There’s been a fair amount of buzz about what’s happening in Wayzata’s restaurant scene, particularly because of newcomer Bellecour. But Wayzata isn’t the only suburb sprouting new independent eateries. Nearby Eden Prairie has been quietly adding indie restaurants within the city limits and is now home to Tavern 4&5, Piper’s Coffee and Burger Bar, Teque Arepa, Gogi Bros., and Bay Leaf Indian Cuisine. These are all places that are making darned good food in-house, and their ranks have recently increased to include Lotus Leaf Thai.
All of these places reside in dreary strip malls. However, said dreary strip malls tend to be near business centers, which gives their tenants a ready-made audience and may help explain why these new restaurants seem to be succeeding.
But location aside, they still have to provide good food. Lotus Leaf achieves that with a small but thoughtful menu, with dishes cooked to order, and an eye towards attractive presentation. Everything we tried on a recent visit made us happy, tasted fresh, and was lovely to look at.
Shrimp Spring Rolls ($7) were fresh and light, with plenty of crunch from raw vegetables and flavor from cilantro and mint. The accompanying peanut sauce, made fresh daily, was silky and rich. The Green Papaya Salad ($7) took the papaya shreds and coated them in a zingy chili-lime dressing nicely offset with nuts and green beans.
Pad See Yew ($13) was a deceptively simple bowl of wide noodles with chicken, soy sauce, garlic, and eggs, but underneath the flavoring was a smokiness that enriched the dish. The Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice ($13) was lighter than expected and not at all greasy, with a generous helping of plump, cooked-just-right shrimp.
But the star of the visit was the Massaman Curry ($15). This is essentially a beef and potato stew. The beef was slow-cooked until it was meltingly tender and flavorful, and it was accompanied by a slightly sweet peanut sauce that complemented the meat and was great for soaking the accompanying rice.
Most dishes are offered with the diner’s choice of heat: mild, medium, hot, or Thai hot. At this visit we stayed in the medium range, which wasn’t frighteningly hot. On a return visit, we tried the Tom Yum Soup (with chicken, $5; with shrimp, $7) and asked for Thai hot. We were gratified to be given a bowl that had a considerable number of red and green chile flecks floating about, and it was indeed hot enough to cause tears and hiccups.
Is Lotus Leaf as good as places like Thai Garden? It’s close. And for people on the west side, it’s more than good enough and doesn’t require a drive across the metro.
Lotus Leaf, 7922 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie, MN 55344; 952.934.3030; Tues-Fri 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sun-Thurs 5-8 p.m.; Fri-Sat 5-9 p.m.