Jfood's Latest Trek Through MSP - Brasa, Manana & Origami (+ Ole Creamery)
Another three nights of eating in MSP brought Jfood to the following places, Brasa, Manana and Origami for dinner and a side trip to Ole Creamery for dessert one night.
Jfood was committed after several bad experiences to try one of MSPs favorites, 112 Eatery and in two attempts this week he was unsuccessful in obtaining a seat. Maybe the food Gods were telling him to give it up, but now he is more determined than ever to give it a shot on his next trip. On his second trip he should have just walked into Saffron since his parking spot was right in front, won’t make that mistake next time either.
Brasa - So to rally the troop his first rejection he returned to the car and he drove over to Brasa. Once he found parking he saw about 10 people mingled out front and he thought there would be a wait, but the were several tables inside available and the people were waiting for outside tables. So Jfood sat inside. On his previous meal, Jfood missed the rotisserie chicken, so this was definitely one of his choices and he added the beef to the choice of two-meat entrée. With this selection comes 2 sides and he ordered the yams with Andouille and the fried plantains. He watched in amazement at how hard the three servers worked the inside and the outside tables. They were amazing and probably burned over 1000 calories while Jfood ate more than that. But back to the food. Let’s start with the two stars of the night, the beef and the plantains. Picture four 1½ “ cubes of perfectly cooked pieces meat with a beautiful tangy sauce and that is the beef at Brasa. Now close both eyes and picture the sweetest, softest banana/plantain flavor cradling your tongue, and that’s the fried plantains. Both have to garner an A+ rating, no doubt in Jfood's book. Now for the less than perfect. First the chicken. The presentation was horrible even for a rotisserie joint. They serve a half breast with the lower triangle whacked off, exposing half the breast meat, the wing is still attached, plus they throw a leg on top of the plantains. The breast meat was overcooked to the dry-gag stage, the wing was roasted to the point of the meat seizing and bordering on inedible. The good news was that the leg was perfectly cooked, juicy and full of flavor. The yams with Andouille were bland, yup, bland Andouille, go figure. Did they boil the Andouille? Jfood cannot figure that one out. Overall Jfood really enjoyed the food and the overall energy of the place, and by the way the service was outstanding.
Manana – It was a 20-minute drive to SP the following night but Jfood's tongue was looking for some lively flavors, so what could be better than some south of the border cuisine. As he drove by Strip Club he was very tempted to stop and try another burger but he continued on (listen to your instinct buddy). He arrived at Manana and took a menu to his table. The young man who was so helpful last time came over to assist again, he is really a great guy. Jfood ordered two chicken tacos, a chicken tamale and green pepper stuffed with beef. There are better terms for these but please bear with Jfood. His least favorite was the tamale, it was pretty flavorless, very little meat and just sort of sat there, a couple of bites and Jfood was done. The tacos were soft with some chicken, lettuce and tomato. Again, these were nothing to write home about, very little flavor, and definitely no excitement. The hit of the evening was the beef stuffed pepper. Jfood really liked this. It was served with rice, some refried beans and was deep in flavor, real comfort food type feeling. Although Jfood did not get the flavors he was looking for, he really enjoyed the beef stuffed pepper. And once again the service was great. It’s a real neighborhood place looking at the other patrons.
Origami – Jfood has heard from many that this is one of the best sushi bars in MSP and with the one data point of Jfood's experience; he hopes he just had a bad night. Sushi bars are normally alive with energy, this place felt like a bump on a log when Jfood arrived. Since he was solo and wanting to watch the chef, he walked over to the sushi bar and grabbed a seat. It was like sitting in a basement, tucked away in the corner, dimly lit, a huge pillar separating the left side of 4 seats from the right side of 6 seats. The atmosphere was a real turn off. Now Jfood has eaten in a sushi bar in Tokyo where you needed to walk up four flights of stairs to a hole in the wall, but Origami was less appealing. There were two chefs this evening. One was an elderly Asian man and the other was a middle aged Gaijin. Now Jfood does not want to sound homophobic, but a European looking sushi chef just sets the ying-yang out of balance. He felt the same way at Carnegie Deli a few years ago when an Asian server started with Borsht-belt humor, just sends the senses in a tizzy, but Jfood digresses as he sat in from of chef #1. Since Jfood just wanted to relax he ordered the Deluxe, which comes with a Spicy Tuna Roll, not Jfood's favorite, but he refuses to eat California Rolls. Sitting at the bar, you can always order more. He watched with enjoyment as the chef prepared his dish, first cutting all the fish, and then starting the assembly process. Jfood loves watching a chef in action. The plate was presented and it was very nicely arranged with the typical choices with two exceptions. Since Jfood does not like Uni the chef substituted a fish roe and a chopped fish that Jfood could not recognize. Jfood's first bite was the spicy tuna roll. OMG his head snapped back. It was spicy beyond dishes he has eaten in Singapore. You could not even begin to taste any flavor other than pure heat from the sauce. Next Jfood moved onto the individual selection. Each piece was overwhelmed by the wasabi. Other than the Saba, which was at least able to hold its own, the meal was basically wasabi-based rice, the fish was pushed aside in flavor. The chef finally asked Jfood how everything was and Jfood gingerly mentioned that the wasabi overpowered all the fish on the plate. The chef smiled. Oh well. Overall, this was one of Jfood least favorite sushi experiences; he really cannot point to anything that was well done.
Ole Creamery – On the way back south, Jfood decide a little ice cream was in order so Ole Creamery was the stop. He was really looking forward to another scoop of Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Alas when he arrived they did not have ANY chocolate-based choices. Huh? He decided to choose the Cookie Dough and the Coffee Heath. The cookie dough was sickenly sweet (that’s sorta it’s reputation, Jfood's bad) and Jfood thinks the server placed Chocolate Chick in the cone instead of Coffee Heath (please so it’s so Joe). It was good but not great. This place has great chocolate-based ice creams, but the other flavors have not tickled Jfood's fancy just yet.
Oh well another week another group of restaurants, and no burgers this time.
jfood - too bad you didn't have a good experience at Origami. It's one of our favorite places in town and we normally sit upstairs. I know you mentioned that you like sitting at the bar but see if you can sit upstairs next time.
I enjoy reading your reviews, keep up the good work.
P.S - I have a trip coming up to New York City in couple of weeks. Do you have any must go mid-price range restaurant recommendations? My wife and I are open for anything except for Italian. I thought I'd give it a try since you are from the east coast.
I don't mean to slam your ordering but i think that you didnt play to the strengths of either brasa or manana. the chicken at brasa can be really good but ive had some white meat that was on the far side of just right (though not as bad as the one you are describing). If i am going to eat chicken at brasa ill get it in the sandwich with the addictively good cabbage salad on top. The plantains at brasa are first rate, as is the yucca, grits, masa cake, and spinach. the yams are not among my favorite sides, to be sure.
I think straying from the salvadoran menu at manana is a mistake, as they make some damn fine pupusas (it was funny to read in your description a mention of other patrons, its always been totally empty when we've been). more to-die-for plantains, but these come served with unctuously perfect black beans and sour cream. If you havent had the pupusas at manana, you've missed the best part. The hand slapped, made to order stuffed masa cakes come with a first rate curtido, a cabbage slaw thats a perfect pairing with the really nice, mild salsa available by the squeeze bottle with your pupusas.
You're correct TST and jfood ordered your suggestions on his last visit.
He never ate the chicken at Brasa so he wanted to try it, live and learn, and the Papusas were great at Manana on his last visit, likewise on the expand the circle decision on the order. live and learn again.
I always order the chicken at Brasa, and it's been great lately - moist and not overcooked. In the beginning, the chicken was quite dry, but they seem to have fixed the problem, at least when I've been there. (I think they're brining the bejiggers out of that chicken, as I can taste more salt these days.) Me, I don't mind the "rustic" presentation of the chicken - it seems to fit the atmosphere of the place, and they have wet-wipes for greasy fingers.
I think Jfood hit Brasa on a bad night. But a place like Brasa shouldn't have off nights like that, especially at their price point, and given the high level of talent at the place.
Jfood, did you mention the dryness to your server? (You don't seem to suffer from the prevalent Minnesota-nice/don't-say-anything syndrome.) Was there an acceptable response?
If you decide to give them another chance, try the pulled chicken (available with the plate dinners as well as in a sandwich). It's in a garlicy sauce, which moistens it considerably. And it's delicious.
Another great review, jfood. Manana has been on my 'to do' list for some time now...I have to get down there.
Next time you're shut out at 112, PLEASE go across the street to Saffron. I think you'll enjoy it. The monthly tasting menu is normally quite good, and a steal of a deal at $30.
It's too bad to hear that you had a few bad experiences at Origami. I've enjoyed some top notch sushi there several times. I have only sat at the bar once when I was solo, and found that the experience leaves much to be desired. Your description of the atmoshpere at the bar is spot on.