Restaurant reviews: 2004 Archives

Origami West (Minnetonka, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune West
  • December 15, 2004

Let’s be upfront about this: Japan is arguably the world’s most expensive country, and their cuisine is delicate and fussy. Thus, even in America, Japanese food is expensive. We were never able to get out of Origami West for less than $40.

But there are times when sushi is just exactly what you want. And, with the opening of Origami West in Ridgedale, good sushi doesn’t mean a trip to the city.

Raw fish is a Japanese staple, and at Origami the fish is fresh and well-prepared. You can order sushi individually, or together with soup and salad as a dinner. Nigiri sushi are pieces of raw fish on pillows of rice. The rolled sushi (maki) is often better for the squeamish, and best for sharing among friends. Even the kids at our table liked California rolls…

Barley John's (New Brighton, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • December 1, 2004

When a guy wants to make and sell lots of beer, he might be able to find a better place for it than an old fast food joint, but John Moore didn’t think so. At the busy intersection of County D and Old Highway 8 in New Brighton, you’ll find Barley John’s, a small brewpub with lively acoustics, good food, and serious beer. The beer is brewed on-site, and every beer drinker will find something he or she likes.

Look for these brews on tap all the time. The Little Barley Bitter is a low-alcohol English-style brew with lots of hops. The Stockyard Pale Ale is less bitter than pale ales often are, but has plenty of hops. The Old 8 Porter is rich, complex, and not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, Old 8 is refermented and aged in bourbon casks. If Dark Knight is available, try that. It’s best for sipping, and savoring…

Lions Tap (Eden Prairie, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune West
  • November 17, 2004

Hamburgers are a nearly perfect invention. Juicy and hot, easy to hold, easy to chew, the hamburger has universal appeal. It’s easy to make the case that hamburgers are America’s great export to the world. But recent books and films have pointed out the dark downside of that global influence. And it’s true that lots of people don’t eat meat.

It can be a guilty pleasure, then, to have a burger. And if you’re going to suffer the guilt, the pleasure should balance. It should be a really good hamburger.

Lions Tap, out on Flying Cloud Drive in Eden Prairie, is both lauded and vilified by the local food press. Websites publish conflicting reviews. Meanwhile, it wins all sorts of “readers’ best” awards. Given that, we ran a little comparison: How does a Lions Tap burger stack up next to a quarter-pounder from an internationally known hamburger McChain?…

Woody's (Rockford, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune West
  • September 15, 2004

There’s no rule that says a summer getaway must involve hours of travel. There’s lots to do right here in Hennepin County. Make a day of it at Lake Rebecca, or camp at Baker Park. Borrow a canoe and run the Crow River. And while you’re out that way, drop by Woody’s on Main just off Hwy 55 in Rockford. This is one of the better small-town taverns we’ve found in quite some time.

Grab a booth and order a round. They’ve got several beers on tap — Labatt’s Blue, Summit Pale Ale, Leinie’s Honey Weiss — plus the usual mass market bottles and cans. Best of all, they’ve got 1919 Root Beer on tap. Order onion rings while you look the menu over. These are thick rings, perfectly done, tender, and not overcooked to the point where they turn into strings that pull out of the batter. There’s nothing more discouraging than an empty ring with no onion in it…

Fhima's (St. Paul, MN)

  • Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
  • The Mix
  • September/October 2004

Fhima’s, in downtown St. Paul, is an elegant restaurant. It has high ceilings, sparkling lighting and good, rich colors. A glass tower of wine divides the restaurant. There’s an open kitchen towards the back. The effect is dramatic, and makes you feel like you’ve arrived when you are shown to your table. Given the vivid flavors and culinary chic of the Mediterranean and French dishes Chef David Fhima serves, a meal here can be a very enjoyable experience.

Unfortunately, the food doesn’t always rise to the occasion. It’s presented well, but often falls short of the high expectations set by the décor…

Cam Ranh Bay (Eden Prairie, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune West
  • August 8, 2004

Vietnamese cuisine only resembles Chinese cuisine on the surface. It commonly has much less sauce than Chinese dishes. Vietnamese is more like Thai, with lots of aromatic ingredients like cilantro, mint, and basil. And chilis, of course. And because the French occupied the country, interesting French influences crept into the cooking. Vietnamese cuisine is light and fresh; perfect for a hot summer day.

The Twin Cities are home to many, many good Vietnamese restaurants. You’ll find our best along University Avenue or East Street, but Cam Ranh Bay in Eden Prairie is worth a stop…

Taste of India (St. Louis Park, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • July 14, 2004

Indian menus can be formidable, especially to Minnesotans timid about spicy food. The different dishes start to sound alike, and dire warnings about spiciness echo in our heads. But there’s no reason to fear. Indian food can be flavorful and delicious, and much of it is traditionally not spicy.

Taste of India, in St. Louis Park, is an excellent place for an education in Indian food. Its menu gives hot-food haters a chance to try complex and interesting spices that won’t burn the palate.

Skip the appetizers and head for the entrees. These are standards: northern Indian fare that can be found in Indian restaurants everywhere. We suggest any dish called korma; this is a creamy yogurt sauce spiced with coconut, cardamom, cinnamon and garlic. Our favorite is chicken shahi korma. This version is so lightly spiced, it’s the perfect dish for suspicious skeptics…

Blue Point Restaurant (Wayzata, MN)

  • Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
  • The Mix
  • July/August 2004

Blue Point is a nice restaurant, but it isn’t cheap. Appetizers range from $9 to $12, and entrees are twice that. A Maine lobster will set you back $27 to $82, depending on size. For those prices, we expected consistent excellence: fresh fish in good preparations. What we got wasn’t as excellent as we’d hoped, and not nearly as consistent.

It’s a nice dining room. The restaurant is pretty without being stuffy. There’s a lively bar and several different dining rooms. The minimalist decor makes the room quiet enough to converse in. The menu is loaded with fresh fish and changes regularly. It’s a fun place at which to eat…

Blue Point (Wayzata, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune West
  • May 26, 2004

Blue Point is one of Wayzata’s nicest restaurants. It offers a spare, attractive dining room with smooth walls and rippled glass accents. It has white-jacketed waiters who bustle about attentively. It’s got fresh oysters.

In the jet age, maybe it’s not so impressive to serve oysters a thousand miles from an ocean. After all, one could dine on fresh oysters in towns along the railroad tracks more than 100 years ago. James J. Hill himself probably brought oysters to Wayzata in the 1870s. Nevertheless, good fresh fish is always, still, a treat…

Signapore! Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
  • The Mix
  • May/June 2004

South 34th Avenue, just north of Crosstown highway, doesn’t seem like much of a restaurant location. And to be sure, the building has been the home of a string of mediocre — and worse — restaurants for as long as we can remember. But this time the restaurant is a winner, so good it’s worth a drive to eat there.

Singapore! is owned by two chefs. Kin Lee is from Singapore, and the owner of the absolutely fabulous Singapore Chinese Cuisine restaurant in Maplewood. Tee Belachew is Ethiopian and trained under Lee in Maplewood. Together, they serve Southeast Asian cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine and the occasional dish of Southeast Asian-Ethiopian-fusion cuisine…

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.