Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 23-March 1

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Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveBeef on Weck at Crossroads Delicatessen
This play on a French dip sandwich brings together sliced-while-you-watch roast beef, a hearty kummelweck roll, a natural jus dip, and a generous side of horseradish. Taken together as a whole, it’s a surprisingly deep experience: crispy, soft, warm, savory, and spicy-hot all at once. Dining at Crossroads always feels like something of a trip back in time, and it’s always nice to rediscover a classic that’s faded from view.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveGrilled Caesar Salad at The Kenwood
The Grilled Caesar Salad with boquerones (anchovies) at The Kenwood is reason enough to pay the cafe a visit. Though the place does many dishes very well, boquerones aren’t often seen on Minnesota menus. The lettuce is grilled and served warm with the plump, cold fish to contrast. One final touch, just-sweet croutons, cut through the salinity.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveWinter Rose Pastry at Rose Street Patisserie
I’ve seen this before … almost. In the spring of 2016, John Kraus offered a cheerful raspberry-and-white-chocolate version of this pastry to celebrate the opening of Rose Street Patisserie. The winter version is more subdued in color (a faded rose?) but has the compelling, deep flavor of gianduja (Piedmont, Italy’s ground-hazelnut milk chocolate in the form of tiny prisms wrapped in gold foil). The Winter Rose is a gianduja mousse with a caramel cremeux (a kind of pudding) center. The creamy elements sit on a crunchy hazelnut cookie slicked with marmalade. It was a joy to break a bit of the surrounding chocolate spiral and eat it with a forkful of mousse and cookie. Please don’t utter the word Nutella!
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveXalwo at Halwo Kismayo
The xalwo (East African halva) of Halwo Kismayo was a cluster of rich, assertively rubbery blobs of sweetness, somewhere between a lightly spiced clove-and-cardamom jam and a mildly fruited gummy bear. Spread on the dry butter cookies that came on our plate, the stuff was downright addictive, and we had to check ourselves lest we get completely full on the first plate of the night.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from the East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

Joshua Page / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveOat Milk Cappuccino at Peace Coffee
During our recent break from dairy, a barista at Peace Coffee recommended an oat milk cappuccino (Peace uses Oatly). Though skeptical, we took his suggestion. And it was damn good. Unlike watery dairy alternatives, oat milk is creamy, froths nicely, and blends really well with espresso. It has a pleasant, subtle oat flavor, but is otherwise neutral. While not as sweet as milk, it’s one hell of an alternative. Even though we’re back on dairy, we’re still ordering “oat caps.” (Tip: The Seward Co-op on 38th Street sells Oatly.)
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted by Joshua Page]

East Lake Checklist: Miramar to San Miguel Bakery

WACSO / Heavy Table

Is there such a thing as gastronomic whiplash? If so, we’re pretty sure we experienced it this outing. Within a span of a few hours we went from fish tacos to goat meat to mu shu pork to asada quesadillas to pineapple pastries. You might think by the end, we’d be begging for mercy. And to some extent we were. Yet, as we’ve learned before, our body’s ability to consume food doesn’t adhere to a strict rule book. Which may be why, after a long night of stuffing food in our faces, we still found ourselves shoveling forkful after forkful of chocolate flan cake down our gullets. So much for moderation (and modesty). — M.C. Cronin

This week’s checklist crew: WACSO, M.C. Cronin, Ben Hajkal, James Norton

OTHER EAST LAKE STREET CHECKLIST INSTALLMENTS: Lake Plaza, Gorditas el Gordo to Pineda Tacos, Taqueria Victor Hugo to Safari Restaurant, El Sabor Chuchi to The Rabbit Hole, Midtown Global Market, Miramar to San Miguel Bakery, Mercado Central, Ingebretsen’s to Pasteleria Gama, La Alborada to Quruxlow, Midori’s Floating World to El Nuevo Rodeo, Urban Forage to Himalayan, Blue Moon Coffee Cafe to Merlin’s Rest, Hi Lo Diner to The Bungalow Club

Ben Hejkal / Heavy Table

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

The East Lake Checklist is the third Heavy Table illustrated travelogue to explore a major gastronomic thoroughfare in Minneapolis and/or St. Paul. The East Lake Checklist is the Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue and our 72-restaurant series about restaurants on the Green Line. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot on East Lake Street between 35W and the Mississippi River. (We’re estimating 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)

This series is made possible by underwriting from Visit Lake Street. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue and the Green Line, this tour will be warts-and-all.

“From the river to the lakes, visitors and residents can shop local and be social on Lake Street. More information at VisitLakeStreet.com.”

 

WACSO / Heavy Table

El Nuevo Miramar
501 E Lake St, Minneapolis

You have to hand it to El Nuevo Miramar. For a new restaurant and bar, they went big.

WACSO / Heavy Table

The space is big. It’s on a corner with two-story-high ceilings surrounded by windows. A staircase at the end of the room rises to a loft area. One wall is painted to look like a stage, complete with red velvet curtains. It appeared as though they could move a few tables and convert the place into a performance hall in a matter of minutes, though our server told us they use the space mostly for karaoke at the moment.

WACSO / Heavy Table

The lighting is big. There are large chandeliers. There’s LED accent lighting running length of the bar and along a row of high top booths. There are industrial-strength fluorescent fixtures. There’s a professional stage-lighting rig that wasn’t turned on the night we visited, thankfully. Even without the stage lights, the place was bright enough to see from space.

The food is big, too. A group of people near us shared some kind of seafood platter, featuring crab legs, that stretched out across the table. Two gentlemen next to us had giant glass goblets filled with a chilled shrimp cocktail concoction. As for the size of our tacos, well, they could’ve been carried to the table by forklift. — M.C.

*** FOOD NOTES ***

Ben Hejkal / Heavy Table

Jambo! Kitchen in Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis

Jambo! Kitchen, the new restaurant in Cedar-Riverside’s African Development Center, is out to replicate the success of its predecessor, Afro-Deli, which moved to the East Bank of the University of Minnesota.

Chef Jamal Hashi’s “fast casual” menu draws inspiration from East Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and features rice bowls, tacos, and sandwiches. But the crown jewel? Bold and beautiful bisbaas sauce. Featuring garlic and peppers (jalapeño, we believe), the fiery Somali condiment burned our innards and won our hearts.

Our first date with bisbaas was unexpected. Unfamiliar with the sauce offerings for a lamb rice bowl ($8, below), we simply selected the one with the coolest sounding name. The bowl didn’t need a condiment — gyro-like lamb, yellow-tinted “African rice,” and small pieces of fresh pineapple were a well-balanced flavorful combo — but the bisbaas is what landed the lamb bowl at the top of the Heavy Table’s weekly Hot Five list. It was a revelation, like the first time we spooned a dollop of chimichurri onto a juicy hanger steak.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Working our way through the menu, bisbaas remained our faithful sidekick. For instance, the sandwiches we tried lacked chutzpah, but bisbaas added some much-needed attitude. Without it, The Haji ($7, below) — ground beef, fresh vegetables, and a Thousand-Island-style dressing on a sturdy roll — was satisfying but not attention grabbing, and its accompanying fresh-cut fries literally fell down on the job.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Even Chef Hashi’s best-known dish, Sahel Sliders ($8, below), didn’t win us over. Lean, ground camel patties weren’t particularly flavorful, but were too chewy for our tastes. A dense pretzel bun accentuated the unfortunate texture. Happily, some sweet pickles and, of course, a slathering of the lovely, light-green bisbaas sauce provided character.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Only one main dish didn’t beg for bisbaas — the Manchurian taco ($5, below). A refreshingly creative vegetarian option, the taco features a wonderful paratha bread “tortilla” filled with cauliflower florets. But the concoction is too rich, and big flavors fight each other. The coating on the “Manchurian” cauliflower and a lather of Thousand Island-ish sauce smothered fresh celery, carrot, and cabbage, and gave the taco an unpleasant level of sweetness. Bisbass would only have added to the chaos.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We were slightly more disposed to a Vegetarian Sambusa ($2). We again admired the shell, which was light and had a nice crackle, like a wonton. The stuffing, however, was ho-hum, bringing to mind the frozen “mixed vegetables” we pushed aside as kids.

Taken together, the food at Jambo! Kitchen is decidedly uneven — not unusual for such a young restaurant. But if Chef Hashi successfully recalibrates some of his promising dishes and keeps the bisbaas flowing, Jambo! may very well rival the success of its predecessor.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Jambo! Kitchen
Fast casual African in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis

1939 5th St S
Minneapolis, MN 55455
612.354.7251
GENERAL MANAGER / CHEF:  Mahad Ibrahim / Jamal Hashi
HOURS:
Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
BAR: No
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE:
 $5-$8
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
PARKING: Street

Safari Express’ Safari Chicken Wrap

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

According to Chef Jamal Hashi of Safari Express East African Restaurant in Minneapolis, MN, a wrap would be eaten in Somalia “as a quick street food, like a hamburger is here.”

Safari Express sells their Safari Chicken Wrap, with a side salad, for $5.49 (They also offer beef or veggies wraps for $5.49). Or you could try making your own using the homemade chapati bread Safari Express sells for $0.99.

At Safari Express, they blend their own “Magic” spice mix that they add to many of their dishes. The blend includes curry, cumin, chile, basil, brown sugar, and red food coloring. If you’d like to mix your own, start with equal portions (say 1/4 tsp) of each component and adjust from there.

This recipe is an approximate rendition of the wrap Hashi prepared during the interview for our story “An Evening in a Somali Kitchen.”

Safari Chicken Wrap:
Yield: 1 wrap

Ingredients:
Chapati bread, pre-made
Olive oil, for stir frying
¼ lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
⅛ c red onions, sliced
1-2 tsp or to taste “Magic spice”
¼ c green and red bell peppers, sliced
1 tbsp carrot and zucchini, shredded
2 tbsp or to taste of vinaigrette: olive oil, basil, lemon (or vinegar or lime)
¼ c iceberg lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp or to taste ranch dressing

Directions:

  1. Heat chapati bread over fire.
  2. In a saute pan over high heat, heat olive oil.
  3. Add chicken and saute, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add sliced onions and Magic Spice, and saute until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Add bell peppers, carrot, and zucchini and saute another 2 -3 minutes.
  6. Put sauteed chicken and vegetables in the middle of the chapati.
  7. Drizzle vinaigrette over chicken.
  8. Layer lettuce over the chicken.
  9. Drizzle with ranch dressing.
  10. Fold the chapati over the chicken, vegetables, and lettuce: Wrap it like a burrito.
  11. Slice in half and serve.

An Evening in a Somali Kitchen

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Chef Jamal Hashi, co-owner (with his brother Sade Hashi) of Safari Express East African Restaurant in Minneapolis, MN says: “I owe it to the Italians that I make a great marinara.” Hashi was born and raised in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, and immigrated to the US with his family as a teenager.

Hashi says that Somali cuisine has been shaped by diverse influences over centuries and that it is fusion that makes the cuisine special. “Somalia was divided into three parts: The north was French, the middle was the UK ‘red coats,’ and the south, Italian.” He says: “You can’t say there’s Somali this or that, but each region is special. The south is known for sweets, pasta, and marinara. The north gets influences from Djibouti. The way we use spice is different, from the north to the south.”

With respect to home cooking in his family growing up, Hashi says: “My father specializes in seafood.”

In Somalia, recipes are typically not written down, but passed down through family. Or, Hashi says: “People can guess, play around with the spices.” Hashi’s own interest in cooking sparked at home. “Something about food called to me. It started as a hobby, in the home. I loved playing around with food, watching others cook for me. There’s an artistry to it. Playing with fire, and the textures; it’s an art in a way. I love the gratitude of people when you serve it to them. It’s a good feeling.”

Somalia’s location on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden historically enabled active trading with India, Pakistan, and the Middle East, particularly Yemen. “We get mixed fusion, the cultures blended into one. So, we have curry with pasta. And beef marinara. We use both potatoes and pasta. Crepes with sesame oil and brown sugar is very common. In Ethiopia, their injera is soft and spongy, made from teff. Somali injera also includes butter and milk. ”

Most Somalis observe halal dietary guidelines. He says the rules govern “mostly how the meat is prepped.”

While Somali cuisine may be unfamiliar to many Americans, opportunities to try it, particularly in Minneapolis, are increasing. According to the Minneapolis Foundation,”Minnesota is home to the country’s largest population of Somali residents.” Estimates vary, but the Confederation of Somali Community indicates that, since 1991, 100,000 Somalis have settled in the United States, 40,000 of which have settled or re-settled in Minnesota. Safari Express is one of the estimated (by the Minneapolis Foundation) 120 African-owned businesses, including markets and restaurants, along Minneapolis’ Lake Street corridor.

Chef Jamal Hashi graciously accommodated the Heavy Table’s request to spend an evening grocery shopping and cooking with us, in order to provide more insight into Somali cuisine. He showed us how to make a dish not available on the menu at Safari Express: Mango (Ambe, pronounced “ahm-bay”) Curry Chicken with Somali Rice, which is a colorful dish, fragrant with the scents of cumin and curry. It’s both mildly sweet and spicy. Says Hashi: “The mango brings the spice down and balances everything out.”

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Hashi kicked off our evening of shopping and cooking with a stop at The Produce Exchange, in Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, in search of ripe mangoes. “I love using organic produce at home and at Safari Express, too. It tastes like the way we do it back home. Fruits don’t taste like fruits here [in the US]. There are lots of good things about organics: They are good for your system, have fewer chemicals, and have health benefits over the long-term. And it supports local businesses.”