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Twin Cities Dining

Sep. 13th, 2007

10:50 am

I'm looking for a restaurant that can accommodate a group of 25-30 people that isn't too fancy but is also not too casual. I'm looking for an experience somewhat similar to Buca di beppo's (a focus on group dining, sharing, that type of thing) in St. Paul. Buca would be fine except for the fact that it can be kind of noisy and this is a business meeting.

Thanks!

Mar. 28th, 2006

12:58 pm - Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine
2608 Nicollet Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Phone: 612-871-8282
Fax: 612-871-2863
Email: mailto:info@peninsulamalaysiancuisine.com
Web: http://www.peninsulamalaysiancuisine.com/

We enjoy food from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia and the twincities has limited options for this kind of food. After reading the Star Tribune review  of Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine we knew that we had no choice but to eat there. This last Saturday we fulfilled our mission.

We arrive for an early dinner and parked in one of the few spaces located behind the building that I discovered by looking at the parking options listed on the web site. I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the restaurant with the décor. It is more like a trendy restaurant than the stereotypical Asian restaurant. The hardwood floors look nice but reflect sound making the room seem active and alive.

One of the first things I noticed on the menu was the "Crab meatballs" described as "Three Crab claws wrapped in minced shrimp and fried golden." I have always enjoyed this appetizer and do not recall seeing it on a local menu making it a must order for this trip. They were quite tasty putting me in a good mood immediately and I am sure this will become a standard order for my visits to Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine. Since my wife is much more familiar with this style of food and in heaven reading the menu I let her select our other choices.

The next item to arrive at our table was the Kari Mee a "Spicy lemongrass coconut curry with rice noodles, chicken, and shrimp." It was served in a large bowl minus a serving spoon so we used a Chinese soup spoon to fill our smaller soup bowls. I like curry and coconut dishes and ate too much of this one not leaving enough room for the other dishes on their way. So far we are two for two on our food choices.

The third item to arrive was from the specials on the menu it was "Curry Lamb Shank" described as "Lamb shank simmered in Malaysian spices, lemongrass, and coconut milk." This item was portioned and plated in a manor that works better for a single person and not a shared item. Since I am not a lamb lover the lamb flavor was a little stronger than I personally prefer. At this point we are three for three since the only issue with the lamb is my personal preference.

Our final item for the night was "Shrimp in Spicy Thai Sauce" which is "Jumbo shrimp with spicy Thai sauce." This shrimp dish was very authentic in taste and got a thumbs up from my wife. I liked it as well. Everything we ordered on this trip was good eating. The hardest part is trying to decide from the many delicious looking menu items which ones to order.

I feel all of the spicy dishes we ordered were regionalized to Minnesota standards in one way and was they were not as spicy hot as I would expect. We asked for some Sambal (chili) allowing us to add "heat" to our preference. I understand that they have to make food that will sell in this market and I suppose someone can always add chili but cannot really take it out. The food is seasoned well and flavorful just not overly hot.

As the evening went on the restaurant started to fill up. I noticed them putting reserved signs on tables as the night went on. It might be a good idea to call on a weekend evening to be sure you get the seating you want. I am sure the Star Tribune article has brought extra traffic and I would expect that to level off in time. Of course no review would be complete without some comments about the servers. I was not sure which of the many servers walking around was ours. They were pleasant when at the table but seemed to lack direction like a bunch of privates without a general to tell them what their assignments are. I feel this is the reason attentiveness to our needs was spotty. I would say that is the biggest opportunity for improvement at Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine. It certainly is not a big enough issue to stop me from visiting again. I have a feeling that over time we will try most of the items on the menu.

Mar. 16th, 2006

04:31 pm - Taste of Thailand

Taste of Thailand
7890 University Ave. NE
Fridley, MN 55432
(763) 571-1188
http://www.tasteofthailandrestaurant.com

We recently visited Taste of Thailand in Fridley for dinner. It is a very casual environment. If you are the want fast service and lots of attention and fancy surroundings this is not the place for you. When placing our order we were informed that they were out of basil. This means that a large portion of the menu would not be served using all the ingredients to prepare it. Navigating a Thai menu is not one of my strong areas so I often order things that do not really appeal to my tastes. Unfortunately the appetizer we ordered, Miang Kham, was one of these occurrences. Miang Kham is described on the menu as a "Popular Thai snack with dried shrimp, lime, fresh ginger, jalapeno peppers, onion roasted peanuts and roasted coconut wrapped in lettuce and served with a tangy sauce." There was nothing wrong with food it just did not appeal to me.

The main courses we ordered were Northern Style Traditional Thai Grilled Sausage, Sri Raja Chicken Fried Rice and Masman Curry. We asked that everything be prepared spicy hot. The Masman Curry described as "tender pieces of beef in coconut milk with masman curry paste, roasted peanuts and potatoes" with some extra heat which I am sure was provided by some kind of red chili sauce or oil was the best of the items we ordered. It reminded me of similar Malaysian or Indonesian meat and potato dishes only this was a little sweeter than I am familiar with. The Sri Raja Chicken Fried Rice was good but not amazing. I think if they had not spiced it up for us it would have been like any other fried rice. It was a little soggy for my personal preference. The Thai Grilled sausage is something can you can just skip. It was dry and not appealing at all. Perhaps I would have liked it better if it did not remind me of eating sawdust. I do not think this restaurant will be on our regular list of places to eat. If we want to eat Asian food in that part of town we might consider another visit.

Mar. 12th, 2006

09:35 pm - West Indies Soul Cafe & Catering

West Indies Soul Cafe & Catering
625 University Avenue
Suite #102
St. Paul, MN 55104

Phone: 651.665.0115
Email: WestIndiesSoul@AOL.com
Web site: http://members.aol.com/westindiessoul

While running around this weekend we decided to do something we have wanted to do for some time, stop in and pick some food from West Indies Soul Cafe. After completing the challenge of finding street parking we made our way in the front door. The restaurant is small with 8-10 tables and no wait staff. On the Saturday afternoon we visited there was a pretty steady flow of people placing orders. We had a busy schedule so we ordered our food "to go" knowing we would not be able to eat it until we arrived home later that day. Our choices were Curried Goat (seasonal), Goat meat seasoned Caribbean style; Jamaican patties, Flaky golden pastry turnovers stuffed with seasoned meat, chicken or veggies; Jerk Chicken, Chicken marinated in Jamaican spices and herbs then grilled to perfection; seasoned rice; Cabbage. After waiting a few minutes for our spicy beef Jamaican Patties to be heated our food was packaged and we were on our way.

Completing our day of errands we arrived home and reheated our food. I know this is not the optimum way to sample food, but it is sometimes a reality of life. I enjoyed the Curried Goat, the meat was not as gamey or strong as I was expecting and the curry was flavorful, similar to many of the yellow curries served in town. The season rice was like a dirty rice or Spanish rice pretty much what I was expecting. The spicy beef Jamaican Patties had a little kick to them and are very good. I am sure hot out of the oven they would be amazing. I knew I was hooked on the chicken after my first bite. I will be going back for sure, I am not certain how they prepare it but it had a smoked flavor and was spicy hot with the jerk seasoning.

If you like to explore different kinds of food and are not a strictly white tablecloth dining type of person you should give West Indies Soul Cafe a try. This is the type of place that should have a loyal following and is fun to introduce new people to.

Mar. 9th, 2006

04:17 pm - Buca di Beppo

Buca di Beppo
2728 Gannon Road
St. Paul MN 55116
(651) 772-4388

We have a friend that is recovering from surgery, she is doing well, and we thought we would help out by bringing dinner over for her and 2 kids. We choose Buca di Beppo because of its family style servings and carry out service. We selected Quattro Al Forno (Baked Ravioli, Cannelloni, Manicotti, Stuffed Shells) figuring it was a safe bet that everyone could find something they would like. I called ahead and placed my order. I was instructed as to where the parking spots are for pickup and told they will run the food out to my car when they see it. We arrived a little later than the time we had planned to pick up our order. After a short wait for the car in front of us someone came to our car and asked our name and took our credit card and came back with our order and credit card slip to sign. We were quickly on our way with the Quattro Al Forno and some of the house bread. After a few minutes drive we arrived at our host’s home, took our meal into the house and out of the bag. The meal was in an aluminum tray that would allow you to easily reheat if needed. Not worried about presentation we just took the top off and placed the tray on the table family style. The food was much better than I expected for something you carry home with you. The sausage they use was nice and spicy and not boring at all. The ingredients, herbs and spices all taste fresh. I would recommend this as an easy solution for a take home meal for a group of people.

Feb. 22nd, 2006

04:20 pm - Market Bar-B-Que

Market Bar-B-Que
1414 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis 55403
(612) 872-1111
http://www.marketbbq.com/

We recently had a chance to visit Market Bar-B-Que in downtown Minneapolis. It is kind of fun to see all the memorabilia on the walls. You can see some of it on their web site. Our server on this evening was pleasant and attentive. We reviewed the menu and ordered a brisket platter and some ribs. The ribs were a dry style with a rub on them and less fat. The brisket platter is sliced brisket with french fries. Of course we went right for the hottest bottle of sauce they had and smothered our food with it. The hot sauce they have is pretty good and we pretty much finished a full bottle. The food was good but I have a lack of words on what distinguishes these ribs from other rib places in town, but I know I would certainly visit again. Market Bar-B-Que has been around town for a long time and has a well deserved loyal following.

Feb. 15th, 2006

04:33 pm - Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano

Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano
12051 Elm Creek Blvd. N
Maple Grove, MN 55369
(763) 416-2225
http://www.biaggis.com/

We met some friends at Biaggi's on a weekend night for dinner. We had an early reservation and it was a lucky thing as the place filled up when we were there. It looked liked seating at the bar for dining was also full that evening. It seems like most of the seating in restaurants in this area fill up on weekend evenings.

After we were seated a bread basket with a few different types of bread was set on the table along with some oil and cheese for dipping. The server prepared the oil, cheese and pepper while we sat at the table. While eating some bread I perused the menu for what I wished to eat on this evening.

My selection was Ravioli Quattro Formaggi which is "Homemade ravioli filled with a blend of ricotta, parmesan, romano and blue cheeses. Tossed in our four-cheese cream sauce and a touch of fresh basil and pine nut pesto and served over our fresh marinara sauce." My food was served on one of the large restaurant plates and presented well. I must have enjoyed the food as I was the first to finish. The portion size was appropriate and not Minnesota "large". If you are really hungry and like large meals you may want to select another item from the menu. We had a child under 5 ordering from the children's menu and choose a cheese pizza which was much larger than a child needs. It would even be large enough for an adult or a couple of young children to share.

I was enjoying the company at my table and did not really notice the server, which in this case worked out well. We had an enjoyable evening. I do have to mention one odd thing that really should not be in a food review. In the men's room above the urinal is a light fixture that will hit you in the forehead if you are not careful. Oddest thing I have seen in a long time. It must be some kind of odd joke from the designer. I cannot understand why they have not ripped it out and found a better solution.


Bottom line I would certainly visit again if the option is presented to me.

Feb. 8th, 2006

04:27 pm - El Azteca

El Azteca
6670 150th Street West
Apple Valley, MN 55124
(952) 432-3727
http://www.elazteca.net/

The Friday evening we visited El Azteca in Apple Valley we were seated immediately even though the restaurant was quite full. Our server was prompt and gave us menus, chips & salsa and took our drink orders. She seemed inexperienced but was very attentive and worked hard to be sure we had a good experience. I wish I had more servers with that kind of sincerity, caring and enthusiasm when dining out. I enjoy Mexican food but always have a hard time choosing from the menu. On this evening I choose the AZTECA ESPECIAL which is described on the menu as one tamale, two flauta, (one chicken , one beef ) nachos with cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream. When my food arrived I discovered that is was more than I really needed but I was up for the challenge. I was able to finish it all and liked everything I ate. If I was in the area and wanted Mexican food I would not hesitate to visit again.

Feb. 7th, 2006

06:16 pm

I was hoping to do dinner at Cafe Havana with my sweetie on Friday. I have been calling daily, at different times, to make a reservation, but I have yet to get an answer (or voicemail for that matter). If I don't get through, anyone know if we were to swing by there about 7, what the likelihood is of us getting a table?

x_crossposted to twin_cities

12:21 pm - South China Island

South China Island
1664 University Av
St Paul MN 55104
(651) 603-8889

I had the buffet for lunch at South China Island. I have to confess that I am not a big fan of buffets in general. This visit did not sway my position on buffets. It is what one would expect from a local Chinese buffet in Minnesota. The menu had the expected items fried rice, curry noodles, sweet and sour chicken, chicken wings, etc. None of the items I tasted really stood out as being excellent or terrible. I do not think I would travel any distance to try out this buffet. It was a very affordable meal for me and a chance to catch up with a friend.

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