Restaurant Reviews Tagged "Star Tribune North"

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Taiko (Mounds View, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • April 18, 2007

Enough with the jokes about bait. We mostly hear such from people who are so sure they dislike sushi that they won’t try it. But once a skeptic tries sushi, we hear things like, “It’s not bad,” “It’s not fishy,” or “Hey, I like this!”

Don’t think of it as raw fish, think of it as top-quality protein.

Sushi is the best thing at Taiko. Nigiri sushi is a piece of fish on a chunk of rice, and maki sushi is a roll of rice and other ingredients wrapped in seaweed and sliced. Order these in small plate or larger combinations. Hamachi (yellowtail), maguro (tuna), and ebi (cooked shrimp) are all easy to like, and generally available…

Bella (Blaine, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • January 24, 2007

“Fine dining” used to be the pinnacle of the American restaurant scene, when steak was king and wine with dinner meant you were having a fancy meal out. Whole books have been written on how much American dining has changed in the past 20 years or so, how new ingredients, preparations and attitudes have revolutionized the industry.

Meanwhile, we still have a lot of affection for classic fine dining. And we’ve found it in the northern suburbs, where Bella serves mostly unpretentious Italian fare in a modern, elegant dining room.

The room’s exposed limestone, swooping lines and glowing bar all set the stage for a special evening out. Our expectations were lowered by the nametags on the wait staff, and the special card on the table, but Bella has a beautiful, welcoming space…

Nalapak (Columbia Heights, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • December 6, 2006

Nalapak is the new name for Udupi Cafe, the long-beloved Indian vegetarian restaurant in Columbia Heights. There’s a new owner, but the menu is exactly the same. Unfortunately, there are new cooks in the kitchen and the food was not nearly as good as it was the last time we’d been in.

Gobi manghuriani has long been our favorite dish, and it’s still good. It’s cauliflower florets, marinated and then cooked in a delicious spice blend. The pieces are a brilliant red and so hearty and substantial that you almost believe this is a meat dish.

We liked the special vegetable curry: a mixture of vegetables in a yellow curry sauce. We also liked the dal fry maharani, which is a lentil dish cooked in Indian spices. These aren’t standouts the way the gobi manghuriani is, but they are competent versions of basic South Indian cooking…

Moe's (Mounds View, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • October 11, 2006

Who would have thought you could find culinary perfection in Mounds View? At Moe’s, it’s on the menu. In several places.

There are a lot of hot spicy wings out there, but only one true Buffalo wing. It’s not breaded, mildly hot, and served with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing. Moe’s has them, and they might just be the best wings in the metro.

Moe’s also serves the excellent and deservedly famous Mayslack’s garlicky roast beef, piled high on a dark rye bun. No need to drive all the way to Nordeast for this feast; we love this sandwich…

Neptune Eatery (Blaine, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • August 9, 2006

You know as well as we do that being a restaurant critic is fun. But the very best part of the job isn’t, as you might expect, free restaurant meals. What’s really great is when we get to share the news about someplace that’s truly special. And we have one for you this time.

Everybody pile in cars and go to Neptune Eatery. Though it’s located in a nondescript strip mall and has counter service, don’t let any of that keep you from what’s going to be a great meal. It’ll be delivered with a smile and cooked with heart. And it’s all delicious.

Neptune Eatery has a wood-fired pizza oven, and they use fresh ingredients, good quality cheese, and a flavorful sauce. We particularly liked the simply elegant Margherita pizza, with tomatoes and basil, although the pepperoni and sausage pizza is also delicious…

Yafa Grill and Pizzeria (Columbia Heights, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • May 10, 2006

So there we were, eating with a couple of South African exchange students, talking to our Palestinian waiter and exchanging pleasantries with the Arabic-speaking men at the next table smoking from hookahs. Right here in Anoka County. It’s moments like this that make this job fun.

Lewis Carroll introduced the hookah into Western consciousness, and now we all know what it looks like. Also called a nargila or shisha — depending on where in the Middle East you are — this sort of smoking is a social affair. That’s surely true at Yafa Grill, a gathering spot for aficionados of the sweet, fruity tobacco smoke. You can have a pipe of your own for just $6…

Three Sisters Asian Cuisine (Coon Rapids, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • April 19, 2006

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…

Royal Orchid (St. Paul, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • March 1, 2006

There’s a great satisfaction in eating spicy food on a cold winter day. Pungent ingredients such as chili peppers transport us to hot climates. Thai is a great winter cuisine, and that’s true even if you don’t like spicy food. Thai dishes combine ginger, scallions, coconuts, peanuts, basil and more, in ways that get our taste buds out of hibernation.

Royal Orchid is a great place to experience the flavor combinations that make up the Thai palette. It’s all about balance: sweet, salty, spicy, sour and bitter ingredients.

The appetizers were fine. Our favorite was the oyster sauce wings: the light and crispy batter was perfect dipped in the tangy ginger, scallion and oyster sauce. We also liked the chicken satay, marinated in coconut milk, grilled and served with peanut sauce. We missed the skewered presentation one sees everywhere else, though…

Serum's Good Time Emporium (Anoka, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • February 8, 2006

Serum’s is the kind of restaurant that has been endlessly reproduced in national chains. It’s just that Serum’s has no forced kitsch about it. The building is over a hundred years old, with all that 19th century charm. It’s a long narrow space with incredibly high tin ceilings, exposed brick, and well-trod wood floors. Tables and booths take up the front as you enter; there’s a large bar in back. Upstairs there’s another room with live music on weekends.

The cool old junk hanging from the walls and the ceiling is all real, and it’s all fun to look at: old advertising signs, a tricycle collection, children’s furniture. But don’t let the interesting stuff around the room distract you from the menu, which is both inexpensive and good….

Shortstop Bar and Grill (Coon Rapids, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • January 4, 2006

Shortstop doesn’t come across as a family restaurant, because, at its heart, it’s not. It’s a place for a guy to drop by on his way home from work, have a brew, and maybe get something to eat. But in pursuit of good things to eat, we’ll go pretty much anywhere.

We came in search of chicken wings.

Some time ago, we asked North readers where to find excellent chicken wings, and someone pointed us to the Shortstop Bar & Grill in Coon Rapids.

Wings are bar food, plain and simple. The classic Buffalo wing was invented in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. Despite the searingly hot versions you can find almost everywhere, the original wing wasn’t all that hot. Louisiana hot sauce gave it a little kick, but it wasn’t devastating…

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.