Twin Cities Report
Was visiting twin cities last weekend, so here is my report:
First stop was at Shilla, a Korean place on Snelling in St. Paul. I generally love Korean food, but think that this restaurant is exceptional. It's unpretentious and the food very fresh and flavorful--lots of attention given to taste, seasoning. Great little kim chee appetizers. Wife had her mainstay, bi-bim-bop, I had a lunch dish with stir-fried beef, hot peppers (serranos?), and cellophane noodles. All great, delicious, and by request seasoned to Korean taste.
Also went to Pickled Parrot, downtown Minnie near Target Center. I had rib lunch--very good, considerable bite and chew to the ribs, which I like and could also smell the smoke from a block away. Sauce was excellent, I suspect made on premises, molasses/brown sugar based sweet & sour with little or no tomato, hint of onion and citrus? Wife's dish was undistinguished and disappointing--flank steak tacos. Steak itself was not particularly flavorful--little or no seasoning--and was cut so thickly and was so tough that when one bit into the taco, the steak tended to come out of the stale and cardboard-like soft flour tortillas, which themselves were prone to falling apart from rancidity. Probably because it was St. Pattie's (although around noon-time), we had to wait 15 minutes to receive check and another half-hour to pay it; management was unprepared, but energetic staff tried to compensate & run around as best as they could.
Went to Royal Orchid on Saturday evening; were fortunate to get table at this time, although in back room. Had good "lemon-grass & citrus soup" (called hot & sour or Tom Yum elsewhere?) with "seafood." I put seafood in quotes here, because only items in soup were shrimp and scallops, and menu promised squid & some other stuff, but no delivery on this--also, price increase for asking for seafood was substantial. (In recall, also, there were only 4 shrimp and 5 scallops, total, included in the tureen.) Still, the broth itself, although not painstakingly flavored with sauted shrimp shells, etc., (as I have had elsewhere) was about as good and well-balanced and flavorful as any around. Pad Thai was also excellently seasoned, although we suspect not quite up to the "Thai hot" level of spiciness we had ordered. Blame it on a busy night?
Lastly, on way out of town, went to El Amanacer on Concord St. in St. Paul. My wife had a combination plate, while I had chicken enchiladas smothered in picante green sauce and cheese; wife said that I won. This is pretty run of the mill Mexican restaurant--good, sturdy, heavy meals, well seasoned, nice beans and rice--sorry I didn't have time to try some of the seafood on the munu; seafood soup especially looked intriguing. Awhile ago, I also had very good standard Mexican stuff at Mi Tierra, just across Concord--menu there, though, didn't seem to be as extensive as Amanacer's.
Well, that's all for now.
While visiting our fair city, why not go to the Chowhound recommendations? (See earlier in the discussion...) I always hate for people to pay for mediocre food.
On your next visit, try the Quang Deli on Nicolett for excellent Pho, Vietnamese noodle soups, if you have the opportunity.
Thanks Bruce for filling us in on your Twin Cities dining experiences.
I'm disappointed that your flank steak tacos at the Pickled Parrot were poor. I've ordered this dish dozens of times and it's always been excellent. Then again, I usually avoid restaurants when I know they'll be really busy because you can't expect good food when the chefs are rushed. By the way, I always order this dish with their seasoned fries.
re: Michael Penfield
Well, thanks for the response--we may have tried those tacos based on a previous chowhound posting, although I have been intrigued a little about Pickled Parrot whenever I've driven by.
This may be an unfair comparison, but I cannot help it: The standard that I set for steak tacos resides with a true filthy hole-in-the-wall Mexican mainly take-out dive (complete with gang graffiti in bathroom) just outside of Chicago in the grungy, grimy "suburb" of Cicero. There, the cheap, thinly sliced steaks are seared and seasoned on an extremely hot grill--carcinogen overdose--and are served up with fresh, hot tortillas, shredded lettuce, chopped onion, Mexican crumbly cheese, creaa, tomato, and hot green salsa and jalapenos (all you care to eat) on the side. Cost: About $1.50 or so. Simple and incomparably delicious.
I've never had time to go searching around Concord Street in St. Paul for steak tacos, but I've had other passable Mexican fare there; this kind of enterprise might be worth checking out if you get the opportunity and inclination.
Let me know if you're ever in Chicago and I can steer you to the place I discussed above; but, don't bother with this if you're squeamish about sanitation issues. (Unfortunately, I can no longer go to this place much myself as I no longer live around Chicago, either.)