Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A brief, limited review of a few restaurants I've been to in Minneapolis

"Food is heaven for ordinary folk."

Popular Chinese saying

This is my very first attempt at writing restaurant reviews. At the suggestion of a couple of people in the blogosphere, I have decided to write a brief, limited review of the restaurants I have been to the last couple of times I have been to Minneapolis. It is a limited review, because (1) I review only a few restaurants, (2) I can only tell you about the things I have eaten. So it is far from a comprehensive review of everything on the menu.

But hopefully, this limited review will still be useful to you. If you should ever find yourself in Minneapolis (or if you actually live there), do check out these restaurants. Most of these restaurants are not really cheap, but they are not exorbitantly expensive either: Generally, you should expect the average price of an entree to be somewhere between 10 and 15 USD plus tax at most of these places. For your convenience, I have divided these restaurants into three categories: (I) Organic Restaurants/Cafes, (II) Indian Restaurants, (III) Chinese/Southeast Asian Restaurants.

Before I start, I should issue a disclaimer: I am not in the habit of taking pictures of my food. So you will not see in this post any close-ups of dishes (a.k.a. food porn).

(I) Organic Restaurants/Cafes

1. Tao Natural and Organic Foods Cafe

Located in uptown Minneapolis (see this for more details), this hole-in-the-wall place (by this, I mean "small, unassuming, inconspicuous", not "dingy and dilapidated") is basically half-diner, half-health-food store. The diner/cafe part of the place serves some good sandwiches (try the veggie burger and the tempeh reuben). They also make some really good juices. The U.S. Defender (carrots, oranges, beets and ginger) is really yummy. This place is also very affordable: All entrees are under 10 USD.

2. Ecopolitan Raw Food Restaurant

This is the only raw food restaurant in the Twin Cities (or so they tell me). Definitely something to take note of if you are a raw foodie. We (my fiancee and I) didn't actually eat here: We only stopped by to get some juice and smoothies. And they make some really mean smoothies: I had the Future Shock (Banana and Carrot Juice base with lemon, ginger, and almond extract), and it was amazing. The consistency and the texture was the best I've had in a very long time. If the quality of their smoothies is anything to go by, we can only expect the food to be just as fantastic. For more details, check out their website.

3. Spoonriver Restaurant

Located by the Mississippi River, next to the Guthrie Theater, this is definitely a place to check out if you love organic food (actually, if you love food in general). Dining at this restaurant allows you to appreciate one of the greatest virtues of organic food: You can eat a lot, and not feel bloated (you probably should still watch the calories, but that's another story...). Between the two of us, we tried the Greek Salad, and Scrambled Eggs with Chives, Chevre Cheese, toast and fresh fruit, and the Spoon Dips, which is basically a vegetarian appetizer sampler, with hummus, roasted red peppers, and some other good stuff which I cannot remember right now.

They have wonderful desserts too. We tried the ice-cream sandwich... I know, this sounds very ordinary, like something you can buy at a gas station, right? But I've always believed that the mark of a good chef lies in his or her ability to make something that is otherwise very ordinary taste heavenly. And this is proof of that. The Baklava is also really good. Check out their website.

(II) Indian Restaurants

1. Dancing Ganesha Indian Restaurant

An eclectic Indian restaurant located in downtown Minneapolis. The food is really good. I had the Malai Kofta, and loved it. But I am no connoisseur of Indian food; I spoke about this place with a couple of Indian friends, and they said the food is just "okay."  But I love the food, so I am recommending it here. The atmosphere of the place is also something to experience; the whole place is bathed in this dark purplish light, giving you a sort a lounge/nightclub feel. A night-clubby Indian Restaurant (hence "eclectic")? Honestly, not quite my kind of atmosphere, but hey, you have to experience everything at least once, right?

Oh, and if you are a beer person, you should also try this Indian beer called the Taj Mahal. It is a light beer that comes in this big bottle. I love the flavor. And you will also probably get a good beer buzz :-) But if you are too sattvic for such tamasic pleasures, then, well, pretend you never read this :-)

Here's their website.

2. Namaste Cafe

Located in uptown Minneapolis, this place has a casual yet elegant ambience. It boasts the best chai in town. They also use local, organic and natural products in cooking as far as possible.

The food itself is very interesting: It is described as a Indian-Nepali fusion. This is apparent from the unusual items on the menu: For instance, I had a really spicy mushroom pakora for the appetizer, which I really enjoyed. But if you are an Indian-food purist, this might not be the place for you ;-) Well, maybe you can still come for the chai...

Check out their website.

3. Gandhi Mahal Restaurant

Located in  midtown Minneapolis, the stated mission of this restaurant is to "bring peace by pleasing the palate." Well, I don't know about bringing peace, but they certainly do a very good job of pleasing the palate :-) We really enjoyed the food here. We had the Aloo Gobi and the Mushroom Paneer (which makes me suspect that this is also a fusion-cooking restaurant, since mushrooms are not usually prominent in Indian cooking, to my knowledge). A note of warning: The portions here are really large. We couldn't finish either of our entrees, and couldn't take it to go either, as we had to drive back to Moorhead the next day. The head server, a Bangladeshi guy who didn't speak much English, seemed genuinely upset about this, although he said nothing ("How can you people be so callous as to not finish your food when millions are starving?" he might be thinking). So, be warned: Come prepared to finish your food. Or suffer the consequences of a Bangladeshi guilt-trip.

They also boast a "delicious lunch buffet" from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily. But we never had the opportunity to try it. If you get to try it, tell me how it is.

Here's their website.

(III) Chinese/Southeast Asian Restaurants

1. Rainbow Chinese Restaurant

Located on Nicollet Avenue (a.k.a. Eat Street, for the big number of restaurants found on this street), this place serves a certain kind of fusion Chinese cooking. I can't really tell what the fusion is with, but it's really good. There are also many vegetarian options: I had the Mock Duck Fried Rice, which was very tasty. Warning: Portion sizes are humongous (I think this is a Chinese-restaurant thing), and you are quite likely to suffer a "food-induced-coma" for a couple of hours after eating here. Definitely, definitely do not do full primary for at least three hours after a meal here. Check out their website

2. Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

This is for those readers who are from Singapore and Malaysia. Also located on Nicollet Avenue, this place serves Malaysian and Singapore cuisine. I never actually ate here: We walked in here to look at their menu, and discovered that almost all of their menu items have meat or seafood in them (I'm vegetarian). Which means that many of their best entrees (Nasi Lemak, Spicy Thai Fish) are things I can no longer eat. But well, this is one of the major lifestyle changes I have had to make (for the better, I believe) after giving up meat. But if you are not a vegetarian and love food from this part of the world, this is definitely a good place for you. This place also has a very authentic feel about it (the kitchen being within plain sight of the diners, for example). Check out their website.

Well, I hope you will find this modest review useful at some point. In the course of writing this review, I realized how amazing it is that a mid-sized city in the middle of the midwest can boast so much diversity. Pretty cool, don't you think? Bon appetit!   


  1. it looks like you ate a lot - which would explain your slow practice ;-)

  2. Yes, Ivana :-) A big part of my practice in Minneapolis was spent sweating out the accumulated toxins from all that good food :-)