Restaurant reviews: 2003 Archives

Hoban Korean Restaurant (Eagan, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • December 31, 2003

Search the Internet for information on Korean cuisine and you invariably stumble across the proverb that you can eat as much Korean food as you want and not gain weight. We doubt that but we can report that Korean food is nutritious, balanced and low in calories.

Traditional Korean cooking includes a lot of fish and vegetables. Common seasonings are soy sauce, red pepper paste, soybean paste, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Rice comes with every meal.

Hoban Korean Restaurant in Eagan is an excellent introduction to the cuisine.

None of the appetizers were very interesting. Mandoo are fried dumplings; these were too greasy for our taste. Even the bin dae tuk, bean pancakes filled with scallions and seasonings, were greasier than we’ve seen elsewhere. Stick with the entrees and you’ll be happier…

Angelo's (St. Paul)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • December 17, 2003

There’s this thing about pizza: People will eat it no matter how bad it is. Whether it’s cardboard-bottomed frozen pizza or delivered pies floating in grease, when’s the last time you looked at that slice in your hand and said, “This isn’t very good. I don’t want to eat it”?

We suppose it’s because pizza is easy. Once it’s done, you can’t send it back, and if there were anything else around for dinner you wouldn’t have ordered pizza in the first place. The key to the whole experience, then, is to start with a decent pizza. Give Angelo’s a call…

Fermentations (Dundas, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • December 10, 2003

We’re fond of charming little neighborhood restaurants that serve interesting food and have an interesting wine list as well as a nice dessert selection. We call them American bistros, after the similar French-style restaurants.

And there is something disarmingly appealing about finding an American bistro in a picturesque country town that, taken together, hardly matches the size of most city neighborhoods. In Rice County in the little town of Dundas, population just about 550, Fermentations is an oasis.

It’s a small restaurant, with no more than a dozen tables, fewer if there are large parties. It’s only open for dinner and only six days a week. The room feels comfortably upscale with its warm pumpkin paint job and French bistro art. A nice effect for a small budget, we think…

House of Wu (Burnsville, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • December 3, 2003

The most familiar Chinese food across America is actually Cantonese cuisine, from the Canton province in southern China. These dishes are characterized by their mild flavors and fresh ingredients cooked with very little oil. Common Cantonese seasonings are ginger, onion, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, and corn starch. Sometimes you’ll see garlic and the peppery mixture called ‘five spice powder.’ Cantonese dishes include meat, fowl, or seafood, and most dishes are either steamed or stir-fried — cooking techniques designed to bring out the flavors inherent in the ingredients…

Mediterranean Cruise Cafe (Eagan, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • November 26, 2003

Middle Eastern cuisine is at its best when you try a little bit of everything. And there’s no better introduction to the foods and flavors of Middle Eastern hospitality than the mazza table, a sort of Arab smorgasbord of lots of little dishes, where everyone helps themselves.

The Mediterranean Cruise Cafe makes this easy. The menu is a one-stop shop for all sorts of eastern Mediterranean cuisines, from Greek gyros to Lebanese kibbe to Moroccan couscous. It’s easy to devise your own mazza table with the dishes that sound tastiest.

All the staples of Middle Eastern cooking are competently done. The tabouli salad is bright with lemon juice and mint, and the tomatoes and cucumbers are fresh. The hummus is so good we spoon it onto everything except the foods we dip into it. The falafel tastes great, though we don’t usually cook it in such hot oil; it was browner than we prefer. The baba ghanouj (eggplant dip with garlic) has a wonderful roasted flavor…

Wampach's (Shakopee, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • November 19, 2003

Diners used to be the most important restaurants in America.

For infrequent celebrations you went to a supper club, but for a basic hamburger, chicken dinner, or two eggs sunny side up, the diner was where you ate. Diners were once everywhere, offering homemade meals because there was no other option.

Nowadays, family diners are being exterminated by chain restaurants. The corporate dining experience is predictable and acceptable, and lots of people appreciate that. It is admittedly handy to know that the same meal you can get in your town is available in Montpelier or Kalispell. But we want to support those remaining eclectic independent diners. We accept the risk of a lousy meal for a chance at a real homemade one…

Grand India (Eagan, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • November 12, 2003

There’s truth to the oft-repeated stories about timid Minnesotans disliking spicy food. Perhaps it stems from the collective Scandinavian consciousness, but many of us lacking a drop of Nordic blood in our veins recoil from hot and spicy foods. Trying the food from some remote land whose national dish is made with handfuls of spices might, therefore, seem like a dangerous idea.

We’re not alone. Many Web sites explain Indian food to the British, a people whose traditional diet is no more exotic than roast beef. If the conservative Brits can wholeheartedly pursue lamb rogan josh, Minnesotans should fear not…

Sabroso (Shakopee, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • November 5, 2003

The name means tasty, and take their word for it; Sabroso in Shakopee might very well be the best Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities.

Sabroso serves both standard Mexican favorites and less common authentic dishes. Most of the food is not hot and spicy, although home- made hot sauces are available.

Tacos and burritos come with chicken, pork or beef. The enchiladas are even more interesting — you have your choice of sauces. They come smothered in the traditional red-chili ranchera sauce, the lighter green-chili sauce or the savory — not sweet– chocolate-based mole sauce. A fun order for a first-timer is the Tres Amigos Enchiladas: one with each sauce…

La Belle Vie (Stillwater, MN)

  • Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
  • The Mix
  • November/December 2003

La Belle Vie is a destination. Not only is it all the way out in Stillwater, with its antiquey weekender charm, but Executive Chef Jack Riebel heads a kitchen that makes dinner the star. The French-Mediterranean menu changes twice per season, and highlights both fresh ingredients and Riebel’s current inspirations. With muses like seafood, local produce or farm-raised game, dinner at La Belle Vie is a creative delight.

A glance at the menu from our latest visit should hearten the adventurous diner: there’s no chicken. Now sometimes they do serve chicken, and it’s quite good chicken. There’s nothing wrong with chicken — except that it’s widely known as the safety meal for the timid. There’s no safety net here, nor any need for one…

Cam Ranh Bay (Burnsville, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • October 29, 2003

Vietnamese food is lighter than Chinese. The cuisine stresses fresh ingredients and lots of herbs such as cilantro, mint and basil. And because the French occupied the country, interesting French influences crept into the cooking. While flavorsome and delicious, Vietnamese is not inherently spicy. We like hot sauce –we call it “rooster sauce” because of the label — to heat things up.

The Twin Cities are home to many, many good Vietnamese restaurants. And Cam Ranh Bay in Burnsville ranks with the best of them. There is also a location in Eden Prairie. The decor and service are above average for a family-run Asian restaurant. And the food is definitely worth the trip…

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.