Chinese New Year - MSP
Had dinner at ChinDian Cafe (formally called East River Market) tonight and owner Nina Wong said they will be having some festivities on Saturday for Chinese New Year including dragon dancers. Thought some of you might want to check this out. Hopefully I'll be able to make it, I just love this little place!
We had some of the Chinese New Year specials at Rainbow last week. We were pretty unhappy with the food experience.
We had first tried Rainbow right after moving here from the Bay Area a few years ago, having heard that it was one of the better Chinese restaurants around. While we liked the atmosphere, we did not enjoy the food too much, and had not been back since. Fast forward to now, we're driving through Eat Street and thinking to ourselves, "maybe we were just comparing it to Bay Area Chinese places. That's not really fair. Let's give it another shot."
Well, yeah, we were really disappointed with our dishes. From the New Years menu, we got the tangerine beef special and the New Years dumplings (chicken and green beans). The dumplings were bland (and the dough seemed too thick, although that might have been an impression due to the lack of flavor); the only taste really came from the dipping sauce. The tangerine beef was just bizarre. Our first thought when it arrived was that it was chicken-fried-steak with marmalade. The beef was coated in some sort of flour and then deep fried, resulting in a dry and cake-y texture which still tasted of the oil it was fried in. The sauce was really sour, and definitely had the look and texture of warm marmalade.
We also had the large wonton soup -- which surprisingly was just served in a large bowl to one of us, rather than spooned into two smaller bowls at the table as we have experienced just about everywhere else. The wontons were pretty decent, but the remaining broth was unappetizing -- too salty.
Service was pleasant, at least. Needless to say, I recommend avoiding those dishes if you happen to try Rainbow for Chinese New Year.
On a related note, yesterday I had lunch at Jasmine Deli. I was happy to learn that Vietnamese New Year coincides with Chinese New Year, as we arrived at Quang to a "Closed Thursday and Friday for Vietnamese New Year" sign. So we wound up at Jasmine Deli, which I had been meaning to try for a long time. Wow, what a great lunch -- charbroiled beef rice noodle salad. What really stood out above other similar dishes I've had in the past was the quality and freshness of the vegetables in the salad. The lettuce was bright green and crisp, the shredded carrots were a brilliant orange and tasted like carrots. Even the bean sprouts were noticeably crunchy and clean. My vegan friend always raved about Jasmine Deli, and now I can understand why. Additionally, the beef was lean and perfectly grilled and seasoned, and the noodles were softer than most. I also left the place very impressed with the low prices of their tasty-looking sandwiches -- $2.95 and $3.95 for most. Overall, a fantastic Vietnamese New Year experience that more than made up for Rainbow last week.
chin dian/east river (same ownership & menu, just name change) is named after the restaurateurs' ethnicities. the female owner, nina, is ethnically chinese, her husband is indian, hence chin-dian. the pair can be seen doting on their infant daughter during slow times in the restaurant.
chin dian is a small place, with a menu that at first glance appears to be kind of boring pan-asian/american. but when the food arrives the freshness and quality of the ingredients is generally remarkable. i am a fan of their bun salads (vietnamese rice noodle), they are among the best in town, loaded with fresh herbs and veggies. chin dian is a good rec if you are in the area, probably not worth too much of a drive.
in local food trivia that links the op and Chris Mitra's post below: nina wong is a relative of the proprietors of rainbow chinese.
The Star Tribune article is a good description and lists some of my favorites: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/...
Other stuff: I think of tofu chow fun as one of my comfort foods and they do a really good version, keeping it very light and clean tasting. Some other places I feel weigh it down with too heavy a sauce. One of the Malaysian dishes I like also uses chow fun noodles but has mussels and bits of scrambled eggs and is much drier. Make sure to get a ginger tea (hot or cold) if you go. I think Nina is now selling bottles of the ginger syrup she makes for the drink - although I need to double check that for sure.
In the ambiance arena: I think the waves of spice smells coming from the open kitchen are heavenly. And, the owners also remembered who I was after only one visit. I'm pretty quiet in person so it's unusual for any type of store clerks to take notice of me. If you usually get to know your restaurant owners this won't be so exciting for you of course.
(Oh, and in my original post, formally = formerly.)