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Great Mandarin

12 Mar

Elsewhere on the web: As part of our partnership with FNS Delivers, Ryan & Lauren review Great Mandarin in Eden Prairie.

Ryan’s reviewLauren’s review

Note: Outside of the cost of food, we are not being compensated for our writing at this time. We have no financial interest or stake in FNS Delivers. FNS Delivers is a wholly owned subsidiary of BLACKSUN PRODUCTIONS.

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Announcement

10 Feb

We at Eating in Minneapolis are thrilled to announce that we have partnered with the great team at FNS Delivers to write reviews for featured restaurants in the Southwest Metro!

If you live in, work in or visit Eden Prairie and you get hungry, be sure to check out FNS Delivers for delicious delivery options beyond Chinese food and pizza. Their rates are insanely good!

See our review of Kabuki Japanese & Korean here: Lauren’s reviewRyan’s review

Note: Outside of the cost of food, we are not being compensated for our writing at this time. We have no financial interest or stake in FNS Delivers. FNS Delivers is a wholly owned subsidiary of BLACKSUN PRODUCTIONS.

BD’s Mongolian Grill

22 Nov

Written by special guest blogger Alison Beno, who filled in for usual bloggers Ryan and Lauren.

BD's Mongolian Grill

For my trip to BD’s Mongolian Grill, I was excited to review and critique my experience.  I went with my husband and sat down right away, no wait at all.  We were greeted by a waitress following sitting down and ordered an appetizer and waters.  I was very hungry so I just decided to head straight to the dinner buffet area.  We got our meats and vegetables; BD’s had a great selection of meats and seafood depending on your appetite.  They also have an awesome selection of dressings!  If you are not sure what dressing would compliment your meats and veggies, don’t worry—there is someone standing there to help you!

As we stood in line for our food to be cooked I was noticing the crazy large foil hats that people were wearing—something I had never seen done before for birthdays.  A guy was wearing one that looked like he had crazy hair coming out of his hat, and the girls had the biggest bows made out of foil!  It was very cool.  The man on the grill was a lot of fun to watch, flipping his knives and doing tricks with his utensils.

The food was great—I love making my own concoctions!  My husband loved his as well, so much he went for seconds!  For our last part of the meal we chose a tiny dessert from a carousel!  For anyone out there watching their figure, these were the perfect-sized desserts to make you feel like you wouldn’t fall off the wagon.  I chose the Reese’s peanut butter cup mini.  SOOO good! It was just enough to give you what you wanted!

Overall, great food! We are definitely coming back for more!

Try bd’s Mongolian Grill on Us!

29 Sep

The friendly folks over at bd’s Mongolian Grill (yes, the bd is lowercase) want us to help spread the word about their Burnsville, MN location. Just print off this coupon and bring it in, and tell them Ryan & Lauren sent you! If our blog readers use the most coupons, we win a free dinner for eight, and who knows, we might invite you.

Saji-Ya

26 Jul

Visited July 17, 2010

Ryan

On a recent Saturday night, Lauren and I were invited out to dinner with three friends, and sushi was the popular choice. As you have seen on this blog, we have already been to a fair number of sushi joints in the Twin Cities, and I have a difficult time telling them apart food-wise, so it really comes down to presentation, ambiance, staff, etc. After Lauren and I both nixed the original idea of Tiger Sushi in Uptown due to unfavorable marks on yelp.com, we all agreed on St. Paul’s Saji-Ya, located on Grand Ave.

Lauren and I arrived early and took a seat at the bar, where we were promptly served some drinks as we watched the Twins game. Lauren went for one of the fun house drinks, while I opted for a summery gin and tonic. Before long the rest of the crew arrived and we were seated near the kitchen. My first impression of the restaurant was positive; the staff seemed professional and courteous, but it took a while for the others to place drink orders. The decor was nothing special, and our table was oddly shoved in the back corner away from the other tables, but that really didn’t bother me at all.

Calamari appetizer at Saji-Ya, St. Paul, MN

The calamari appetizer was a great way to start the meal.

Lauren and I decided to start with an appetizer and ordered the calamari. Unlike most calamari we’ve tried, these came in giant onion ring shaped pieces. There were about 12 pieces, served with a tangy soy-based sauce. The appetizer alone at $9 was relatively filling, earning points from me. For the main course, the two of us split three rolls—Manny (albacore, spicy mayo, crunchy red, black, and green tobiko – $16.95), Spider (soft shell crab, cucumber, and gobo – $12.50), and Dynamite (hamachi and habanero – $7.25). The Manny roll was undoubtedly the best and most festive looking with its pink top. The other two rolls were pretty standard in appearance and tasted pretty much the same to me. Drowned in soy sauce and wasabi, I thoroughly enjoyed all three. Combined there were 16 pieces—I had 9, Lauren had 7. We were full by the time dinner ended.

Saji-Ya main course, St Paul, MN

The two of us split three different rolls - 16 pieces total.

Overall I have to say Saji-Ya was a place I’d go back to again, but then again so were all the other sushi places we’ve been, in my opinion! I’m still looking for that WOW factor—something that separates one sushi joint from the next, whether it’s amazing food, unusual decor, excellent service, or something else.

Lauren

I was originally hoping to try either Anchor Fish & Chips or the Blue Door Pub this evening, but when our friend Sarah called us to say that she was planning on a big run the next day – she’s training for a marathon – and would prefer a lighter meal, sushi sounded good to both of us.

We got there just a bit early and decided to spend a bit of time in the bar area. Ryan ordered a standard drink but I decided to go off of the drink menu. It’s not something I normally do, because those specialty drinks can cost quite a pretty penny!

But the drink I ordered, the “Plum Kiss” was delicious!! It was plum wine, prosecco, and something else. It was much sweeter than drinks I typically order, but it was a lovely pink-purpley colour and the friendly bartender stuck an orchid in it, so I consider it well worth the price.

As Ryan noted, we ordered our favourite, calamari! It seems that about 50% of the time we got out to eat, we end up ordering fried squid. But who can blame us, it’s delicious! The calamari at Saji-Ya was so strange … VERY large pieces. It looked more like onion rings than anything else. All of us at the table joked how it must have been one huge squid!

Surprisingly, I am much more picky than Ryan is when it comes to sushi. As much as I love it, I just cannot handle large pieces of raw fish… I cannot do nigiri (which is what most people think of when they think ‘sushi’. Nigiri is slices of fish on a rice bed). I would love it if I could split each typical nigiri piece into three pieces! I know this is gross: Whenever I try to eat nigiri, I get very freaked out by the “mouth feel” of the larger piece of fish and have trouble chewing and swallowing.

Sorry for that information.

So I prefer, greatly, to order maki (which are rolls, typically with rice on the outside and fish on the inside, but this can vary), where I can get the flavor of fresh fish but in smaller amounts that are texturally easier for me to deal with. I definitely wish that I could be more adventurous! But the texture of raw fish is too much for me to handle in that quantity.

I really enjoy that Ryan has become more open to sushi – it’s so much fun to be able to order a few different rolls and share everything! I really enjoyed the “Manny” roll with the albacore – I don’t believe I had had albacore before – and a bit of spice. I always enjoy a good spicy roll!

The service was pretty good. I love the warm towels you get at Japanese restaurants; Saji-Ya’s smelled of almond, which I loved. But our table was right next to the kitchen and despite that, sorry to say, our server was rather an absentee. Perhaps it was because Ryan and I had already got drinks while we were waiting at the bar, but she essentially forgot to take drink orders for the rest of our table until they told her that they wanted to order beverages.

As fans of the blog (are there any????) probably are aware, I base a huge portion of my review on how often my water glass is refilled. I am a very thirsty person and I can take down a typical 8 oz water glass in mere seconds. The service was good, except for the fact that for most of dinner I did not have any water.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed Saji-Ya. I would still say my preferred sushi restaurant in the Twin Cities is Wasabi (but it’s been a very long time since we’ve gone there) but this came close. I loved my fun specialty drink and I was very satisfied by our order. When the bill came, we felt it was fairly reasonable, which was nice – it can be scary to receive the check at a sushi restaurant in a land-locked state!

Ambience – 4/5. Our table was next to the kitchen, which was a downfall. There were much better tables but we were a strange party (five people).
Service – 3/5. Our bartender while we were waiting was very fun and engaging. Our server was tolerable.
Food – 4/5. I liked it quite a bit! The calamari was a bit tough, does that mean it was an older squid? The sushi was fresh and very tasty. Our dinner companions all had very positive things to say. However, like Ryan said, we’re both far from experts in the field of sushi.
Overall experience – 3.5/5. I enjoyed myself quite a bit! Saji-Ya has a very intimate feel, which is nice. It’s actually much larger than it feels. I wasn’t a big fan of where we were seated (when the kitchen door opened we became privy to all manner of staff conversations, some of which I would have preferred not be aware of). That being said, we had what seemed to be the one table in the restaurant that was geared for a party of more than four; the rest of them were in a more proper dining area and looked to have a better time of it. Overall, one of my more preferred sushi dining experiences in the Twin Cities.

Moto-I

14 May

Thursday evening, a group of five of us went out to Minneapolis’ Moto-I Japanese restaurant, which is better known for its sake brewery.  Even after hearing the following claim from various sources including its own employees, I find this very difficult to believe: It is the only restaurant in the world outside of Japan that brews its own sake.  So on the entire planet, freshly brewed sake can only be consumed on the spot of its brewing in Japan and this one random restaurant three blocks from our apartment?  Well, if that’s true, that is pretty cool.

Reviews of Moto-I online were generally either very good or very bad.  One friend of mine mentioned that her one experience at Moto-I was negative.  But we needed to find out for ourselves!

The host was quick to seat us and the waitress was initially very attentive, explaining the different sakes and ordering procedures.  She explained to us that it’s very common to order smaller appetizer-type plates for sharing in waves rather than ordering everything at once.

Lauren and I started out with the sake sampler flight, which was comprised of three 2 oz. glasses of some of their finest home-brewed sakes.  I believe the one that I liked best was called Ginshu, but I could be mistaken.  Whatever the most alcoholic one was, that’s the one I liked best.  There was no question that all of the varieties were very enjoyable, each with their own unique hints of flavors.

Moto-I sake sampler flight

Moto-I sake sampler flight

The first food we ordered was an $8 plate of Chicken Green Curry Dumplings.  While they were indeed very tasty, $8 seemed extraordinarily steep for five little dumplings which we devoured in less than two minutes.  For our main dish, Lauren and I shared the Drunken Noodle, which was a noodle dish with chicken, red peppers, red onion, Thai chilies, and Kaffir lime.  For $11, this was a reasonably priced entrée and was large enough to split, though I could have easily eaten it alone.  We later ordered a small plate of six rangoons for $7, which were filled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and lemon.  They were as good of a rangoon as I’ve had, but again, at $1.17 apiece, they were awful pricey.

Moto-I Chicken Green Curry Dumplings

Moto-I Chicken Green Curry Dumplings

Lauren and I also had two full 6 oz. glasses of our favorite sake from the sampler flight, which were great for sipping… but again quite expensive. I can’t imagine how much they would charge for a full bottle of the stuff!

6 oz. glasses of a Moto-I sake

6 oz. glasses of a Moto-I sake

At 7:42, we were all finished and waited for the check to come as we were going to a play at 8:00.  Finally at 7:59 the waitress returned to the table to check on us, and we were able to pay.  I was initially impressed with the waitress’s witty banter and attentiveness, but as the night grew on she lost lots of points.

The ambiance of the restaurant was very good.  We were seated in a dimly lit corner booth which did a nice job of setting the tone for the evening.

Overall, the sake was delicious, the food was slightly above-average, the service was mediocre, and the total bill was astoundingly high.  I would probably not go back again except to check out their rooftop patio in the summer.

Lauren: I’d been wanting to try Moto-i for quite some time. After all, when you hear that a restaurant is the only place not just in the US, but in the entire world outside of Japan to brew sake, you get a little curious. Especially when you enjoy sake, as I do.

We were seated right by the kitchen doors, which didn’t bother me initially as our waitress was very pleasant and chatty. However, as Ryan noted, as the night wore on she lost significant points. This was a sticking point that we had noticed in previous reviews of Moto-i online, but our curiosity won out. All the food was very tasty — but the prices, given the portion size, was comical.

The sake flight we ordered was quite tasty and fun, and we both decided to order a full-size version of our favorite. Between those and the two or three rounds of small plates, it was a pretty spendy little evening.

In the final analysis, I enjoyed Moto-i but the price was not worth the experience. It would be a fun place to go for an evening drink, particularly on their rooftop patio, but I would advise against planning dinner there. Particularly if you are relying on the incredibly inconsistent waitstaff to get your to a play before the curtain.

I would rate Moto-i 2/5.

Sushi Tango

12 Mar

On Valentine’s Eve, Lauren and I went to Sushi Tango in Calhoun Square for dinner, using a gift card we received for a wedding present from the Berglund-Husebys.  I apologize right now—that was almost a month ago and I don’t remember any of the things we ordered except for the gyoza appetizer and one of the sushi entrees called the Kuma.

All I can tell you is that it was another awesome sushi place in Minneapolis, yet I still can’t easily differentiate between this sushi restaurant and any of the others.  They’re all relatively pricey but really good and I’d have to start narrowing it down to the ambiance of the restaurant itself if I were to rank the local places we’ve been, which I may do soon.

For what it’s worth, Sushi Tango put us at a high-top table for dinner right next to the crowd of people waiting for seats which took away from the mood a little.  The food also took over a half hour to arrive.  But in the end, once that food arrived, it was worth the wait.  And we didn’t really think ahead that a Saturday night the day before Valentine’s Day might be busy, so really we were lucky to get a table at all!

Sushi Tango, Uptown Minneapolis

Lauren and I split these different entrees.

I think Sushi Tango deserves high marks despite the crowd and the long wait for the food to arrive.  3.8/5 Noms.

Lauren:

I agree with most of what Ryan wrote – Sushi Tango has a very nice new space, but they more or less ruined the atmosphere by putting the two of us at a high-top table with four seats. Our food took a very long time to arrive, and while it was delicious, we were sitting in the bar area getting glared at by all the other couples. I am sure they were all wondering why a table of two was seated at a four-top when the staff could have split up the tables and seated another couple. But as best I could, I tried to shrug off the daggers being glared my way and enjoy a lovely little Valentine’s Day.

4 Noms for food, 2.5 for the staff/seating = 3.25/5!