Slow-Roasted Jerk Pork Bowl at Pimento Kitchen in Minneapolis

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

When we reviewed Pimento Kitchen in 2013, we were skeptical. Even though it had won Food Network’s “Food Court Wars,” we didn’t expect much from the mall stall. We were happy to report that our doubts were unfounded: The flavorful, soulful food tempted us to return to Burnsville Center, but we never made it back.

Now that Pimento has opened on Eat Street in Minneapolis, we don’t have to head for the ’burbs for damn good Jamaican fare. Unlike the mall’s cavernous shared dining area, Pimento’s new space is well lit, spacious, and comfortable, and it turns into an open-air patio during warm weather. Diners who dig reggae and dance-hall music will find the place especially welcoming, and if there’s a wait, you can spend your time learning Jamaican slang from the artwork.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Like the original spot, the new Pimento has a brief, focused menu. We like the jerk chicken (but would like some dark meat mixed in with the light) and really like the curried veggies, but the slow-roasted jerk pork bowl ($10) is our go-to. Its juicy, tender meat is infused with jerk flavorings and comes off like a Caribbean cousin to carnitas and barbecued pulled pork. Pimento’s jerk pork is a tad spicy, a little sweet, and a whole lot delicious.

Kung Fu Noodle on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

What’s your Quang?

Confused? Let me explain. Quang is all about the food. Straight-across-the-plate, honest-to-grandma, authentic Vietnamese food that hasn’t changed in nearly three decades. Plastic menus. Crowded booths. Lunch meetings seated next to first dates. Families with baby buckets. Herds of teenagers. First-generation families and Asian-food newbies. And lines reliably filling up the tiny foyer.

What’s that? Quang is not your favorite Vietnamese restaurant? You have strong opinions on pho nam vs. pho bac? Someone else rolls their spring rolls tighter or uses a better mix of herbs? Immaterial. Because Quang — knock on wood — is never going anywhere. Quang is the kind of place that is never the wrong answer.

We need more Quangs.

And I think we might have a candidate, with a few caveats, right across the street.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Eat Street’s brand-new Kung Fu Noodle is optimistically, audaciously, perhaps foolhardily vast. (We visited smack dab between lunch and dinner, which is why the room looks empty in the photo.) But its menu is the opposite of vast: just six types of ramen, a handful of variations on noodle and rice bowls, and some appetizers. (And a full page of bubble teas. Now there are some priorities.) No sushi. No tempura. No bento boxes. Just noodles. Mostly.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

And those noodles they take very seriously. Our server proudly told us that the noodles come from Japan by mail (even with the vast, well-stocked Shuang Hur market right next door). The thin, kinky ramen noodles are eggy and springy, flavorful and satisfying. We tried them and loved them in the Char Siu Ramen ($12 and marked “Chief Recommended” on the menu) and the Chicken Chao Mian ($9). Kung Fu Noodle is proudly Japanese — not fusion — but like the martial art its name celebrates, it carries inter-Asian influences: Chinese chow mein and dandan noodles, Korean kimchi.

Barbacoa de Chivo Tacos at La Huasteca

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

“The barbacoa de chivo. For real. People need to know.” That impassioned plea was part of an email tip we received yesterday about La Huasteca, a new family-run Mexican restaurant on Nicollet Ave, just around the corner from  El Nuevo Mariachi Restaurant.

The restaurant’s humble decor is similar to that of dozens of other small places up and down Eat Street, and its menu looks similar, too, but for the prominent place held by goat-related dishes and its reference to the State of Morelos in Mexico. Following the principle of “one of these things is not like the other” is a good way to broaden your own food horizons — and it’s also a good way to find the thing that a restaurant is secretly passionate about.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Getting down to details: The Barbacoa de Chivo tacos consist of big scoops of roasted goat with cilantro, onions, and chili sauce served on doubled-up corn tortillas with lime wedges on the side. In terms of quantity, the two tacos made for a solid $4 lunch. In terms of taste, the goat has the presence and emotional warmth of a pot roast — tender, rich, deeply flavored. This robust and comforting foundation is the perfect pedestal for bright notes of flavor like the acidic tang of lime juice, the crunch of fresh onions, and the heat of salsa. When you eat these tacos, you become happy.

Barbacoa de chivo tacos at La Huasteca: Now you know. If you fail to eat and enjoy them at this point, it’s on you.

La Huasteca, 2738 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, 8am-pm daily; 612.871.2654

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen in Minneapolis

Copper Hen in Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

In an era where entrepreneurs turn to Kickstarter to fund everything from major motion pictures to stuffed goats that give birth, the local food scene is no stranger to this crowd-sourced concept. Cases in point: Heavy Table’s own Secret Atlas of North Coast Food and Eat Street’s newest venture, The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen. Headed by the husband and wife team of Chris and Danielle  Bjorling, the rustic, farmhouse-style bakery and cafe got off the ground at the beginning of the month after months of preparation and nearly $12,000 raised from supporters. And while off to a solid start — particularly in that bakery case — the Copper Hen will need some polishing to be a destination to crow about.

Many bakery / cafes start off cautiously, focusing on baked goods, breakfast, and lunch, but the Bjorlings ambitiously began dinner service from day one. Wisely, they kept the menu, which is the same for lunch and dinner, relatively modest, with a daily soup, a few salads and starters, a couple of pizzas, four sandwiches, and three entrees. The breakfast menu is much more compact, offering a small selection of scones, rolls, hand pies, the signature bacon blueberry breakfast “cupcake,” and a weekly chef’s choice brunch special.

Copper Hen Cheeseboard
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The bread basket ($6) is the obvious choice for a starter in a bakery, especially when served with a housemade strawberry rhubarb jam that would make a steel-toed boot taste divine. The baguette boasts a gentle flavor and tender crumb but could use a crispier crust to match the excellence of Rustica Bakery’s loaf. Though it’s supposed to be a sampler, our basket only had one variety of the five served daily. The smashed potato fries ($3.50 for a half-order / $6 for a full) are a bit misleading; though soft, buttery, and comforting, the sauteed taters don’t come close to the definition most of use for fries. Not that it will stop you from downing the pillowy potatoes, but leave your traditional interpretation of fries at the door.

The milkmaid cheeseboard (market price; $10 for the board pictured above) provides another platform for that strawberry rhubarb jam, along with a sweet, sticky fig mostarda and downright addicting curried cauliflower. All three pair well with the three cheeses recently in rotation. Unfortunately, the cheeses themselves remain a mystery, as the server couldn’t name them or make a point of inquiring with the kitchen. If a restaurant is going to wave the “farm-to-table” flag, it better know its ingredients and their origins backward and forward, so there’s no excuse for playing ignorant for a standard question among those inclined to order cheeseboards.

Copper Hen Arugula Salad, BLT, and interior
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

There’s no quibble with the arugula salad, though ($5 half / $8 whole). Generous dollops of sheep’s-milk ricotta temper the peppery bite of the greens, and the fried shallots and hemp seeds add a contrasting crunch. Two could easily share a cheeseboard and the salad and have a very satisfying meal (with room for dessert). Ordering the BLT ($11) likely won’t leave much extra space in your stomach, however, with its thick cuts of bacon layered atop slabs of cheddar, tomato, and butter lettuce. This isn’t a sandwich for thin, crispy bacon lovers — the bacon could be mistaken for slices of ham — but the hearty country bread contains all the fixings faultlessly.

Copper Hen Classic Pizza and Pot Pie
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Kids will clamor for the 10-inch classic pizza ($9), which features wide rounds of house-pulled mozzarella and fresh basil. While the crust doesn’t compare to the area’s gold standard, Pizzeria Lola, the naturally leavened dough offers a pleasant tang that distinguishes it from your typical pie. But for a dish you’re unlikely to encounter elsewhere, go for the chicken pot pie ($15). Meaty chunks of chicken combine with toothsome root vegetables and peas in a creamy sauce, but what (literally) seals the deal is the buttery, flaky pastry covering the crock-baked filling. Shatter the crust with your fork and watch the steam rise before you dig in. And offer a few forkfuls to your dining companion, who ordered the baked macaroni and cheese ($14) because, sadly, that meal isn’t close to the same caliber. The four cheeses seize and clump among the large, hollow noodles, and without sufficient sauce to coat the pasta, the mac falls flat.

Luckily, you can’t choose poorly among the bakery case. The large, chunky chocolate chip cookie ($2) lures browned butter fans with its rich, nutty aroma, and the flavor shines through each bite. After five years of cupcake mania in this town, it’s a pleasure to see cupcakes ($2.50) perfectly portioned and featuring a reasonable cake-to-frosting ratio. The delicately flavored cake is appropriately dense — it has substance but won’t sit like a rock in your stomach — and the frosting provides a sweet, creamy lusciousness without sending you into a diabetic coma. Vanilla, chocolate, red velvet — all are solid choices. Only the bacon blueberry breakfast cupcake ($3.75)  tastes more like a scone than cupcake and needs a tad more sugar if you are craving a more sweet than savory treat. Depending on the day, you’ll also find a few varieties of mason jar cakes, fruit-filled hand pies, and full-sized cakes beckoning with colorful sprinkles. You won’t find doughnuts, however — a smart decision when Glam Doll Donuts is just down the street.

Copper Hen Bakery
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The light, airy space will bring many passers-by into the Copper Hen. Scraps of blue printed wallpaper liven up the white-washed brick walls, and the dark cherry tables and counter make an elegant presentation. The Bjorlings have spaced the tables well, with plenty of room to maneuver, making it an ideal destination for families (in case the cupcakes themselves weren’t enough of a draw). As would be expected for a new venture, service could use more time to get into a groove. Our starters arrived with the rest of our meal on one visit, for example, and payment can take several minutes as the team learns the point-of-sale system.

Minneapolis doesn’t lack for good bakeries, but there’s always room for one more. As the Copper Hen crew settles into its space, it will be exciting to see how the kitchen evolves — and whether its Kickstarter funders made a good investment.

The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen
Bakery and cafe in Minneapolis
Rating: ★★☆☆ (Good)

2515 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55404
612.872.2221
HOURS:
Tues-Thurs 7am-10pm
Fri 7am-11pm
Sat 8am-11pm
Sun 8am-10pm
Closed Mondays
OWNERS / CHEFS: Danielle and Chris Bjorling
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE PRICE: $8-17

Eat Street Buddha Kitchen and Lounge in Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It’s Friday night. The monotony of the workweek is out of sight and out of mind. Well, at least for the next 72 hours. Your friend proclaims: “We should totes grab sushi tonight.” Enter the age-old question: Where should we go? Nowadays, sushi joints are popping up faster than you can say “spicy tuna roll.” From the widely praised Sushi Fix of Wayzata to any number of interchangeable fish joints in Uptown and downtown Minneapolis, the format isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Enter Eat Street Buddha Kitchen and Lounge, located in the Nicollet and 26th St. space formerly occupied by the similarly themed Azia. The sushi / noodles / small plates / everything and the kitchen sink Buddha Kitchen has hit the Minneapolis scene with bells and whistles. From LED lighting surrounding the main bar to table-turnin’ DJs, it’s a place to be seen — and unseen. (It’s dark. Unfavorable conditions for Instagramming.)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Sometimes a humble dish can make a big statement. The Hand-Folded Pot Stickers ($9) said: “Lick this plate clean — it’s worth it.” Their crispy / chewy exterior and subtle, savory, pork-filled interior came together harmoniously. Not to mention the island of radicchio slaw and garlic ponzu. They made you have a moment. Or six.

Land and Sea Spring Rolls ($9) were similarly good. They were bright and herbal without resorting to a mouthful of cilantro. We applauded the grade of the Key West shrimp and glazed chicken used, as well as the peanut dipping sauce. It had depth of flavor and wasn’t minimalist to the point of being pointless.

Wanting to live a little, we ordered the somewhat rare Tuna Belly Nigiri, but to no avail. It was already sold out at 7pm. We called for backup and opted for the Bluefin Tuna Nigiri ($14 for 2 pieces) instead. It was like budda (not to be confused with Buddha).  The melt-in-your-mouth tenderness made us have yet another moment. It wasn’t fishy or chewy either. Our eyes closed, followed by an “Mmm…”

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

What’s in a name? Well, actually a lot — especially if you name your specialty rolls after your restaurant. Shockingly, the Buddha Roll ($19 for 6 pieces, above, left) was the biggest disappointment of the evening. Served warm, on a cool slice of cucumber (which made for a warm slice of cucumber), this salmon-wrapped satchel of crab and halibut topped with spicy scallops tasted less like a clever combination of four pricy cuts of fish and more like a damp fishcake. It wasn’t hideous per se (the lemon helped), but really, for $19, it should have been a home run, not a foul ball.

As far as traditional rolls went, the Caterpillar Roll ($14 for 8 pieces) was tasty and had a nice flavor profile. The cuts of fish were fresh and abundant. The crab was actually highlighted correctly and wasn’t just filler. The Dynamite Roll ($8 for 6 pieces) stayed true to its name. The cucumbers added the perfect amount of crunch, and the Thai chili made us weep. But perhaps they were tears of joy.

A sampling of other dishes ranged from good to excellent. The restaurant’s Bulgogi Beef Salad ($12, above, right) with mixed greens, crunchy wontons, and candied walnuts was not particularly memorable, but the beef was tender and flavorful, and the mix of veggies was a cheerful supporting cast for the salad’s main player. The restaurant’s Wok Fired Peanut Noodles might have had too much rich peanut flavor if we’d ordered them as a main, but as a shared side dish, they were delightful (if a bit dear at $14) — and the fiery kick at the back of each bite made them shine. And while we found the scallop portion of the Pan-Seared Scallops ($25, above, center) dish to be forgettable, they were served with a selection of fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts, cooked to perfection.

The extensive drink selection left little to the imagination. Ranging from Asian beers to crafty cocktails, the sky was the limit in the alcohol arena. Dining with a Nipponophile, we were inclined to order the L’Poire Lychee ($10). The lychee simple syrup, pear nectar, and St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur transported her back to Japan. It was that good. The Bluesy Basilrita ($10) packed a mean punch of tequila, Grand Marnier, blueberries, and citrus. However, it was screaming for a bit more basil.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A return trip for brunch yielded another boozy beverage find. The restaurant’s Buddha Bloody (above) was simple and elegant, a perfectly balanced conversation between spicy heat, salt, Prairie Organic vodka, and tomato juice. The skewer could have been a little more creative, though — perhaps instead of olives and celery, a couple of shumai…?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

As solid as the bloody was, the rest of brunch was better. The Candied Bacon French Toast with Caramel Butter Cream Sauce ($11) was, to our surprise, no mere sugar bomb. The French toast led with cinnamon and bright yuzu citrus, complemented by the sweet-and-smoky bacon bits sprinkled on top. The caramel sauce was sweet, but not sickly or too sticky. Probably the best French toast we’ve had this year… and we’ve had a few.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Korean Beef Benedict ($12) represented the savory side of the aisle with aplomb. This combination of homemade kimchi, marinated beef tenderloin, and bulgogi Hollandaise sauce was both properly balanced and creative: The sauce was rich and bright, the kimchi spicy but not overly aggressive, and the marinated beef both tender and rich, strong but not overwhelming its culinary partners.

Buddha Kitchen didn’t skimp on the sides, either. The Yellow Curry Hash Browns ($2.50) boasted a fine, almost velvety texture and each bite delivered a rich, creamy hit of mellow and enchanting curry flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The house-made Spicy Thai Sausage Patties were workmanlike but pleasing, tender in texture with the conviction of spicy heat behind each mouthful.

Executive Chef Grant Halsne (who we interviewed here) has bitten off quite a bit with Buddha Kitchen, but previous gigs (Stella’s Fish Cafe, 20.21 at the Walker) seem to have served him well. He’s dealing skillfully from a deep deck and nearly every hand we surveyed was a winner.

James Norton wrote the brunch section of this review and contributed additional notes and observations.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Eat Street Buddha Kitchen and Lounge
Asian Fusion Cuisine
Rating: ★★½☆ (Good)

2550 Nicollet Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55404
612.886.2468

OWNER / CHEF: Mike Tupa / Grant Halsne
HOURS: Mon-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat-Sun 10am-2am
ENTREE RANGE: $14-$33
SUSHI RANGE: $4-$20
SMALL PLATES RANGE: $6-$14
BAR: Full

Glam Doll Donuts in Minneapolis

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

So Donut Cooperative is out. But charming doughnuts still have a champion in the very new Glam Doll Donuts on Nicollet Ave. The shop opened on February 20 and it’s come out fighting. Not only have owners Teresa Fox and Arwyn Birch (Can I get a yowzer for those beautiful names?) remade former Ly Sandwich & Bakery into a blushing vintage beauty, they’re showing doughnuts with vivid style, vampy stage names, and lots of promise.

The case is filled with enough strains of cake, raised, and filled doughnuts to make you cry. Pink, orange-red, and dark chocolate colors dominate the display, and tasters will notice a penchant for spice among the best of them. Raised doughnuts start at $1.50, cake doughnuts at $1.25, and all filled are a flat $3. A half dozen is $13 and a full dozen will set you back $25. Also, the shop serves Intelligentsia Coffee that’s good for dunking.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Some of our favorites are the fat-bellied raised doughnuts. The Bombshell acts like a Bismarck filled with gorgeous chocolate custard jacked with cinnamon and heat. It’s silky and loose and recalls that real, cooked-milk flavor of homemade pudding. Unfortunately, a vanilla bean custard-filled doughnut called the Dark Angel just can’t compete. Its innards ran straight down our forearms after the first bite.

Luckily, the raised Calendar Girl brings it with dark chocolate frosting and a healthy daub of smooth, salted caramel. Our only complaint is about texture. Among the raised doughnuts, we noticed an irritating chewiness here and there that defeats the purpose of the genre. The signature Glam Doll long john is the biggest culprit. It may be slathered in eye-popping pink icing, but we suggest you skip it.

Cake doughnuts get it right, though. Each one we tasted was moist with a slight crust and tight crumb. The rumored Sriracha-squiggled Chart Topper (top photo) has a good thing going, gathering a nice heat that tangos with subtle peanut butter frosting in likeable Thai food fashion. We really wanted more peanut butter, though. This is breakfast dessert, after all. It’s meant to be decadent. That’s where the Showgirl long john enters, screaming with familiar maple sweetness countered by thick, salty bacon. Purists will love this one.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Possibly the cutest of all is the Peek-a-boo (above, right), a tres leches cake in doughnut form. The doughnut’s cake base is soaked judiciously with sweet milk, just the way it should be, topped with unsweetened (good call!) whipped cream and a cheeky little cherry. The nutmeg in this one really shines. Seriously, why hasn’t this been done before?

Glam Doll seems set to make grabbing doughnuts an experience. They’re open until 1am on weekends and hope to secure a permit to stay open even later, to serve those prowling Eat Street near dawn. The shop is a sprawling thing too, with Mad Men-style nooks to sit in and a photo booth near the back. Whether or not the late-night crowd will catch on is a wonder, but for now, the doughnuts are good.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Glam Doll Donuts

Doughnuts on Eat Street in Minneapolis
2605 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612.345.7064
OWNERS: Teresa Fox and Arwyn Birch
HOURS: Mon-Wed 7am-9pm
Thurs-Sat 7am-1am
Sun 7am-3pm
BAR: Coffee and espresso
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGTARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $1.25-3

Icehouse in Minneapolis

Louie the Loon Icehouse
DWITT / Heavy Table

Icehouse in Minneapolis

Icehouse in Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Usually a first mention of a new restaurant in town raises the obvious question, “How was the food?” But if the restaurant is Icehouse, the first question more often has been, “Why is it called Icehouse?” While the restaurant’s back story is interesting — the space used to house the Icehouse Studios music / photography business — you should quickly redirect the inquisitor to the food question because the answer is even more interesting — “pretty damn good.”

Not perfect, mind you, but despite a few food and service missteps, we’re fully prepared to embrace Icehouse for its inventive drink list, craveworthy sandwiches (Co-owner and Executive Chef Matt Bickford also helms Be’Wiched Deli in the North Loop), and desserts that you will, indeed, write home about. Whether you enjoy the music that graces the large dining room stage depends on which act is featured that night, but finding the gems on the menu shouldn’t be too difficult.

While the dinner menu is divided into four sections — greens, small plates, bar snacks, and the bread department (aka sandwiches) — all except the sandwiches offer the same modest but satisfying portions. The waitstaff recommends two to three per person, and unless you’re dining with a large party, you’re going to have to make some tough choices. Greek salad ($8.50) or cheese souffle ($8)? While the former offers crunchy, flavorful falafel spheres with a zippy tahini dressing, it’s hard to ignore the appeal of truffled cheese, with the creamy consistency of a blintz filling and the earthy aroma of the truffles elevating the relatively mild cheese to a new culinary plane.

Food at Icehouse in Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The quality of the empanadas ($7.50) varies based on the filling of the day: We preferred the vegetarian version with corn, chihuahua cheese, and zingy chiles to the meat and potatoes variety, which doesn’t pair quite as well with the accompanying chunky-sweet tomato jam, cumin yogurt, and chimichurri sauces. The Buffalo wings proved to be addicting when devoured plain, with its dry rub offering the ideal balance of spice, tang, and pepper, but the sauce pooling on the bottom plate resembles a gummy tomato paste with a few dashes of Tabasco added. Skip it — your fingers still will be lickable from the rub that remains after you down the last wing.

If not for some sorely underseasoned Gulf shrimp ($12), the seafood dishes as a whole would stand out as the strongest section of the menu. The trio of cured salmon ($12.50) not only amazes with its fresh, non-fishy flavor — and a kick-ass dill, rye, and anchovy marinade — but with its silky texture as well. The dish is meant for sharing, but you may find yourself carefully guarding the plate with your fork so no one else takes more than one polite bite. If the market fish happens to be scallops ($12), snatch them up to savor the sweet meat encased in a brown, perfectly seared crust. The crab-cake mac and cheese ($10.50) also succeeds with a patty that’s more crab than breading and a smooth, creamy toss of noodles that neither dominates nor falls victim to the cake.

Krungthep Thai in Minneapolis

Krungthep Thai in Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Krungthep Thai is already beloved. As the new Minneapolis outpost of the discreet and tiny Bangkok Thai Deli in St. Paul, it was born under the banner of some pretty high standards and a passionate following.

The restaurant’s name seems sneaky and unrelated to Bangkok Deli The First. But Krung Thep is actually just another name for Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. The new (and much larger) location occupies the late Seafood Palace on Nicollet, and while the lobby window remains emblazoned with Seafood Palace insignia, the quiet customer commentary will tell you it’s anything but. On a Tuesday afternoon the most commonly overheard sigh and sentiment from the lunchtime crowd was, “We’re so glad you guys came to Minneapolis!”

The menu at Krungthep mirrors that of the original, but has more daily seafood specials, including lobster, scallops, and numerous fish. Both the Nam Tok and Tom Yum at Bangkok Deli are famous on Yelp, and Krungthep’s versions prove the rumors true. This food delivers flavor like a sock in the face.

The Nam Tok ($8) is a salad of marinated, sliced beef that practically oozes fresh, green flavor. A confetti of mint, green onion, cilantro, and rice powder (toasted and coarsely ground white rice) coat every bite, and the overwhelming spunk of lemongrass and lime will keep you smacking and marveling. Not a moment of this dish is bland.

Krungthep’s Tom Yum ($10) soup has a similar welcome pungency. Straw mushrooms, whole chilies, and shrimp (if you choose) accent the hot and citrusy broth. The only mildly uncomfortable part is the large slices of bitter galangal and sharp stalks of lemongrass that swim onto your spoon. Nevertheless, their presence gives the soup its undeniable flair.

Krungthep Thai Green Curry
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The Green Curry ($8) is delicious and huge. Like every other entrée on the menu, one serving could easily feed three. Generous ribbons of basil, fresh jalapeno, and smooth, snappy chunks of eggplant and green and red peppers make up a chewy bowl of warmth.

The Spring Rolls ($3) are good and fresh, and the Papaya Salad ($7) is also a winner. The gentle pine of the green papaya and the grassiness of fresh green beans ride a bass line of toasty chopped peanuts and tangy tomatoes. It’s a dark and chewy coleslaw for winter.

Of course the Thai newbie’s favorite, Pad Thai ($8), is good enough, piled with peanuts and thick hunks of green onions that give the dish a spark of freshness. However, the noodles were pretty greasy on our visit, and overall the plate lacks the spunk and citrusy verve of the other dishes we tried.

Krungthep Thai Papaya Salad
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Regardless, Krungthep Thai is the place to bring your friends who already have it all — the hard-to-please ones who made Pad Thai at home when they were, like, 12. Just make sure to specify the mildest level of spice when ordering. Even the most well-adjusted palate might recoil after a few bites of a medium spice dish. That’s right. Krungthep’s for real.

Krungthep Thai
Thai Food on Eat Street
2523 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55404
612.874.7721
OWNER: 
Glen Yam Phong Ngam
HOURS:
Sun-Thu 10:30am-9:30pm
Fri-Sat 10:30am-10:30pm
BAR: Liquor license in the works
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: 
Yes / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
AVERAGE ENTREE: $5-12, including soups and salads

October 29 Morning Roundup II

Katie gives OM a mixed-to-positive writeup on Metromix, the epic nosh that is Modern Cafe’s pork, kimchi, and hog fat sandwich, Rachel presents five highlights from the Eat Street Progressive food fest (conveniently broken into five pages, thanks!), Dara offers insight into local spoons-only dining, and Edesia Test Kitchen offers one way to test the usefulness of a cookbook.

Hoang Thien Y Deli on Eat Street, Minneapolis

Editor’s Note: Hoang Thien Y is now closed.

One of the most singularly surprising things about the Twin Cities is that you can get authentic Vietnamese food as good as anything outside of the mother country. Hoàng Thiên Y, a hole in the wall in a Nicollet Avenue strip mall, is a good place to start if you’re not intimidated by long lists of foreign dishes and the sights and smells of a truly first generation restaurant. Lychee, durian shredded pork and black rice are just a few of the more intriguing foodstuffs that go into the restaurant’s menu, which is as inexpensive as it is provocative. Quality is relatively consistent, and service is friendly, if somewhat inattentive.

Pho Tau Bay is a much more full service experience, with a more fathomable menu, but the immersion factor (and lower prices) of Hoàng Thiên Y make it worth consideration.

BEST BET: The báhn mì sandwiches ($2.50 to 3.50) are well balanced and tasty as hell. A marinated pork or meatball version is exotically accessible; if you’d like to push your luck and get fully immersed, there’s a headcheese option.

Hoang Thien Y
Vietnamese on Eat Street, Minneapolis
2738 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408
BAR: No
RESERVATIONS/RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes and Iffy
ENTREE RANGE: ($3-$10)