Gobi Manchurian at Muddy Tiger Indian Bistro
Is the success story of the early 21st century the humble cauliflower? We've seen it become rice and pizza crusts and land on just about every type of menu in a battered, fried and sauced format that is almost always delicious. Cauliflower, how do you do it?
At Muddy Tiger, a new brick-and-mortar spot in Edina from the team behind this Marathi-cuisine food truck, cauliflower is given reverential treatment in one of the menu's boldly flavored west-central Indian street snacks.
For the Gobi Manchurian, tender florets are fried to piping-hot and crispy perfection, then coated in a sweet-savory sauce in an Indian-Chinese crossover dish popular in the Indian state of Maharashtra ($11). Topped with peanuts and green onions and brightened with specks of bell pepper, it's a fun (and gluten-free) place to start at a restaurant that proudly serves some of the only Marathi dishes in Minnesota, from owners (and spouses) Jyotiee and Andy Kistner.
On a recent lunch visit, Andy Kistner suggested that my dining companion and I try several dishes you won't see on any other menus in the Twin Cities, including Misal Pav, a bean and potato hash that you drown in rich tomato curry and soak up with white bread; a roti wrap filled with Kheema (minced lamb); and Moong Bhaji, or dal (chickpea) fritters with a falafel vibe. The only part of the menu we didn't get to sample was Chaat, as these savory street-cart snacks are only served nights and weekends. We'll be back for the pani puri (filled crispy puffs) alone. (Sharyn Jackson)
7015 Amundson Av., Edina, 952-600-7009, muddytiger.com
Blueberry muffin at Quixotic Coffee
Every time I walk inside this Cleveland Avenue coffeeshop, I have to scan the booths. Often I find a familiar face or two and we nod a greeting or catch up for a moment. This is one of the best things about a great neighborhood coffeehouse — it's an extension of the area. Inside here I've had school fundraiser planning meetings, mended friendships and spent countless hours making use of the lightning-fast Wi-Fi.
When I was dragging after school drop-off this week, I was in need of a boost of velvet jet fuel — made with the utmost care by the barista — and one perfect blueberry muffin ($4). Like a lot of metro-area coffeehouses, the treats are brought in and this one from Patisserie 46 is all that I could ever hope for: tender crumb, giant blueberries bursting with summer-sun sweetness and a crumbly little bit of a cookie coating up top.
It's a sunny way to kick off a day, even if you aren't lucky enough to live in this cozy neighborhood. (Joy Summers)
769 S. Cleveland Av., St. Paul, 701-484-3375, quixoticcoffee.com
Sashimi tacos at Kazoku
We're always in search of good lunch specials, and found a gem at this family-owned Japanese restaurant tucked away in a suburban strip mall, where a bento box lunch — miso soup, salad, rice, choice of protein and a four-piece California roll — is just $13 seven days a week.
While that alone was worth the trip, it was the sashimi tacos ($11.95) appetizer that solidified this as one of our new favorite spots. A mix of salmon and tuna sashimi is tossed with a deliciously saucy mix of mirin, soy sauce and eel sauce and served atop a crispy fried wonton wrapper. A dollop of tobiko (flying fish roe) and sprinkles of black sesame seeds add the final tasty touches. One bite checked all the taste and texture boxes: sweet, salty, crunchy and firm.
The restaurant bills itself as the home of Minnesota's best sushi, and next time we'll explore the vast selection of creative rolls (three menu pages!). But we'll definitely start with the sashimi tacos. If you do the same and order it to share, count on at least two tacos for each person (there's four per order). Trust me, you won't be able to stop at one.
2925 Cliff Road E., Burnsville, 952-456-6496, kazokuburnsville.com
Spaghetti alla chitarra at Pinoli
If these walls could talk, it would probably be with an Italian accent. For decades this building on the corner of Lake Street and Irving Avenue S. in Uptown has been an Italian restaurant, and the latest iteration officially opened last week. Pinoli is the newest restaurant from Placemaker Hospitality (formerly the Bartmann Group).
The opening menu is a collection of snacks, pastas, entrees and pizzas. Several ingredients make multiple appearances, like the braised mushrooms, which are served with pesto and white beans as an appetizer, over linguini and as topping on pizza, which has a thicker, more breadlike crust. Prices range from $10 to $28.
The highest ticket price is one of the pastas: spaghetti alla chitarra ($28). The pasta is made by passing the dough through a chitarra, strung with metal strings like a guitar, for its distinctive shape and texture. The tangle of noodles has a pleasing rough texture on the exterior that picks up the light, bright sauce and is cooked just enough to retain that inner al dente chew. Mixed within are nubs of sweet lobster meat that mingles with the soft garlic flavor in the sauce. It's a light, bright dish that's fun to twirl and eat while deep in conversation with friends. (J.S.)
1601 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-0250, pinoli-mpls.com
Brisket fries from Urban Skillet
When MJ Mohammed launched Minnesota's first Urban Skillet a year ago in Uptown, his outpost of the California-based franchise immediately met a local need for craveable Halal burgers, loaded fries and chicken wings. Now, with a second location near the U, Urban Skillet is reaching even more diners, whether or not they are looking for food that's Halal (following Islamic dietary law). The new location has more parking and more room for families to spread out, Mohammed said. And both locations are Ramadan-friendly, keeping late hours for those who are fasting during daylight.
I, however, ordered in, getting a couple of burgers and (excellent) Korean BBQ wings delivered. Plus these brisket-topped fries ($9.25), which might not look their prettiest in a takeout container, but were supremely slathered in barbecue sauce, melted American cheese and melt-in-your-mouth brisket. The accompanying packet of ranch could not have been a better, or more Minnesotan, match for the tanginess of the meat and sauce. It was a crowd-pleaser. (S.J.)
2300 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-886-1880; 815 25th Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-7925, urbanskilletmn.com