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winodj

Minneapolis Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations

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Matthew, back in the day of "Cooks of Crocus Hill" (same building Cafe Latte is in) which moved across the street and became Thrice, I took several classes there.  Lynn was teaching and if I remember right was and still may be one of the owners.  She is a delightful woman.  Thrice may help you get in touch with her if MPR doesn't work out.  good luck!

Thanks! I'll look into it. I left a message with her associate producer about inviting Suvir Saran of Amma (See New York and Indian cuisine threads) to be a guest on her show. As serendipity would have it, Lynn was in New York this past weekend and ate at Amma with a food writer friend of hers. Suvir met her and told her about my message, which she'd gotten. I hope she gets in touch with me - I'd love to take a class from her.

Thanks again for the lead!

Matthew :smile:

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Okay; there's a plan.

We're going to host a Minneapolis eGullet pot luck dinner on Saturday, November 15th.

Details will be forthcoming on a separate thread, once we figure out what they are.

Bruce (and Snowangel)

Sounds wonderful. I cannot wait for more details.

Sorry I couldn't make lunch at Vincents. I hope you and Snowangel had a good time.

Matthew

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More details have been posted.

Tonight I'm going to Grand India in Eagan. I hope it's good enough to review.

Bruce

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Too bad this place is so far from where we live. Burnsville feels like we are 1/2 way to Iowa!

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Our beat isn't convenient to anybody we know. Next week it's a Mexican restauarant in Shakopee--that's inconvenient for everyone, too.

Bruce

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Next week it's a Mexican restauarant in Shakopee--that's inconvenient for everyone, too.

I'm pretty sure that's the home of the MN Renaissance Faire, so at least it'll be convenient for the Lords and Ladies :raz:

=R=


Edited by ronnie_suburban (log)

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RenFest, the poker room at the racetrack, ValleyFair. There's a lot down that way, just nothing that I have much interest in going to.

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When I think of destination dining, I just, quite frankly, don't think of Burnsville, Eagan, or Shakopee. Nor do I think of great Indian or Mexican in these areas, but since you did find good Vietnamese in Burnsville, there may be hope. These are areas that I tend to only drive through, not to.

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That's the problem with our beat. We have a short list of six more restaurants to review, and then we have to start scrounging. I'm sure we'll come up with a dozen more, but then what?

Bruce

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Thanks Bruce. I've not been all that happy with the Mexican dining in Minneapolis or St Paul (other than El Burrito). Good to have you two finding places out where some of us might not think of poking around.

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Yes, thanks, Bruce. Good food south of the rivers and not typical supper club or burger joint fare south of the river. Who'd have thunk?

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We need to do a supper blub/burger joint/family restaurant for the next one, though.

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We need to do a supper blub/burger joint/family restaurant for the next one, though.

It's been years since I've seen anything written about the Lion's Tap (other than mentions of in those population chooses the best of), which for years had the reputation of having the best burgers in town.

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Lion's Tap is outside our geographical area, but we're going to Wampachs in Shakopee tonight.

Bruce

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Lion's Tap is outside our geographical area, but we're going to Wampachs in Shakopee tonight.

Bruce

I'll be curious to hear how the onion rings are. Hope they are worth the arterian punishment.

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I have been posting these reviews in another thread, but I figure they're better separately.

A month ago, my wife and I got a restaurant reviewgig with the Star Tribune. It's for a regional section called "South" that only appears in newspapers sold south of the Minnesota River. It's not a great beat, but it's what we've got.

Suggestions and recommendations are always welcome. Really really welcome.

So far we've had three published, although I can't seem to get the website to regurgitate the first. My plan is to post them here, and then post the new ones each week.

Comments are welcome, too.

Bruce

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Dining South: Cam Ranh Bay has some of the Twin Cities' best Vietnamese food

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier, Special to the Star Tribune

Published October 29, 2003

Vietnamese food is lighter than Chinese. The cuisine stresses fresh ingredients and lots of herbs such as cilantro, mint and basil. And because the French occupied the country, interesting French influences crept into the cooking. While flavorsome and delicious, Vietnamese is not inherently spicy. We like hot sauce --we call it "rooster sauce" because of the label -- to heat things up.

The Twin Cities are home to many, many good Vietnamese restaurants. And Cam Ranh Bay in Burnsville ranks with the best of them. There is also a location in Eden Prairie. The decor and service are above average for a family-run Asian restaurant. And the food is definitely worth the trip.

We love spring rolls and these are wonderful. Rice noodles, fresh herbs and meats are wrapped in rice paper and served cold -- not fried -- together with a peanut dipping sauce. Cam Ranh Bay sells them with barbecued pork and shrimp, shrimp alone and vegetable. But, avoid the pork; it was too tough.

A less common appetizer is the shrimp on French bread: batter-dipped deep-fried French bread topped with big tasty shrimp and green onions. Slather the accompanying peanut sauce on top for a unusually decadent and delicious start to your meal.

Another unusual highlight on the Cam Ranh Bay menu is the rice cake. This is bahn xeo, and more often translated as Vietnamese crepes or Vietnamese pancakes. It's a giant, thin rice flour and egg pancake, turned yellow by the addition of tumeric. With shrimp, pork and onions cooked inside, it's folded into a huge omelet. Served alongside it is a handful of cilantro and another of mint, and a half head of lettuce. Pull off a lettuce cup, add to it some leaves of cilantro and mint and then carve off some of the rice cake, and make yourself a wrap sandwich. Spoon on some the fish sauce. This a wonderful meal, and a typical Vietnamese breakfast or lunch.

Another of our culinary favorites is pho, the exquisite beef broth poured over rice noodles and different meats. Cam Ranh Bay might well make the best pho broth in the Cities. It's simply delicious, with none of that mild soapy flavor found in too many pho shops all around town. We tried the pho tai bo vien, soup with some sausage and with thin slices of beef cooked by the hot broth. The rice noodles here are thicker than we usually see and are easier to eat. The basil served alongside wasn't at its freshest, the only downside to this wonderful soup. Mix in the basil and bean sprouts, add lime juice and rooster sauce to taste, maybe some hoisin sauce if you want. Experiment with this dish; it's fun.

Cam Ranh Bay serves other Vietnamese specialties, as well as a wide variety of Chinese dishes. They make curries; the mock duck served with bamboo shoots, peanuts and green onions is not too hot and very good. The pan-fried noodle with chicken is a dish of rice noodles fried crispy, topped with big pieces of good fresh vegetables and chicken, all done in a slightly sweet ginger sauce.

Minus a few glitches, we liked everything we tried here. And given our affection for Vietnamese restaurants, we were especially pleased to find some dishes we didn't know and immediately loved.

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier have had meals in more than 30 countries, but can usually be found having dinner in the Twin Cities. Let us know which south-of-the-river restaurants we should try. E-mail diningsouth@startribune.com.

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Dining South: Zesty Sabroso satisfies appetite for spicy food

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier, Special to the Star Tribune

Published November 5, 2003

The name means tasty, and take their word for it; Sabroso in Shakopee might very well be the best Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities.

Sabroso serves both standard Mexican favorites and less common authentic dishes. Most of the food is not hot and spicy, although home- made hot sauces are available.

Tacos and burritos come with chicken, pork or beef. The enchiladas are even more interesting -- you have your choice of sauces. They come smothered in the traditional red-chili ranchera sauce, the lighter green-chili sauce or the savory -- not sweet-- chocolate-based mole sauce. A fun order for a first-timer is the Tres Amigos Enchiladas: one with each sauce.

Like most of Sabroso's dishes, every inch of the plate will be covered with enchiladas, rice and beans. You'll also have a choice between black beans and refried pinto beans. We like the refried, which are nicely moist.

The fajitas are probably the best we've ever had. Anywhere.

A torta is a Mexican-style sandwich. It's a soft roll filled with meat, lettuce, tomato, jalapeños, onions, guacamole, mayo, bean spread and cream. Even though it isn't listed on the menu, we like ours with grilled pork.

Another light option is a tamale. These, like everything else, are made from scratch. It's either pork, chicken or vegetables, stuffed inside cornmeal dough and then steamed inside a corn husk wrapper. Peel away the corn husk and enjoy the rich delicate blend of corn and meat, seasoned with just enough salt and a little cilantro. A little hot sauce goes well here.

Even more interesting are the seafood entrees. Try the Shrimp Mexican Style, sauteed in white wine, lime juice, garlic, jalapeños, onions and tomatoes. The Tostadas de Ceviche are also good; two fried flat tortilla shells are topped with lime-marinated orange roughy, onions, cilantro and jalapeños. But our favorite is the Shrimp Cocktail. This is not what you think; it's a big glass filled with pieces of shrimp, tomato juice, avocado pieces, cilantro and onion. The combination of flavors is ideal and not so very sweet as versions we've had elsewhere.

If you're with a group, consider the whole fried fish. Avoid the Roast Pork Platter, we found it to be fatty and salty. And the chimichangas were OK, but you'll do better elsewhere on the menu.

Don't miss the chili relleño. This traditional Mexican dish consists of a large poblano chili pepper -- not too hot -- roasted, peeled and stuffed with chicken and cheese. It's then baked in a tomato mole sauce that's simply delicious.

Another treat are "natural drinks." These are made fresh, not carbonated and not too sweet. We're simply nuts for the tamarind flavor and order it whenever we can. We also like the rice water, which is the perfect, smooth, almost milky drink to cut the spiciness of some of the hotter dishes.

Sabroso has a large number of vegetarian selections. They're open for late breakfast, and serve eggs with chorizo sausage, eggs with salsa and other Mexican breakfast treats.

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Thanks for putting this on a separate thread. And, I don't get your columns in my edition of the Strib, but then again as I've mentioned, your beat tends to be a thoroughfare from my place to places further south. I look forward to the full report on Wampachs.

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We went there last night. Six of us, so there was a good mix of food at the table.

The walleye (grilled, not fried) was excellent. The meat loaf was terrible. The ribs were okay.

Pies were good.

Onion rings were very good.

Very cheap.

We'll write it up this weekend.

Bruce

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Onion rings were very good.

Always great to hear about great onion rings. They are getting harder and harder to find.

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This is our first review.

Bruce

********

Supper club recalls glory days of a classic dining experience

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier, Special to the Star Tribune

Published October 22, 2003

The idea of a supper club feels dated in this era of ethnic restaurants, celebrity chefs, and neighborhood bistros.

Back in the day, guys wearing skinny ties visited supper clubs to drink manhattans and order the "surf and turf."

Fast forward 40 years and head to Hwy. 13 in Eagan, and you'll find Jensen's Supper Club, a modern-day homage to this classic American dining experience.

In 1996, brothers and restaurant veterans Doron and Derek Jensen opened their dream restaurant. Their idea is that a supper club is a community institution, and here you'll find that idea works.

Jensen's is one of the area's favorite celebration restaurants. The children are well-dressed and well-behaved, choruses of "Happy Birthday" ring out, cameras flash, and nearly every table holds a group of four or six or more.

The super-clean dining room is done in warm rosy reds and good oak woodwork, with dark leatherette upholstery. There's candlelight on the tables and the whole effect feels fancy. The food, however, takes second place to the sociable and friendly surroundings.

Meals start with a relish tray of celery and carrot sticks and such. All entrees come with Jensen's signature popovers and house salad. Our popovers arrived after they'd cooled off, but they still tasted good.

The salad is lettuce and greens mixed with gorgonzola cheese and mandarin orange slices, dressed in a too-sweet pepper vinaigrette.

Jensen's is known for its walleye, available either pan fried or deep fried. The pan-fried version was not at all greasy, though the breading had no flavor to speak of. The most popular menu item is the prime rib, available in several sizes and prices. The meat was flavorful and moist, though unevenly seasoned. We liked the citrus garlic chicken, with its pungent, snappy flavor.

Side orders are meant to share, which adds to the festive atmosphere.

Jensen's special hash browns come covered with cheese and have onions mixed in, nice if a bit breakfasty. The creamed spinach has big pieces of spinach, though the cream sauce was bland and lacked the promised garlic. The children's menu is extensive, and will satisfy even the most finicky third-grader.

Desserts include such popular items as a New York style cheese cake and Haagen-Dazs ice cream. The house-made creme brulee is creamier than many, while the tiramisu comes, oddly, covered in chocolate sauce.

You don't need to dig out a skinny tie for your special occasion at Jensen's; most men get by with a good sweater. And you can still get a manhattan, as well as the full range of classic cocktails.

Their specialty list includes many martinis and an array of what one waitress affectionately called "frou-frou" drinks. The wine list offers popular selections, many available by the glass.

Jensen's has live music on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights. They offer private dining rooms for large events. In all, it's a cut above a family restaurant, and a festive gathering place.

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier have had meals in more than 30 countries, but can usually be found having dinner in the Twin Cities.Let us know which south-of-the-river restaurants we should try. E-mail diningsouth@startribune.com

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We just sent in our fifth review, for Wampach's in Shakopee. And our fourth should appear tomorrow in the Star-Tribune.

Bruce

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