Few cultures have a claim to gourmet glory as strong as those of the numerous peoples who we now collectively identify as “Indian”; from the rich, buttery sauces, kebabs, and basmati rice of the Punjab region to the dosas and biryani of the south, there’s a staggering range of cuisine hailing from the subcontinent, all of it painstakingly refined over the course of centuries.
That makes it all the more regrettable that compared to cities like Chicago and Boston, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area has lagged behind in both Indian food standouts and tasty, every-day-of-the-week buffet workhorses. Gandhi Mahal, Copper Pot, and the Nepali-Tibetan-influenced Gorkha Palace stand out (among others) but there’s room for many more. This context makes the appearance of an ambitious new spot like Bluefox in St. Louis Park all the more intriguing. Bluefox boasts “farm-to-table” sourcing and a cocktail menu designed by Dan Oskey of Tattersall, and its light, bright dining room is awash in noise and color. Energy pulsates both from the bhangra pumping through the sound system and the numerous big-screen televisions that dominate the upper third of the restaurant’s walls.
Bluefox’s local-organic-susainable branding — something banged home by text on their exterior signage and a prominently placed claim on their website — is a welcome step away from the everyday eatery (although not the likes of Gandhi Mahal and Gorkha Palace, which also source thoughtfully), but it’s undermined by a lack of details on the restaurant’s menu. Diners motivated by farm-to-table branding want to know: What manner of food is supplied by which particular farmers? We followed up with the restaurant and received the following list:
Larry Schultz Organic Farm – Eggs
Bushel Boy Farms – Tomatoes
Organic Valley – Dairy
Ferndale Market – Turkey
Zweber Family Farms – Chicken
Hidden Valley Farm – Grass-Fed Lamb
Other organic produce provided by the Bix Produce Company
All spices are ground fresh and in-house
You would expect that such ingredients (and, perhaps even more critically, such a spice prep regimen) would result in bold food — and that’s exactly what we found. The appetizers we sampled at Bluefox were daring and memorable. The Idli Fries ($9) resembled savory, lentil-based discs of a spongecake consistency with a cheesy richness. They were particularly intriguing when dipped in the accompanying sauces. We’d never tried anything quite like them.
And the Kale Pakora ($7) was delicately fried in a spicy curry batter — the exterior of the leaves lightly crispy, the interior still a bit soft and chewy, the contrast quite pleasant indeed.
South Indian Moons ($15) are a collection of five varieties of uttapam — a far tinier, fluffier spin on dosas resembling miniature pancakes stuffed with vegetables or cheese — that are meant to be dipped in a choice of sambar (lentil soup), raita (herbed yogurt), or a spicy red chutney. Beautifully browned, and stuffed with everything from peas to onions to tomatoes to cheese, these delicate discs were highly entertaining. With five varieties and three ways to dip, they were a veritable matrix of sometimes intense flavor.
Our Hyderabad Lamb (cooked in onion, tomato, cinnamon, cashew nuts, and ginger, and finished with organic yogurt, $20) was rich and deeply spiced, and an ideal dish for the winter with its combination of earthy lamb and soul-warming spices.
Lassis vary widely in quality in the world at large, but the specimens we sampled at Bluefox ($4) were first rate — smooth and sweet (without being overly so), with a great deal of fruit flavor and a gentle but perceptible tang of yogurt. It would be easy to suck down $12 worth of these.
We like that Bluefox is aiming high, and we like the big, bold flavors of its food. We like that the commitment to good ingredients and house-ground spices manifested itself in the flavors on the plate. (We also like that when we forgot our credit card at the table, our waiter chased us down in the stairwell of the nearby parking structure.) Indian food fans in the western suburbs have a new spot to consider for the regular rotation, and those of us in the cities have a new destination to consider when we mull our options for naan, dosas, and the old reliable standby of chicken tikka masala.
Bluefox Indian Bar & Grill
Farm-to-table Indian food in St. Louis Park
5377 W 16th St
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Mon-Sun 11 a.m-10 p.m. (bar open until 11 p.m. except Friday until 2 a.m. and Sat-Sun until midnight)
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes for Weekends
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $12-$26
PARKING: Free ramp