Three Sisters Asian Cuisine (Coon Rapids, MN)
When we do a review meal, we bring a group of friends to help us try more dishes. We try to bring people who like and dislike a range of foods, because we want opinions from fussy eaters as well as those who will eat pretty much anything.
This being Minnesota, we never have trouble finding friends who don't care for spicy foods. Most of the time, finding mildly spiced dishes is no problem at all, because restaurateurs tone down the heat in spicy cuisines for those Minnesota palates.
Not so at Three Sisters, a pan-Asian hole-in-the-wall in a Coon Rapids strip mall. They use the common one-through-five scale, but they make it authentic. A "three" was hotter than even we liked. "Two" was plenty hot.
Remember that advice, then order whatever sounds good. Nearly everything is great.
For appetizers, we loved the chicken wings. These are marinated in oyster sauce and then fried in a light batter and served fresh and hot. We wondered where the dipping sauce was until we tasted them -- perfect as is.
The hot and sour soup was less successful. It was more like an egg drop soup with vegetables, spicy without any sour. If you want soup, order the excellent traditional Thai tom yum soup and share it amongst the table.
Most entrees are available with your choice of chicken, pork, shrimp, seafood, or beef. Some are available with tofu and some with just vegetables. The "special" option is shrimp, chicken and pork combined. And generally, the Thai options are better than the Chinese dishes.
We liked the garlic and ginger dish, served with lots of vegetables. The sesame chicken is also good. Also try the lard nar, your choice of meat with broccoli, onion, carrot and green onion -- served over stir-fried noodles, not rice.
The red curry was even better. This is more of a stew than anything else, with bell peppers, bamboo shoots, coconut milk and basil in a red curry paste. Eat this over rice; the rich coconut milk and spices are best against a bland background.
Sometimes there's not enough meat in the dishes. The spicy hot squid, for example, didn't have more than a dozen pieces of squid. But the seasoning on the onions and scallions was so good we barely noticed.
Portions are huge. We're used to large portions at Asian restaurants, but these were large even by those standards. Order fewer entrees than diners, or be prepared to take home tomorrow's lunch. On one visit we even asked for an extra container of rice to take home and got one at no extra charge.
Service was friendly and efficient. We appreciated that the dishes came out of the kitchen two at a time, piping hot. We also appreciated the waiter's helpful advice about how to eat the various dishes. It was obvious that he wanted us to have the best possible experience with the food.
Three Sisters is family-run and a little rough around the edges. But we don't mind that in a restaurant, and the food is definitely worth a drive.
If You Go
Three Sisters Asian Cuisine
Location: 3373 Coon Rapids Blvd., Coon Rapids
Phone: (763) 422-0664
Hours: 4-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 4-9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Atmosphere: Nothing fancy
Service: Friendly and efficient
Sound level: Pleasant
Recommended dishes: Tom yum soup, sesame chicken, spicy hot squid
Prices: Entrees range from $11 to $16
Children: No special children's menu