tart. Macaroons are amazing - they have a nice chewy exterior and an amazingly soft center (love the stickiness). The Creme Fraiche bread is also to die for (the sourness from the berries really kicks this thing up). On the other hand, the sweet brioche is nothing to write home about. There's lots of stuff to try and most of it looks amazing...

www.mspfodies.com

Aug 01, 2008
MSP Foodies in Minneapolis-St. Paul

MSP: Porter and Frye, Fugaise or 20.21?

And our review of LBV.

La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Ave
Minneapolis, MN
612-874-6440
http://www.labellevie.us/

Category: French/Mediterranean

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 9
Service: 10
Ambience: 9

Recommendation: Excellent. Fresh off a second-straight James Beard nomination for best chef in the Midwest, Tim McKee shines and produces what is widely considered the best food in the Twin Cities.

Having just returned from our first trip to La Belle Vie (LBV) I was anxious to put my thoughts on paper (it is past midnight and the adrenaline is pumping). I’ll be honest; I wasn’t sure what to expect from LBV. I have two friends, both of who I respect because they know their food, and they recounted two diametrically opposite experiences from their last visits; one had a smashingly good time at LBV (read his review here), while the other wanted to smash his head against a wall (figuratively). As we were escorted to our seats, my heart was pumping fast; in anticipation of what was to come and from finally stepping into the hallowed halls of the dining area known as LBV.

You could drive right by LBV and not notice it – the exterior is non-descript (it’s actually part of a residential complex). When you enter the lobby, on the right is the LBV lounge…casual, contemporary and inviting. We were greeted right away and whisked away to the dining area. The space, with its mix of both traditional and contemporary design, evokes class and elegance. The walls are painted beige and there’s heavy use of intricate white trim as accents. But just as you’re soaking in the classic design, you’re hit with the modern – metal sculptures, abstract art, and clean lines of the tables and chairs. The whole room was nicely lit from the sunlight filtering through the sheer covered large windows.

The menu, at the hands of two-time James Beard nominee Tim McKee, has influences from France and the Mediterranean. He offers both a 5-course and an 8-course tasting menu, complete with wine flights (note that the tasting menu is served to the whole table). We went the 5-course route with a twist – we would add a Bouillabaisse as a 6th course. The wine list at LBV is spectacular, however it’s the non-alcoholic beverage list that really caught our eye…it’s a non-drinker’s dream. The Amethyst (blackberry syrup, sweet and sour, and sparkling water) was a sweet and bubbly concoction. The Petit Parlez-Vous (a pineapple raspberry martini topped with orange/passion fruit foam) belonged in a museum. If you’d prefer an (alcoholic) cocktail, we’d recommend the Tom Girl, a grapefruit vodka with pomegranate juice, pink grapefruit juice, cayenne and sea salt. The fruity overtones, from the fragrant grapefruit are followed by the delicate undertones of the spices. Oh, and in case you want wine, the Allegrini - Palazzo Della Torre ($49/bottle) is a nice inexpensive option.

As we were ready to start our gastronomic adventure, we were teased with an amuse of Fried Squash Flower with Ratatouille. The onions and tomatoes in the ratatouille had influences of Indian spices and were very familiar. Our first course was the Sweet Pea Panna Cotta with King Crab and Brown Butter Vinaigrette. A nice lump of sweet crab meat was the perfect way to start the meal – the cold panna cotta added a nice textural balance to the dish. The second course was a Sauteed Daurade with Ramps, Tomato and Rock Shrimp. It has been seared perfectly on one side and was served on homemade ravioli. We loved the texture of the crispy skin but the fish was a little too strong for us. Our next course was the Roasted Poussin with Caramelized Pork Belly, Broccoli Raab and Eggplant. As I put the first morsel of food into my mouth, I hear one of our fellow diners exclaim “how come my chicken never tastes this good!” The poussin had a crispy exterior, but was still moist and juicy and was sitting on a Japanese eggplant puree. Off to the side was a nice hunk of pork belly. Everything about this preparation was memorable…the texture and flavor combinations had our taste buds electrified.

We’re half way through our meal and then we made the decision to add the Bouillabaisse course. This fish stew was served with one piece each of mussel, clam, daurade, and sea scallop with a garlic-saffron aioli. We’re hit with a sharp bitter flavor with the first bite (I had a piece of the clam); others on our table got the same odd flavor. Once past the clam, the stew got better, although some of us had to contend with a dry daurade. We stirred in the aioli, and this took the soup to the next level…it took away the strong fishy smell and added creaminess to the base. Some people on our table liked the dish, but I don’t think we’d order it again. Our fifth course was the Beef Tenderloin with Morel Mushrooms, Jerusalem Artichokes and Forme D’Ambert. One bite, and you’re on the verge of a food orgasm. Served with both a white and a red wine reduction, and a mild blue cheese sauce, this tenderloin is the new standard for beef preparation. Just a few bites, and it’s done…we want more. But alas, precious things come in small quantities. As we recover from the food coma, we’re on to our final course, the Peach Brown Butter Cake with Grilled Peach Salad and Hibiscus Yogurt Sherbet. The second I read the description, I knew one of us (Natasha) wouldn’t be satisfied with the dessert (at the end of a meal like this, she needs chocolate). The cake had mild flavors and the sweet peaches gave off a sweet smell. It’s the pairing of the sour sherbet that takes this dessert to the next level, though. Although we’re done with our dessert course, I peruse the menu to see if I can find something decadent that will Natasha would fancy, but most of the desserts were fruit-based.

The food and ambience are just two of the three components that it takes to make a meal memorable. The service at LBV was impeccable. There’s a team of servers that float around the dining room effortlessly, taking meticulous care of each of the customers. This team works in unison – our bread and water is replenished quickly, they all smile and greet you genuinely, and it’s especially amazing how they precisely coordinate serving each course to the 5 diners. Our meal lasted the better part of three hours, but there weren’t awkward (or long) pauses. Bravo to the front of the house at La Belle Vie.

$$$$. A 6-course meal for two, with drinks, tax, and tip was $235.

www.mspfoodies.com

Jul 16, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP: Porter and Frye, Fugaise or 20.21?

Fugaise and LBV in that order. We went to Cosmos about a year back and had an awesome meal but that's been a while. Here is our review of Fugaise (we'd highly recommend you go with the tasting menu).

Fugaise
208 E Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55414
612-436-0777
http://www.fugaise.com/

Category: French

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 10
Service: 9
Ambience: 9

Recommendation: Excellent. Fugaise was recently ranked by Zagat as one of the Top 10 restaurants in the Twin Cities (we agree wholeheartedly and understand why) – the result of meticulous preparation and exacting execution is a meal we won’t soon forget.

Fugaise is the brainchild of chef and owner Don Saunders (formerly of Vincent, La Belle Vie, and A Rebours). It’s located on a stretch of Hennepin Ave north of the river and even frequent visitors to the area probably don’t know it exists (the entrance is tiny and easy to miss). We’ve heard incredible things about Fugaise and were looking forward to the meal…although with a bit of trepidation because high expectations have sometimes lead to let-downs. The restaurant is located at the end of the building’s entrance corridor. As soon as you enter the restaurant, your eye is drawn to the mosaic tile that forms the backdrop to the small bar. The dining room itself has the feel of a modern, romantic loft with flashy, colorful, contemporary art adorning the dull gray and brick walls. There are no windows in this restaurant, but frankly it doesn’t matter – the décor is splendid and you don’t feel like you’re in a confined space.

The menu is small and is more readily appreciated by those with a more refined palate (luckily for us, our group of friends fall into this category). We were treated to fresh baked bread (warm out of the oven) and an Amuse – Olive Tapenade with Basil and Anchovy on Toasted Brioche (salty and wonderful). Among the appetizers, the Scallops with Parsnip Risotto and Lemon Truffle Froth was the clear winner and we’d all go back just for that dish alone. The sweet scallops were cooked perfectly and everything on the plate was a hit – this might be the single most memorable dish we have had in the Twin Cities. The pan seared Foie Gras with Poached Pear and Puff Pastry was amazing and came in a close second followed by the Fried Squid with Butter Lettuce, White Anchovy and Basil (which was good, but not in the same league as the first two).

We got an assortment of entrees, including the special of the day – Pheasant with Root Vegetables and Lemon Truffle Froth. It’s hard to pick a favorite, so we’ll pick two – the Assiette of Veal (Tenderloin, Sweet Breads, and Cheek with Sauce Perigord) and the Duck (with Grilled Mushrooms, Fried Sweet Potato, and Orange-Sherry Sauce). Both were cooked to perfection (actually, all meats were beautifully cooked) and the sauces worked really well with the meats mentioned above. The Pheasant special would have been up there with the other two if it weren’t for the Lemon Truffle Froth which we felt was too mild for the game. The Monk Fish with Savoy Cabbage, Pork Belly and Cider Jus was the weakest entrée – it just didn’t have the wow effect like the others did. In fact we swapped the Cider Jus from the Monk Fish and the Lemon Froth from the Pheasant and that significantly improved both dishes! For dessert we highly recommend the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Chestnuts, Toffee Sauce, and Vanilla Ice Cream – it was devoured quickly. The Dark Chocolate Marquise with Orange was quite good but could have used some more orange peel/zest as the combination of the two ingredients elevated the dessert. I know its nit picking, but that’s what remains when the meal is of this high a caliber. The service was great, partly because the restaurant wasn’t crowded but also because the staff was tag teaming when waiting on tables.

$$$$. Most entrees are $25-$30. On average we paid $55 with tax and tip not including wine, which was around $10 per glass.

Update (May 8, 2008) – Just returned from a fabulous evening at Fugaise. We were sad to see the restaurant was completely empty but that allowed the server and kitchen to have their undivided attention on us. The 5-course tasting menu ($65) was ahead of us and we were looking forward to it. We were enticed with an amuse of Prosciutto wrapped Grilled Asparagus with a berry compote - refined rustic would be a good definition with the char flavors of the asparagus paired with the sweetness of the compote. Our first course was an Almond Crusted Scallop served with celery root puree, celery remoulade, and bacon vinaigrette – the crunchy salty bacon left a lasting impression and really added depth to the flavors. The Frog Legs, prepared two ways, was our second course – a light tempura frog leg and a pea puree with frog legs was immaculate. I’ve had the pleasure of some great Halibut preparations recently and the delicately flavored Seared Halibut with Leeks, Whipped Potatoes and a Parsley Artichoke Broth was no exception – the fragrance emanating from this dish was intoxicating. Our fourth course was the Pork Tenderloin with Glazed Pork Belly, Root Vegetables, and Honey Au Jus. The single most impressive component tonight was the crispy and sweet pork belly and that’s high praise for what might seem as an innocuous ingredient. We ended the meal with a Lemon Panna Cotta with Strawberries, Mint, and a Honey Foam. A light and clean finish to a wonderful meal – sour citrus, sweet strawberries and honey, and pungent mint. Service was impeccable and our server even went out and replensihed our parking meter. Chef Saunders is on a roll.

www.mspfoodies.com

Jul 16, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP: La Belle Vie (whoo hoo!)

We were at LBV a few days ago - an awesome meal; although not our favorite in the Twin Cities (that honor goes to Fugaise). Here is our review.

La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Ave
Minneapolis, MN
612-874-6440
http://www.labellevie.us/

Category: French/Mediterranean

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 9
Service: 10
Ambience: 9

Recommendation: Excellent. Fresh off a second-straight James Beard nomination for best chef in the Midwest, Tim McKee shines and produces what is widely considered the best food in the Twin Cities.

Having just returned from our first trip to La Belle Vie (LBV) I was anxious to put my thoughts on paper (it is past midnight and the adrenaline is pumping). I’ll be honest; I wasn’t sure what to expect from LBV. I have two friends, both of who I respect because they know their food, and they recounted two diametrically opposite experiences from their last visits; one had a smashingly good time at LBV (read his review here), while the other wanted to smash his head against a wall (figuratively). As we were escorted to our seats, my heart was pumping fast; in anticipation of what was to come and from finally stepping into the hallowed halls of the dining area known as LBV.

You could drive right by LBV and not notice it – the exterior is non-descript (it’s actually part of a residential complex). When you enter the lobby, on the right is the LBV lounge…casual, contemporary and inviting. We were greeted right away and whisked away to the dining area. The space, with its mix of both traditional and contemporary design, evokes class and elegance. The walls are painted beige and there’s heavy use of intricate white trim as accents. But just as you’re soaking in the classic design, you’re hit with the modern – metal sculptures, abstract art, and clean lines of the tables and chairs. The whole room was nicely lit from the sunlight filtering through the sheer covered large windows.

The menu, at the hands of two-time James Beard nominee Tim McKee, has influences from France and the Mediterranean. He offers both a 5-course and an 8-course tasting menu, complete with wine flights (note that the tasting menu is served to the whole table). We went the 5-course route with a twist – we would add a Bouillabaisse as a 6th course. The wine list at LBV is spectacular, however it’s the non-alcoholic beverage list that really caught our eye…it’s a non-drinker’s dream. The Amethyst (blackberry syrup, sweet and sour, and sparkling water) was a sweet and bubbly concoction. The Petit Parlez-Vous (a pineapple raspberry martini topped with orange/passion fruit foam) belonged in a museum. If you’d prefer an (alcoholic) cocktail, we’d recommend the Tom Girl, a grapefruit vodka with pomegranate juice, pink grapefruit juice, cayenne and sea salt. The fruity overtones, from the fragrant grapefruit are followed by the delicate undertones of the spices. Oh, and in case you want wine, the Allegrini - Palazzo Della Torre ($49/bottle) is a nice inexpensive option.

As we were ready to start our gastronomic adventure, we were teased with an amuse of Fried Squash Flower with Ratatouille. The onions and tomatoes in the ratatouille had influences of Indian spices and were very familiar. Our first course was the Sweet Pea Panna Cotta with King Crab and Brown Butter Vinaigrette. A nice lump of sweet crab meat was the perfect way to start the meal – the cold panna cotta added a nice textural balance to the dish. The second course was a Sauteed Daurade with Ramps, Tomato and Rock Shrimp. It has been seared perfectly on one side and was served on homemade ravioli. We loved the texture of the crispy skin but the fish was a little too strong for us. Our next course was the Roasted Poussin with Caramelized Pork Belly, Broccoli Raab and Eggplant. As I put the first morsel of food into my mouth, I hear one of our fellow diners exclaim “how come my chicken never tastes this good!” The poussin had a crispy exterior, but was still moist and juicy and was sitting on a Japanese eggplant puree. Off to the side was a nice hunk of pork belly. Everything about this preparation was memorable…the texture and flavor combinations had our taste buds electrified.

We’re half way through our meal and then we made the decision to add the Bouillabaisse course. This fish stew was served with one piece each of mussel, clam, daurade, and sea scallop with a garlic-saffron aioli. We’re hit with a sharp bitter flavor with the first bite (I had a piece of the clam); others on our table got the same odd flavor. Once past the clam, the stew got better, although some of us had to contend with a dry daurade. We stirred in the aioli, and this took the soup to the next level…it took away the strong fishy smell and added creaminess to the base. Some people on our table liked the dish, but I don’t think we’d order it again. Our fifth course was the Beef Tenderloin with Morel Mushrooms, Jerusalem Artichokes and Forme D’Ambert. One bite, and you’re on the verge of a food orgasm. Served with both a white and a red wine reduction, and a mild blue cheese sauce, this tenderloin is the new standard for beef preparation. Just a few bites, and it’s done…we want more. But alas, precious things come in small quantities. As we recover from the food coma, we’re on to our final course, the Peach Brown Butter Cake with Grilled Peach Salad and Hibiscus Yogurt Sherbet. The second I read the description, I knew one of us (Natasha) wouldn’t be satisfied with the dessert (at the end of a meal like this, she needs chocolate). The cake had mild flavors and the sweet peaches gave off a sweet smell. It’s the pairing of the sour sherbet that takes this dessert to the next level, though. Although we’re done with our dessert course, I peruse the menu to see if I can find something decadent that will Natasha would fancy, but most of the desserts were fruit-based.

The food and ambience are just two of the three components that it takes to make a meal memorable. The service at LBV was impeccable. There’s a team of servers that float around the dining room effortlessly, taking meticulous care of each of the customers. This team works in unison – our bread and water is replenished quickly, they all smile and greet you genuinely, and it’s especially amazing how they precisely coordinate serving each course to the 5 diners. Our meal lasted the better part of three hours, but there weren’t awkward (or long) pauses. Bravo to the front of the house at La Belle Vie.

$$$$. A 6-course meal for two, with drinks, tax, and tip was $235.

www.mspfoodies.com

Jul 15, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

What to order at 112 Eatery (Mpls)?

We love the 112 Burger and the Nori encrusted Sirloin with Ponzu. Desserts are excellent. Here is our full review:

112 Eatery
112 N. 3rd St
Minneapolis, MN
(612) 343-7696
http://www.112eatery.com/

Category: American-Upscale

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 9
Service: 7
Ambience: 7

Recommendation: Excellent. One of a kind eatery in the Twin Cities with a chef that has received his share of accolades. 112 serves excellent eats until late at night and satisfies all palates and budgets.

112 Eatery is located in the historic Amsterdam Building on 3rd street in the Warehouse district. The space is small yet cozy, dark with soft lighting, exposed brick, and hardwood floors. 112 is chic but unpretentious and has a New York bistro feel to it. It is a great place for a date, dining with friends, or a late night snack after a night out at the bars on 1st Avenue. Even though its been open for three years, its undoubtedly one of hardest restaurants to get into, regardless of whether it’s a weekend or weeknight. On a recent Wednesday night at 11:30pm, more than half the restaurant was full, which is a refreshing change to the Twin Cities dining scene. The main level can sometimes get very loud and stuffy so we’d recommend sitting on the upper level where the ventilation is a little better and seating a little more open. Loud music can be an issue for some as it makes it hard to have a conversation. The menu consists of a good mix of appetizers, salads, small plates, and entrees. They have a nice wine list and a good selection of desserts and after-dinner drinks. Ever since it opened in January 2005, 112 Eatery has become a rage in the Twin Cities foodie scene. It has been featured in many magazines - Food and Wine, and Bon Appetit, to name a few. Chef Isaac Becker experiments with ingredients and combinations in a way that we’ve never seen before; his dishes are very flavorful yet simple.

The Sweet and Sour Crab Salad ($9) from the Appetizer menu is simply delicious. It consists of crab, chopped greens, cucumbers, cilantro, and mint drizzled with a simple dressing of lemon juice, rice wine vinegar and sugar…very light and refreshing. Another excellent appetizer is the Blue Prawns with Mayo ($12). Gigantic New Zealand tempura-battered prawns are served with Sriracha sauce laced aioli. The Sea Scallops with Oyster Mushrooms ($12) make a great starter. The sweet and soft scallops are drizzled with truffle oil…yum. Appetizers are very diverse and have something to offer for every palate: Duck Salad, Soba Noodles with Shrimp, Lamb, Scallops, Sauteed Sweetbreads, etc. In addition to Appetizers, they also have Sides which can also act as an appetizer. Their Pan-fried Gnocchi with Parmesan Reggiano ($8) is simple, yet excellent. This is one of the better gnocchi’s we’ve had in the Twin Cities. The Cauliflower Fritters ($7.50), while good, would not be our top pick. Large chunks of cauliflower are deep fried in a light batter; nothing spectacular. The Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto is also good. The French Fries ($6.50) are thin and crispy, like Belgian Frites.

For entrees, we love the 112 Cheese burger ($9). The burger is an excellent example of the Chef Becker’s creativity and genius. The ground beef patty includes eggs, thyme, onions and is grilled to perfection…almost melts in your mouth. It is topped with Brie cheese and served on an English muffin. Very unusual and extremely flavorful. The Linguine with Blue Prawns is awesome, although it is no longer on the menu. On a recent visit, our server recommended the Tagliatelle with Foie Gras Meatballs ($12 half, $24 full). We loved the meatballs, as they literally melted in your mouth. The dish overall was a little underwhelming…it was lightly seasoned with a cream based sauce. Our server’s other recommendation was spot on. The Nori encrusted Sirloin with Ponzu ($28) was excellent. The Ponzu sauce gave the dish a nice sweet and citrusy flavor and the accompanying wasabi gave it a nice kick.

We can’t rave enough about the desserts at 112. The Tres Leches Cake ($7) was soft, creamy and simply terrific. One bite and all the milk absorbed by the cake comes bursting out into your mouth. The Chocolate Pot de Crème ($7) had a smooth dense pudding like texture and was absolutely decadent. The Butterscotch Budino ($7) was a layered dessert with custard at the bottom and butterscotch at the top. The combination was excellent but once the butterscotch layer ran out, we found that the Budino actually had a sprinkling of salt crystals, something we didn’t care for. Why mess up a sweet dessert by adding salt?

$$$. Appetizers, Small plates, and Sides are under $10. Entrees are $16-$28. Open Monday-Friday 5pm-1am (full kitchen service) and Sundays 5pm-10pm. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak hours. This place is hard to get into due to its popularity.

www.mspfoodies.com

Jul 10, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Sea Salt (MSP)

Couldn't agree more. We posted the following review for Sea Salt and got a bunch of hate mail from people that love this place. I didn't have a bad experience there, but nothing memorable and not something I would really go back for.

From our experience we have realized that people are very passionate about eateries in their neighborhood and will go to any extent to defend their turf.

Sea Salt Eatery
4801 Minnehaha Ave
Minneapolis, MN
612-721-8990
http://www.seasalteatery.com/

Category: Seafood

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 6
Service: N/A (counter service only
)Ambience: 8

Recommendation: Good. We had mixed feelings about our visit – a great location in a picturesque setting by Minnehaha Falls, but the food isn’t spectacular, even by casual eatery standards.

Sea Salt is literally a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Minnehaha Falls. The place is little more than a concession stand and gives you the feeling that you’re in San Francisco’s Fisherman Wharf instead of Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Falls. If you’re in the area, it’s a good place to grab a bite to eat, along with a cold beer while enjoying music in the nearby bandshell or just lazing in the park...the only thing the experience is missing is a beach! Plenty of outdoor seating is available and a few seats are also available inside the eatery. Sea Salt redefines summer picnics in the park…gone are the burgers and hot dogs; in are oysters, fish tacos, calamari, and Po’Boys. They also serve wine and beer. Sea Salt serves a handful of flavors of Sebastian Joe’s ice-cream, a perfect companion on a warm summer day.

The lines are terrible on weekends so we visited on a weekday night and didn’t have to wait at all. Unfortunately, they were out of the oysters, which we were really looking forward to trying – the guys at Sea Salt are ex Coastal Seafoods (an excellent local fish market) employees so they really know their seafood. We got the Grilled Marlin Fish Taco ($7), Crab Cake Platter ($10), and a Crawfish Po’boy ($10). While the experience was great (where else can you eat seafood sitting right by the waterfalls?), the food didn’t quite wow us. The Fish Taco came with two corn tortillas, grilled marlin, and red salsa topped with onions, cilantro, and a side of lime. We have to give this place points for serving an authentic taco…there was no shredded cheese or sour cream in sight. The flavors were ok…the fish was pretty bland overall and the salsa was watery and didn’t have a kick to it. Some shredded cabbage and white sauce would have done the trick. The one Crab Cake the platter came with was good…although the word “platter” was misleading. Apparently a small slice of honeydew and a little plastic container with bland dry coleslaw made this dish a “platter.” We would have been just as happy to have paid a little less ($10 for one crab cake?) and got just the crab cake. The Po’Boy was also ok. It came in a soft bun with fried crawfish along with creamy tartar sauce (no sign of the hot sauce that was supposed to come with the dish). Overall, we thought the meal was good for a summer day in the park but not if you are looking for great seafood. Yes, we know it’s a casual eatery (and we given them points for fresh tasting seafood), but they could benefit from a couple of tweaks to take the food to the next level. If you’re looking for seafood, we’d recommend Stella’s Fish Café or Oceanaire over Sea Salt.

$$. We paid $38 for 3 dishes and a drink. Open April-October from 11-7 Sun-Mon and 11-8 Tues-Sat. Paid parking lot close to eatery. Light Rail access.

http://www.mspfoodies.com/

Jul 09, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP: Pre-theatre dinner - Cue or Alma

Hands down Fugaise, where we've had two spectacular meals. Had mediocre expereinces at both Alma and Cue (although I would pick Alma over Cue if I had the choice). Here's our review of Fugaise.

Fugaise
208 E Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55414
612-436-0777
http://www.fugaise.com/

Category: French

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 10
Service: 9
Ambience: 9

Recommendation: Excellent. Fugaise was recently ranked by Zagat as one of the Top 10 restaurants in the Twin Cities (we agree wholeheartedly and understand why) – the result of meticulous preparation and exacting execution is a meal we won’t soon forget.

Fugaise is the brainchild of chef and owner Don Saunders (formerly of Vincent, La Belle Vie, and A Rebours). It’s located on a stretch of Hennepin Ave north of the river and even frequent visitors to the area probably don’t know it exists (the entrance is tiny and easy to miss). We’ve heard incredible things about Fugaise and were looking forward to the meal…although with a bit of trepidation because high expectations have sometimes lead to let-downs. The restaurant is located at the end of the building’s entrance corridor. As soon as you enter the restaurant, your eye is drawn to the mosaic tile that forms the backdrop to the small bar. The dining room itself has the feel of a modern, romantic loft with flashy, colorful, contemporary art adorning the dull gray and brick walls. There are no windows in this restaurant, but frankly it doesn’t matter – the décor is splendid and you don’t feel like you’re in a confined space.

The menu is small and is more readily appreciated by those with a more refined palate (luckily for us, our group of friends fall into this category). We were treated to fresh baked bread (warm out of the oven) and an Amuse – Olive Tapenade with Basil and Anchovy on Toasted Brioche (salty and wonderful). Among the appetizers, the Scallops with Parsnip Risotto and Lemon Truffle Froth was the clear winner and we’d all go back just for that dish alone. The sweet scallops were cooked perfectly and everything on the plate was a hit – this might be the single most memorable dish we have had in the Twin Cities. The pan seared Foie Gras with Poached Pear and Puff Pastry was amazing and came in a close second followed by the Fried Squid with Butter Lettuce, White Anchovy and Basil (which was good, but not in the same league as the first two).

We got an assortment of entrees, including the special of the day – Pheasant with Root Vegetables and Lemon Truffle Froth. It’s hard to pick a favorite, so we’ll pick two – the Assiette of Veal (Tenderloin, Sweet Breads, and Cheek with Sauce Perigord) and the Duck (with Grilled Mushrooms, Fried Sweet Potato, and Orange-Sherry Sauce). Both were cooked to perfection (actually, all meats were beautifully cooked) and the sauces worked really well with the meats mentioned above. The Pheasant special would have been up there with the other two if it weren’t for the Lemon Truffle Froth which we felt was too mild for the game. The Monk Fish with Savoy Cabbage, Pork Belly and Cider Jus was the weakest entrée – it just didn’t have the wow effect like the others did. In fact we swapped the Cider Jus from the Monk Fish and the Lemon Froth from the Pheasant and that significantly improved both dishes! For dessert we highly recommend the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Chestnuts, Toffee Sauce, and Vanilla Ice Cream – it was devoured quickly. The Dark Chocolate Marquise with Orange was quite good but could have used some more orange peel/zest as the combination of the two ingredients elevated the dessert. I know its nit picking, but that’s what remains when the meal is of this high a caliber. The service was great, partly because the restaurant wasn’t crowded but also because the staff was tag teaming when waiting on tables.

$$$$. Most entrees are $25-$30. On average we paid $55 with tax and tip not including wine, which was around $10 per glass.

Update (May 8, 2008) – Just returned from a fabulous evening at Fugaise. We were sad to see the restaurant was completely empty but that allowed the server and kitchen to have their undivided attention on us. The 5-course tasting menu ($65) was ahead of us and we were looking forward to it. We were enticed with an amuse of Prosciutto wrapped Grilled Asparagus with a berry compote - refined rustic would be a good definition with the char flavors of the asparagus paired with the sweetness of the compote. Our first course was an Almond Crusted Scallop served with celery root puree, celery remoulade, and bacon vinaigrette – the crunchy salty bacon left a lasting impression and really added depth to the flavors. The Frog Legs, prepared two ways, was our second course – a light tempura frog leg and a pea puree with frog legs was immaculate. I’ve had the pleasure of some great Halibut preparations recently and the delicately flavored Seared Halibut with Leeks, Whipped Potatoes and a Parsley Artichoke Broth was no exception – the fragrance emanating from this dish was intoxicating. Our fourth course was the Pork Tenderloin with Glazed Pork Belly, Root Vegetables, and Honey Au Jus. The single most impressive component tonight was the crispy and sweet pork belly and that’s high praise for what might seem as an innocuous ingredient. We ended the meal with a Lemon Panna Cotta with Strawberries, Mint, and a Honey Foam. A light and clean finish to a wonderful meal – sour citrus, sweet strawberries and honey, and pungent mint. Service was impeccable and our server even went out and replensihed our parking meter. Chef Saunders is on a roll.

www.mspfoodies.com

Jun 16, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Quality Indian in MSP

We checked out Bombay 2 Deli recently and weren't blown away. Here is our detailed review...

Bombay 2 Deli
1840 Central Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN
612-788-4571
www.bombay2deli.com

Category: Indian

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 6
Service: N/A (counter service
)Ambience: N/A

Recommendation: Average. Minneapolis’ only Indian deli that serves Indian street food such as Chaats, Bhel Puri, and Vadas. While the concept is unique, we found most of the dishes we tried to be average at best.

Awarded “Best Cheap Eats 2007” by City Pages, this unique Indian café is located on Central Avenue in Minneapolis, which is Minneapolis’ so called “Little India.” Bombay 2 Deli is attached to Asia Imports, an Indian grocery store - you can do your weeks groceries while the women in the back of the restaurant make your meal. The vegetarian menu consists of many curries such as Daals, Paneer, Chhole with a rotation of 3 curries per day. They also have daily mini meals where you can get your choice of 2 curries, rice, and chappatis (bread) for $6.99. We visited recently when we heard that they serve many snacks that are reminiscent of Indian street food. Having grown up in India, we were delighted to try this place for a taste of home most restaurants find hard to replicate. We found the food to be average at best but given that it is the only place serving Indian street food, we will most likely visit again, when the street food craving kicks in. Although the menu contains 15-20 different snacks, they were only serving 7-8 of those dishes when we visited.

The Bhel Puri ($3.49), found on every street corner in Bombay, has a base of puffed rice, sev (a fried snack), and other mixed snacks. The base is then mixed with a variety of dry spices, tomatoes, onions, tamarind chutney, cilantro chutney, lime juice, and boiled potatoes to form a delicious savory delight. Bombay 2 Deli actually made a good Bhel Puri. Most other dishes at the deli were also topped with similar ingredients…the tamarind and cilantro chutneys, garbanzo beans, potatoes, etc. The Papri Chaat ($3.99) which used fried chips as it base and topped with yogurt was ok. We thought it lacked depth of flavor…it wasn’t seasoned well. The Samosa Chaat ($3.99) was our favorite…the popular Samosas are crushed and topped with - you guessed it - chickpeas, chutneys, onions, and yogurt. The Chole Puri ($4.99), which is Chickpea curry served with a deep fried puffed Puri (bread) was good. The curry was very flavorful. We didn’t like the Pav Bhaji ($4.49) or the Dhokla ($3.99). Pav Bhaji is a delicious and spicy combination of mashed vegetables cooked in spices and served with a warm buttery bread called Pav. The dish was totally bland and we had to add salt and lemon juice in large quantities to make it taste edible. The worst part that the deli did not have fresh limes, they used lemon juice concentrate! (Note: they have a grocery store selling fresh produce attached to it!). The Dhokla, which is a very popular dish eaten by Gujaratis is a steamed square made with chickpea flour and topped with fried mustard seeds, cilantro, and chilies. Unfortunately, it tasted worse than what you would get from a boxed mix and it didn’t have any mustard seeds or fresh cilantro on it. The Masala tea ($1.50), milky Indian sweet tea made with spices such as cinnamon and cardamom was ok.

$. Street Parking.

MSP Foodies www.mspfoodies.com

Jun 12, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

2009 PGA Championship (Minneapolis)

There are so many good places to eat, you (and the other 100,000) people wont run out. Here are our top choices from around the Twin Cities (by cuisine)

Our Top Picks
112 Eatery (Late Night Dining)
20.21 (Fine Dining)
Cafe Latte (Dessert)
Campiello (Italian)
Capital Grille (Steakhouse)
Chambers Kitchen (Fine Dining)
Chapati (Indian - North)
Cosmos (Fine Dining)
Dakota Jazz Club (Music Venue)
Edina Grill (Casual Neighborhood Eatery)
Famous Dave's (BBQ)
Fasika (Ethiopian)
Fugaise (French)
Holy Land (Middle Eastern)
Hunan (Chinese Lunch Buffet)
Key's Bar and Grill (Breakfast)
King and I (Thai)
La Grolla (Italian)
Little Szechuan (Chinese)
Nalapak (Indian - South)
Origami (Sushi)
Quang (Vietnamese)
Satay 2 Go (Malay/Singaporean)
Solera (Tapas)
Stella's Fish Cafe (Seafood)
Tejas (Southwestern)
Toast (Wine Bar)
Zeno Cafe (Dessert)

If you're in the SW burbs, you can check out the restuarants on 50th and France in Edina. There are 3-4 good restaurants (we've reviewed each of them) within a couple blocks of each other. The Southern suburbs are also a haven for good ethnic cuisine.

MSP Foodies (www.mspfoodies.com)

Jun 12, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Suggestions on authentic mexican in MSP

And we'd also recommend El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul

El Burrito Mercado
175 Concord St (Cesar Chavez)
St. Paul, MN
651-227-2192
http://www.elburritomercado.com/

Category: Mexican

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: N/A (Self service
)Ambience: 6

Recommendation: Very Good. Excellent authentic Mexican food served cafeteria style in a full service Mexican supermarket.

This is a full service Mexican grocery store where you can find everything from staples such as Mexican spices and home-made tortillas to hard to find items such as jicama and imported Mexican candies. The market includes a housewares section, produce department, bakery, shelf-stable items, as well as a cafeteria/cantina. Located in St Paul’s Latino community of District Del Sol, the ethnically charged atmosphere at El Burrito Mercado is as close to a Mexican experience as you’ll find this far north. From the moment you enter its doors your senses are immersed in authentic Mexican flavors, sounds, smells, and sights. We love visiting this store for their Spicy Salsas as well as cheap avocados! They also have a good selection of fresh juices and dried chilies. The restaurant (along with others in the West Side area) sets up outdoor stands that sell food during the Annual Cinco De Mayo festival held in May.

The cafeteria serves tamales, great carnitas, and dishes such as pork in green chilies and chicken mole. We absolutely love their Carnitas and Beef burritos. We also like their authentic Tacos, which are served on corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, and lime. In the summer time, they occasionally have a stand that serves fresh roasted corn in the back.

www.mspfoodies.com

Apr 27, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Suggestions on authentic mexican in MSP

We're big fans of Mixteca (see review below)

La Mixteca
7822 Portland Ave S
Bloomington, MN 55420
952-884-1985

Category: Mexican

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 9
Service: N/A (Self service)
Ambience: 4

Recommendation: Excellent! This authentic Mexican cafeteria-style restaurant offers great food, including “Chipotle-style” burritos done right, at very reasonable prices.

La Mixteca is in the location where the old Taco Morelos used to be. It is owned by 2 brothers, Jorge Gomez and Miguel Hernandez, from Oaxaca, Mexico. Nick had a chance to speak with Jorge the last time he was there and was impressed at their genuine caring for the restaurant and the food they serve their patrons. They are in the process of bringing a little more ambience to this restaurant (note that this is in a strip mall). The existing look is quite bare with some murals on the wall and a cafeteria style order line and seating area.

The menu is authentic and offers Burritos, Tacos, Gorditas, Salads, and more with a choice of many meats including Asada (steak), Barbacoa (pulled steak), Chorizo (sausage), Carnitas (pulled pork), Spicy Chicken, etc. For those that are familiar with Chipotle, the concept is the same, but this place does it right (it actually has flavor). You can add rice and choice of beans to your dish as well as add-ons such as cheese, lettuce, guacamole, cilantro, etc and choose from of 6-8 salsas ranging from the non-spicy Pico to the hot Chile de Arbol. The meats are excellent – the Carnitas are juicy while the Spicy Chicken (flavored with Habanero and Arbol chilies) has a nice kick. Nick usually keeps his burrito simple with rice, beans, cilantro and pico, and tops it off with Habanero and Arbol salsas (as you can guess – he likes spicy food). This restaurant also has authentic Mexican drinks including ones made with Tamarind and Hibiscus. And if you haven’t tried Mexican Coca Cola, here’s your chance – they make it with real sugar, not corn syrup. Jorge and Miguel just launched a Mexican baked goods section as well, but we haven’t had a chance to sample the wares. This place is highly recommended and Nick has been here many times for lunch; you’ll leave satisfied with an appreciation for true Mexican flavors.

$

Update (November 19, 2007) – Another fabulous experience at La Mixteca. This time we tried a Taco Platter – 3 tacos with one each of Asada (steak), Carnitas (Pork), and Lengua (Beef Tongue). The tacos were topped simply with cilantro, onion, hot salsa, lime, and a bit of cheese. We especially liked the Lengua because it was very tender and just melts in your mouth (if you’ve never tried tongue before, don’t fear and just go for it – you’d be surprised because the texture is not stringy as many would expect tongue to be). The owners are also launching an expanded menu which includes a Platter of Chorizo, Chicken, Asada, Carnitas, Shrimp, and Queso Frito (Cheese) served with beans, some fabulous guacamole, and rice – what a treat.

www.mspfoodies.com

Apr 27, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP - SLP/Edina/Uptown business dinner for 15?

Good choice. Here is our review of JP.

JP American Bistro
2937 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55417
(612) 824-9300
http://www.jpamericanbistro.com/

Category: American-Upscale

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: 6
Ambience: 7

Recommendation: Very Good. The menu at this chef-driven restaurant isn’t intimidating and definitely not pretentious, but the array of flavors and JP’s international inspiration is what makes this establishment one of the most beloved in the Twin Cities.

Chef J.P. Samuelson opened this restaurant with his wife in 2003 – a bistro of sorts with a seasonally changing menu. Casual sophistication is evident in the minimalist rustic décor – exposed beams and frosted glass are two elements that jump out immediately, but it’s the pale yellow wall color, dim lighting, and white linen tablecloths that give this restaurant its elegant feel. The restaurant also features a full-service bar as well as outdoor patio dining. Happy Hour (served only at the bar) lasts from 4-6pm everyday and features half price beer, wine, specialty cocktails and appetizers.

The restaurant wasn’t very busy on a Tuesday night, and we were seated at a large table within earshot of the kitchen – JP even came over to give us his recommendations on the menu. We were excited to learn that the restaurant features half price bottles of wine from Sun-Tue (that’s a steal) and we ordered a couple bottles for the table (we liked the Andrew Rich Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley). On the cocktail menu, the New Pueblo, JP’s version of a top shelf margarita was amazing. An evaluation of the menu coupled with the aromas from the nearby kitchen made out mouths water. For appetizers we would highly recommend the Bistro Calamari with Thai Dipping Sauce, Seared Au Bon Canard Foie Gras with Pickled Beet Salad and JP’s Rustic Pizza with Bacon and Currants. The Foie was spectacular – the richness was carefully balanced with the sweetness from the pear and beet salad. The pizza was amazing as well – the unusual toppings resulted in a great burst of smoky, sweet, and crunchy flavors. Everyone on the table couldn’t stop talking about it.

For entrees, we would recommend the Pork Tenderloin with Sour Cherry Sauce and the Hangar Steak with Slow Roasted Grapes. The pork was cooked perfectly and we liked the combination of the sweet and sour sauce with the creamy potato puree. Similarly, the hangar steak, which was served on the rare side of medium, was succulent and matched well with the sweetness from the onions and grapes. Although we love caramelized onions, the large peels were unmanageable and looked rather unappetizing. The Pacific Arctic Char with Horseradish Crème Fraiche was quite good as well. One of our friends had the Prairie Trout stuffed with Onions and Mushrooms and wasn’t impressed. The desserts were disappointing…the menu felt contrived and unimaginative. The Warm Chocolate Mole Cake has its moments, but the accompanying pumpkin seeds put us off and there were two strawberry desserts (the Napoleon and Parfait) that were similar in nature. Service was good at times but towards the end our waiter disappeared for the better part of half hour (hopefully the restaurant is better staffed during busy times).

$$$-$$$$. Entrees range from $15-$30 but be prepared to pay for a multi-course meal.

www.mspfoodies.com

Apr 25, 2008
MSP Foodies in Minneapolis-St. Paul

MSP - Temple Closed

Mysore was a trainwreck - it got worse each week and the owner was never pleasant or appreciative. It got what was coming to it. Its time Indian restaurants in the TCs pick up their game. The quality of Indian restaurants is sadly lagging behind other ethnic restaurants in the Twin Cities. If I want good South Indian food, I go to Nalapak, for good North Indian, I go to Chapati. See my reviews for Nalapak below...

Nalapak (formerly Udupi Cafe)
4920 Central Avenue
Columbia Heights MN 55421
763-574-1113
http://www.nalapak.com/

Category: Indian (South Indian/Vegetarian/Vegan

)

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: 7
Ambience: 6

Recommendation: Very Good…South Indian comfort food and a haven for vegetarians/vegans. This restaurant is one of our favorites in the Indian food category.

Nalapak (formerly Udupi) serves delicious South Indian food, which is a rarity in Minneapolis (most Indian restaurants here cater to the North Indian palate with their naans, chicken curry, and tandoori meats). The buffet is a steal for around $10 and allows you to try different dishes without having to order off the menu. Although the restaurant itself is nice from the inside (tiled floor, fireplace, popular Hindi music in the background), the location (on Central Avenue by I-694) is not ideal and the windows have blinds on them, so you can’t look outside.

The buffet has a changing mix of curries, soups, fried veggies (pakoras), and lentils but when here, you must try the Idli (fluffy white patty made with rice and lentils), Dosai (pan fried crêpes stuffed with spicy potatoes and onions), and Vada (deep fried savory donut made with lentils and spices). All are served with Sambar (broth made with lentils and vegetables), Coconut Chutney, and a spicy Tomato Chutney. If you do the buffet, the servers will bring fresh dosais directly to your table. They also serve drinks like the Mango Lassi, which is excellent. Desserts are the usual fare you find at most Indian restaurants (Gulab Jamun, Rice Kheer, etc). Try their appetizer, Chat Papri (Crisp flour cookie sprinkled with chickpeas & marinated with Indian spices & sauces). This appetizer is commonly available in street corners in India and is a local favorite.

$. Reservations are typically not required as they have plenty of seating capacity.

Update (February 20, 2008) – Another fabulous experience at Nalapak. We went for dinner and it looks like the restaurant is going through a very positive image overhaul. Our meal was served in simple white square plates that were very classy, especially for an Indian restaurant. Servers were attentive and the food was brought out quickly…we actually felt rushed because the courses came out in quick succession and the next course was on top of us before we had finished the earlier one. The Punjabi Khana Thali (combination dinner $17) came with one Samosa, Tomato Soup, one drink, Chole Bhatura, and one Gulab Jamun for dessert. Chole Bhatura is a traditional North Indian dish made of spicy chickpeas and served with a fried bread called Bhatura. The Chole were very flavorful but the Bhature was not very authentic. It didn’t have the dense chewy texture we are used it. The Gulab Jamun was one of the best we’ve had in the Twin Cities. We really liked the Sweet Lassi drink (a traditional drink made of thin yogurt and spices) – if you haven’t tried it before, it’s a must. The Masala Dosai – rice crepe filled with potatoes and onions ($7.49) was excellent. The crepe had magnificent texture with crispy edges and soft center, and the filling was delicious. The accompanying Sambar and Coconut Chutney did not disappoint.

www.mspfoodies.com

Apr 24, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Dessert Options in Twin Cities

We're in search for dessert places in the Twin Cities. We've been several times to Zeno and Cafe Latte and love them both, but its hard to think of others (and its driving us nuts). Where should we go if we're looking for nice dessert around 10 or 11 pm on a weekend. We'd prefer places in either Minneapolis or St. Paul. Sorry, Ice cream doesn't count.

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Breakfast in Minneapolis + 'Burbs

And Key's

Key's Bar & Grill at the Foshay
821 Marquette Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN
(612)-339-6399
http://www.keyscafe.com

Category: American-Casual, Breakfast

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: 4
Ambience: 6

Recommendation: Very good. A family café offering generous portions of home-cooked food, Key’s is one of our favorite breakfast places in the Twin Cities.

The original Key’s opened up in 1973 in St. Paul and since then, Barbara Hunn and her family have opened up 6 more locations in the Twin Cities. Key’s is a Twin Cities institution where breakfast is concerned and has made many local and national “Best Breakfast” lists. We used to love going to the location on Nicollet Mall downtown but that has now moved to the Foshay Tower on Marquette Avenue. The Foshay location is much bigger, offers breakfast all day and also serves desserts, lunch, and dinner. Most of Key’s locations have a small town diner feel to them but the Foshay location, with its yellow lighting and chandeliers is very charming. It also offers outdoor seating. They offer a Happy hour from 3pm-7pm and have free delivery until 9pm.

We’ve tried various different things from their breakfast menu and have never been disappointed. Their Two Eggs, Sausage with Toast costs $6.75 and is always very good. The Specialty Pancakes are also good and come in flavors such as Blueberry Bran, Raisin Walnut, Banana Pecan, and Granola. The Banana Pecan is delicious and has chunks of mashed banana. The Eggs Benedict is another favorite. The Hollandaise sauce is nice. The last time we were there the English Muffin was slightly undercooked. The Hashbrowns are great, nice and crispy on the outside. The Cajun Skillet, which is Scrambled Eggs with Andouille Sausage, Mushrooms, Tomato, Onions, and Hollandaise sauce is great. The Sausage is incredibly flavorful and the dish comes with crispy potato chunks on the side. We’ve never tried their burgers but they seem very popular and the portions look huge. Desserts also seem to be popular here with their Pies, Rolls, Cakes, Brownies, etc. For dinner, they serve comfort foods such as Meatloaf, Roast Beef, Turkey dinners, etc.

Key’s is always crowded for weekend brunch so don’t expect stellar and attentive service. Despite our low expectations on service, we were really disappointed by our server the last time we were there. The service was really slow and the server was nonchalant.

$. Breakfast dishes are under $10.

Update (Sep 23, 2007) – We tried the location on 500 N. Robert St in St. Paul today. The Mexican Omelet was a hodge podge of ingredients including chilies, salsa, sour cream, beans, cheese…it tasted ok but didn’t resemble an omelet, if that’s what you are looking for. The Ham and Cheese Sandwich was good and came with crispy fries that were delicious.

www.mspfoodies.com

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Breakfast in Minneapolis + 'Burbs

And Moose and Sadies...

Moose and Sadie’s Coffeehouse
212 3rd Ave N
Minneapolis, MN
612-371-0464

Category: American-Casual

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: N/A (order at the counter)
Ambience: 7

Recommendation: Very Good. This neighborhood casual eatery serves a small but diverse menu and is a great place to hang out and enjoy a café style breakfast, while reading a paper (or writing a restaurant review).

Moose and Sadie’s is a casual place located in the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. This restaurant draws a funky and eclectic crowd of all ages from the many lofts and condos within walking distance of it. Located in an old brick building, the interior picks up from the details of the exterior – exposed brick, large windows overlooking North 3rd Ave, and high ceilings. The primary colors in the interior are white and apple green and these add to the casual look of the place.

The menu is small and you can pick from breakfast entrees, sandwiches, salads, and a host of bakery items like scones, muffins, quiches, and sweet rolls. Although open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we have only been here for the weekend brunch and sampled the breakfast foods. The Huevos Rancheros (corn tortillas, roasted tomato salsa, eggs, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, and avocado) is excellent and the kitchen does a great job combining an array of ingredients to produce a dish that is distinct and makes your taste buds dance. The Breakfast Quesadilla (a potato and chipotle gouda quesadilla with scrambled eggs, black beans, salsa, guacamole and sour cream) is along the lines of the Rancheros and is very good. The Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancake (w/ roasted black plums, almonds, and maple syrup) is light and literally melts in your mouth - the plums add a little bit of tartness to the sweet flavor of the pancakes. The restaurant advertises organic eggs, real butter, and homemade bread and you can see the amazing result of all three in the Ham, Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Mozzarella Omelette. We also liked the Caramel Pecan Roll – it’s sticky and crunchy and not as sweet as most cinnamon rolls. Oh, did I mention they have a large coffee menu as well? You order at the counter inside and can sit in the restaurant or the sidewalk seating area. One of the quirky wait staff brings you your food quickly. Although the portions are not terribly large, you won’t leave here hungry and we’re sure you’ll be back.

$. Plenty of metered street parking is available on 3rd Ave N and 2nd St.

www.mspfoodies.com

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Breakfast in Minneapolis + 'Burbs

Love Wilde Roast...see review from our blog.

Wilde Roast Cafe
518 Hennepin Ave E
Minneapolis, MN
612-331-4544
http://www.wilderoastcafe.com/

Category: Breakfast, Cafe

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: N/A (order at counter
)Ambience: 8

Recommendation: Very good. They serve what might be the finest sweet breakfast entrée in the Twin Cities…enough said.

We’re guilty of having driven past Wilde Roast Café a hundred times, each time wondering what it was all about, and having never stepped in to witness it firsthand. As luck would have it, one Saturday morning, we ended up at Wilde Roast – to be perfectly honest it was an afterthought given that our primary option was closed. Wilde Roast is a neighborhood eatery located in Northeast Minneapolis (at the corner of Hennepin and Central). As you enter the restaurant, your visual senses are bombarded by a myriad of colors, textures, and objects that adorn the interior of this Victorian-inspired café. The noir leather chairs, burgundy walls, dark ceilings, and funky creepy art, that most eateries wouldn’t dare hang in their dining areas, add a great deal of charm to the interior. We salute the owners, who inspired by Oscar Wilde, have created a cozy café that is apt for lounging.

They serve breakfast till 11am on weekdays, and 1pm on weekends and the menu has a nice selection of sweet and savory entrees, including twists on the classics. Our favorite on their menu is the Crème Brulee French Toast, the textures and flavors of which still ring vividly in the mind. The cinnamon-roll shaped French toast has a caramel crusty top and a center that contains chunks of peach and cherry. Add some toasted pecans and small amounts of whipped cream and maple syrup and you’ve got a sweet breakfast entrée that’s at the head of its class. The combination of chewy, crusty exterior and soft interior is deadly and this dish has just the right amount of sweetness – its heaven on a plate. We also ordered the Basic Breakfast with eggs sunny side up and although it doesn’t live up to the French toast, it was a good breakfast meal. For dessert, the Flourless Chocolate Cake is dense, rich, decadent and perfect for two. Service here is friendly and efficient – you order at the counter and your meal is brought out to your table.

$. Breakfast options are under $10. They also serve lunch and dinner.

www.mspfoodies.com

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in Minneapolis-St. Paul

MSP-Ethnic near Downtown Minneapolis

And Seafood Palace...which we like for Chinese Food (although our favorite Chinese restaurant is Little Szechuan in St. Paul)

Seafood Palace
2523 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 874-7721
www.seafoodpalacemn.com

Category: Chinese

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: 7
Ambience: 6

Recommendation: Very Good. This lesser known Chinese restaurant serves top notch Chinese food with quality seafood dishes and gives places like Rainbow a run for their money. Great place for Chinese Hot Pot.

Seafood Palace is located on Minneapolis’ Eat Street. The restaurant is clean with typical Chinese restaurant décor – mostly bare walls, a few Chinese symbols, some red lanterns, and pleasing Chinese music in the background. There are a few seats in the back room that face Nicollet Avenue and are great for people watching. This place is also popular for Chinese wedding receptions and birthdays as they have the capacity to handle large groups. In addition to the daily buffet (which looked pretty boring/unoriginal to us), they have a long menu (140+ dishes) and also offer Chinese Hot Pot during certain winter months. Our sever couldn’t tell us exactly when the Hot Pot was offered but we’ve heard it’s between December and March (call before you go). We’ve done Hot Pot here once and it is a lot of fun to do with a large group of friends. Hot Pot is like Chinese fondue and consists of a simmering pot of stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table by the diners. Ingredients such as thinly sliced meat (beef, chicken, pork), leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, and seafood (jumbo shrimp, scallops) are laid out in buffet style. Diners fill up their plates and bring them to the table where the dunking/cooking begins. They offer a few different sauces to dip the cooked food into.

In addition to the large menu, Seafood Palace also has a special weekday lunch menu that is served with a soup for less than $5. All three dishes we tried were part of a handful of dishes that were the “Chef’s Suggestions.” The Honey Walnut Shrimp ($12.95) had lightly tempura fried shrimp covered with a white creamy sweet sauce (mayo base). The Walnuts were crispy and coated with sugar. It was an excellent dish. Another great dish was the Sweet and Spicy Baby Beef Ribs ($12.95). It came with fried red chili peppers so you could turn the spice level up or down based on your preference. The sauce was spicy and sweet, the ribs were crispy and not too fatty. The Fried whole Walleye ($30) in Black Bean sauce was remarkable. Note that they bring the entire fish out…head, eyes, tail, the whole lot. The sauce was very flavorful and the fish tasted fresh. Even though it was a large fish (could feed 2-3), we thought the price was a bit steep. Shuang Cheng in Dinkytown offers similarly fresh and flavorful fish for about $20.

$$. Street parking on Nicollet Avenue. Free parking available across the street at Truong Thanh Market, 2520 Nicollet Avenue.

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP-Ethnic near Downtown Minneapolis

And Nalapak...our favorite Indian restaurant. Its a little further away (10-15 minutes up Central Ave)

Nalapak (formerly Udupi Cafe)
4920 Central Avenue
Columbia Heights MN 55421
763-574-1113
http://www.nalapak.com/

Category: Indian (South Indian/Vegetarian/Vegan

)

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: 7
Ambience: 6

Recommendation: Very Good…South Indian comfort food and a haven for vegetarians/vegans. This restaurant is one of our favorites in the Indian food category.

Nalapak (formerly Udupi) serves delicious South Indian food, which is a rarity in Minneapolis (most Indian restaurants here cater to the North Indian palate with their naans, chicken curry, and tandoori meats). The buffet is a steal for around $10 and allows you to try different dishes without having to order off the menu. Although the restaurant itself is nice from the inside (tiled floor, fireplace, popular Hindi music in the background), the location (on Central Avenue by I-694) is not ideal and the windows have blinds on them, so you can’t look outside.

The buffet has a changing mix of curries, soups, fried veggies (pakoras), and lentils but when here, you must try the Idli (fluffy white patty made with rice and lentils), Dosai (pan fried crêpes stuffed with spicy potatoes and onions), and Vada (deep fried savory donut made with lentils and spices). All are served with Sambar (broth made with lentils and vegetables), Coconut Chutney, and a spicy Tomato Chutney. If you do the buffet, the servers will bring fresh dosais directly to your table. They also serve drinks like the Mango Lassi, which is excellent. Desserts are the usual fare you find at most Indian restaurants (Gulab Jamun, Rice Kheer, etc). Try their appetizer, Chat Papri (Crisp flour cookie sprinkled with chickpeas & marinated with Indian spices & sauces). This appetizer is commonly available in street corners in India and is a local favorite.

$. Reservations are typically not required as they have plenty of seating capacity.

Update (February 20, 2008) – Another fabulous experience at Nalapak. We went for dinner and it looks like the restaurant is going through a very positive image overhaul. Our meal was served in simple white square plates that were very classy, especially for an Indian restaurant. Servers were attentive and the food was brought out quickly…we actually felt rushed because the courses came out in quick succession and the next course was on top of us before we had finished the earlier one. The Punjabi Khana Thali (combination dinner $17) came with one Samosa, Tomato Soup, one drink, Chole Bhatura, and one Gulab Jamun for dessert. Chole Bhatura is a traditional North Indian dish made of spicy chickpeas and served with a fried bread called Bhatura. The Chole were very flavorful but the Bhature was not very authentic. It didn’t have the dense chewy texture we are used it. The Gulab Jamun was one of the best we’ve had in the Twin Cities. We really liked the Sweet Lassi drink (a traditional drink made of thin yogurt and spices) – if you haven’t tried it before, it’s a must. The Masala Dosai – rice crepe filled with potatoes and onions ($7.49) was excellent. The crepe had magnificent texture with crispy edges and soft center, and the filling was delicious. The accompanying Sambar and Coconut Chutney did not disappoint.

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP-Ethnic near Downtown Minneapolis

Way too many to mention so I will post a choice reviews off our blog... Here's Quang (Vietnamese)

Quang Restaurant
2719 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612-870-4739
http://www.quangrestaurant.com/

Category: Vietnamese

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 8
Service: 7
Ambience: 5

Recommendation: Very Good. This Eat Street favorite serves up great Pho soup…and a whole host of other tasty authentic dishes.

No other Vietnamese place in the Twin Cities gets talked about as much as Quang…and for good reason. This sparsely decorated restaurant is always bustling and if you go there during normal lunch or dinner hours, be prepared to wait. The good news is that the restaurant is quite large, the food comes out of the kitchen in a hurry, and the servers are always running to clear tables and keep patrons moving. The crowd is diverse and you see as many Asians as Americans, which is usually a good sign at any ethnic restaurant.

The menu is authentic and diverse but there are a few things on there that are favorites with us. The Pho (noodle soup) is the specialty here and we have tried both the beef and the chicken phos. The soup consists of a flavorful clear broth, served with rice noodles and meat (you have some options here). The servers bring a side of jalapeno peppers, sprouts, lime wedge, and Thai basil that you can add to your soup. We add all of these in plenty because it adds to the flavor and texture of the dish. The traditional way to eat this soup is with the chopsticks in one had and a soup spoon in the other – once you get the hang of it, you’ll have fun. The Spring Rolls are served with a hoisin sauce and have a very light and fresh flavor. Try the Lemongrass Chicken which is nicely flavored for the American palate. The Iced Coffee, made traditionally with Chicory Coffee and sweetened condensed milk is nice and strong. Quang’s also serves Vietnamese Sandwiches, which are real popular for takeout.

$. Entrees are under $10.

Update (April 9, 2008) – A coworker who was really interested in trying Quang convinced us to visit for a weekday lunch. The restaurant was busy as usual and although we were seated quickly, it took a few minutes for a server to notice us. We decided to skip the Pho this time and focus our attention on some other dishes. We ordered both the Spring Rolls as well as the Egg Rolls and both were excellent – the former has subtle flavors with a chewy texture while the latter was hot and crispy (try them both and compare). I also thought highly of Quang’s Original Pork Chop platter – the meat had a nice char quality but wasn’t dry. If you’ve never had the Vietnamese Sandwich, you’re in for a wonderful surprise…think Parisian baguette packed with Asian ingredients and flavors. The Chicken Sandwich was served on a crispy French bread with pate, mayo, chicken and some veggies – it’s a staple in Vietnam. To accompany the meal we ordered a couple of Bubble teas – both the Hazelnut and Strawberry teas were awesome…I especially love the chewy texture of the tapioca balls and sucking them through the large straw! Once we ordered the food, service was quick and conscientious. We paid about $12 per person for quite a bit of food.

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP: Korea Restaurant

And our post on Dong Yang

Dong Yang Oriental Foods
735 45th Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55421
763-571-2009

Category: Korean, Food Market

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 7
Service: N/A (self-service)
Ambience: 5

Recommendation: Very Good. Dong Yang is a Korean/Asian grocery store with a small deli style restaurant tucked in the back serving Korean food. The restaurant is bare bones but the food is authentic, freshly made, and delicious.

Located close to the northern edge of Central Avenue, Dong Yang is not necessarily convenient but is worth a stop. The grocery store stocks primarily Korean food with a few items from other parts of Asia (try the Red Bean Ice cream sandwich). But the main attraction for us was the little deli tucked in the back that serves Korean food. It reminded our Korean friend of mom’s cooking, enough to want to make him call mom after the meal. The counter takes orders only until 7:30pm Mon-Sat and until 5:30pm on Sundays. The experience is pretty bare bones…plastic everything and we had to eat in small Styrofoam take out containers because they didn’t have any plates. Thankfully, the food made up for what the rest of the experience lacked. The menu has a large selection of traditional Korean dishes...ranging from Soups to Meats to Fish. We enjoyed Dong Yang as much as Hoban in Eagan.

Once we placed the order, the food started coming out relatively quickly. The meal started with Banchan of course, the small side dishes that accompany every traditional Korean meal. We were served six different types and the variety changes each day. We had two types of Kimchi (fermented cabbage seasoned with chilies and salt)…the traditional one and one with Squid and Cucumbers. We were also served a Fish cake, Bean jelly, and a spicy preparation of pickled Bean sprouts. While the Banchan was good, it did not stack up to the one at Hoban. We ordered a variety of entrees, with one of our favorites being the Kalbi – (#12 Short Rib Grill $13.99), often referred to as Korean BBQ. The ribs were meaty, had a nice char to them and beautiful flavor. Another favorite was the Bulgogi – (#11 Slice Beef Grill $10.99). The strips of marinated beef, served on a grill were tender and had a nice sweet flavor to them. As Korean food is primarily centered around meat, with the above two dishes, we thought we had hit a home run. The #34 Kimchi Stew $8.99 got mixed reviews at our table. Some of us really liked the spicy and tangy flavors (sort of like Sriracha) and thought it was perfect to warm you up on a cold winter day. The #18 Mackerel Grill $11.99 was ok. The strong sea-like smell is somewhat of a put off but the taste was good. Our least favorite was the Jajangmyeon – (#16 Noodles with Black Bean Pasta $8.99). It was a giant bowl of pasta along with a black bean sauce and other vegetables…the flavors were mild and it didn’t taste like much – our Korean friend however said that it tasted very authentic.

$$. Most dishes are $10-$15. Bring Cash – no checks or credit cards accepted.

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP: Korea Restaurant

Here's the review of Hoban we posted on our website.

Hoban
1989 Silver Bell Rd
Eagan, MN 55121
651-688-3447

Category: Korean

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 7
Service: 7
Ambience: 5

Recommendation: Very Good. There’s a dearth of Korean restaurants in the Twin Cities and although Hoban isn’t fine dining, they offer plenty of top-notch menu items that made our meal memorable.

Don’t let Hoban’s strip mall location in Eagan scare you. Granted, the outlying suburbs aren’t the neighborhoods you would generally associate with good ethnic restaurants, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with places like Satay 2 Go, La Mixteca and Mandarin Kitchen, all of which have a profile similar to Hoban. We’ve long believed (and we’ve had it reinforced several times) that the best way to enjoy ethnic food is with a large group of close friends. We’ve enjoyed some of our finest ethnic meals with this group of 10, a mini United Nations of sorts representing over half a dozen countries, and Hoban was no different. There’s a Korean in the mix (he grew up in Chicago and has never been to Korea, so he’s technically a pseudo-Korean) and we relied on him to order. While we waited for our food, we indulged in a bottle of OB, a Korean pale lager.

It wasn’t long before the food started piling up. Traditional Korean food is accompanied by Banchan, small side dishes that accompany the meal. The Banchan included Kimchi (cabbage seasoned with chilies and salt) and various other dishes including pickled vegetables, radish, and sprouts – they were all really good and are replenished free of charge on request. We ordered a diverse set of entrees, with one of our favorites being the Kimchee Jungol, a hot pot with Kimchee, beef, tofu, vegetables and noodles. Although we were hoping the dish would be mind-numbing spicy (it’s always fun to see the diners sweat and have their eyes water), it really wasn’t. Nevertheless, it had great flavor and consistency, and we would go back just for that one dish. Its comfort food at its finest, and although it may not bring back old memories like it did for our Korean friend, it will for us going forward. The Kalbi, beef short ribs with chef’s special sauce, was also amazing – although the ribs weren’t very meaty, the flavors were complex. And don’t forget to order the Bulgoki, mildly marinated strips of beef. Meat is at the center of much of Korean food and these dishes certainly didn’t disappoint. The Dolsot Bibimbop, a rice dish with vegetables and egg, is served in very hot stone bowl which causes the rice to sizzle and stick to the sides of the bowl. You’ll have to scrape the sides for the scraps, but if you ask us, the texture of the crispy rice that adheres to the sides is one of the highlights of this dish. There were a couple of dishes though that we didn’t care for – the Sulung Tang, a beef bone soup, just tasted like salty broth and the Cha Jang Myun, noodles with black bean sauce, didn’t leave a lasting impression. The service was friendly and up to the mark, and overall we left the restaurant feeling satisfied and having got our money’s worth.

$$. Most dishes are $10-$15.

Apr 17, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Porter + Frye review (msp)

Our visit to P&F was good althought we dont consider it in the category of elite restaurants in the Twin Cities. See our review...
http://www.mspfoodies.com/2008/03/por...

Mar 29, 2008
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Downtown Mpls - celebatory dinner

Our top restaurants in downtown are Chambers, Cosmos, 20.21 and it would be hard to go wrong with any of those for a celbratory dinner. All of them have teriffic atmosphere and food to match. Havent been to La Belle Vie, but have heard great things about it. I think the steak at Capital Grille is hands down better than the one @ Manny's. Morton's is great as well.

Dec 18, 2007
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Parasole Restaurants MSP

I wouldnt recommend Muffuletta given the other restaurants you have the option to go to. Of all of Parasole's restaurants, I think Salut is one which is unique and tops in its category. The food at Muffuletta was unispiring and nothing above average. I've been to Salut multiple times and always walked away wow'd. Manny's is good, but I think Capital Grille has better steak. Chino's food is below average - great atmosphere and drinks, though. For my money, its Salut all the way.

Dec 18, 2007
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

duplex - minneapolis

The Potato Gnocchi was ok (The Mozzarella didn't taste fresh)...we've had way better ones at Arezzo, 112 Eatery, and La Grolla. The Mushroom Risotto is awful. It is described as having big chunks of mushrooms but we actually had to look for the mushrooms and found a few. Regardless, the dish had no mushroom flavor whatsoever. It tasted like a mush of risotto, carrots, and peas.

Our recommendation – skip dinner and go to Duplex for late night drinks and a nice night of people watching

Dec 03, 2007
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Another wonderful meal at Alma (MSP)

My friends and I seem to be the odd ones in terms of not having a good experience at Alma. We tasted all 12 items on the menu that day. The Starter and Middle courses were great but the experience really went downhill with the entrees.

The Local Grass Fed Beef Striploin was the best dish but not memorable enough to warrant a visit back

The Wild King Salmon entrée was served lukewarm. Even after the kitchen re-heated it for us, we felt the dish lacked flavor.

The Grilled Hawaiian Blue Marlin was very tough and rubbery on the top but the bottom was translucent (hadn’t been cooked). The orange flavor was too overpowering. We asked for the fish to be replaced with the Pork Loin, which was good but nothing special.

Our bill for 2 people, including one glass of wine each was $145 (incl. tax and tip.) With that kind of price tag, its hard to give this place a second chance.

Dec 03, 2007
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

MSP Best Gyros?

Holy Land is my favorite. I also like Falafel King in Bloomington (8405 Lyndale Ave S). The ambience is also a lot better than the one in Uptown.

Dec 03, 2007
MSP Foodies in Minneapolis-St. Paul

MSP - Top 10

I think the Twin Cities have top-notch authentic Asian places. University Avenue in St Paul is home to some of my favorites in the Twin Cities - Hoa Bien, Krua Thai, Little Szechuan, Que Nah, Va Lor and Cambodia Cheng Heng. Amazing Thailand in Uptown is a new Thai eatery worth checking out. Amazing food and decor imported from Thailand.

Nov 21, 2007
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive

Feedback Please for King's Restaurant in Fridley Minnesota and others in Twin Cities

Satay to Go is truly a hidden gem! Having visited both Malaysia and Singapore we have a great love for Hawker food and Satay delivers. The Roti Canai (an Indian bread) is excellent. The Laksa soup (a coconut curry soup with noodles, meat, tofu, and some vegetables) is very flavorful. Both the Singapore Rice Noodles and Chow Fun are cooked to perfection and spiced nicely. On special request they will bring out a Thai Chili Vinegar add-on (this really kicks up the dish). They offer a nice selection of Asian beverages including tropical fruit drinks and a highly recommended Soursop beverage (Soursop is a fruit with a pineapple/citrus flavor). They also have an Asian bakery serving BBQ Buns and our favorite, the Coconut Raisin Bread.

Nov 18, 2007
MSP Foodies in General Midwest Archive