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Cafe 99?

cheese_please Aug 8, 2013 11:34 AM

Has anyone heard about Café 99? There is a new sign on the old Bascali's restaurant (on Como Ave, St Paul). The writing/graphics on the sign look Asian. The building is still being renovated.

Just wondered... what type of Asian restaurant will it be? When is it supposed to open?

I live in the neighborhood, so I'm excited to see something finally happening over there.

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  1. tipitina RE: cheese_please Aug 19, 2013 11:15 AM

    I also live in the neighborhood. The sign looks cute with a little boy eating noodles and a little girl holding what looks to be a plate of dumplings. It would be awesome to get a bit of University Avenue on Como Ave.

    I'm not sure what kind of food they will serve, but they are working on it everyday.

    1. r
      Rowdy RE: cheese_please Aug 19, 2013 12:10 PM

      I live in the neighborhood, too, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Cafe 99. The characters on the awning seem not to be Chinese--perhaps Japanese. So we shall see.

      1. r
        Rowdy RE: cheese_please Sep 6, 2013 08:49 AM

        Yesterday we noticed, in the window, a hiring announcement looking for people fluent in English and Chinese. There's also a typically Chinese round symbol hanging over an inner doorway. They must be getting close to opening if they're hiring.

        1. c
          cheese_please RE: cheese_please Sep 6, 2013 01:11 PM

          Thanks for the updates. I saw (in the neighborhood newsletter) that they are applying for an alcohol license too. I'm glad it seems like they'll be opening soon!

          1. r
            Rowdy RE: cheese_please Sep 15, 2013 03:54 PM

            Today there's a three page menu in the window showing a variety of foods from China. Looks sort of standard Chinese with a fair amount of Szechuan. Apparently associated with the restaurant, in some way, is a Chef Yang, the only "nationally certified chef from China" in the upper Midwest.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Rowdy
              kriminalrat RE: Rowdy Feb 8, 2014 09:43 AM

              This is run by the owner of tian Jin in Chanhassen. Tian Jin was serving top notch sichuan years ago but has been mediocre at best the past few years. The new owner raised prices, made portions significantly smaller and brought in cooks that I doubt have any grasp of sichuan cooking.

            2. s
              stcait RE: cheese_please Sep 29, 2013 02:44 PM

              I stopped by to look at the menu. Someone came out of the restaurant and handed me a menu. I asked him when they were opening and he said next weekend. Can't wait to try it!

              1. t
                thehammero RE: cheese_please Oct 2, 2013 03:34 PM

                They just turned on the neon open sign today at about 5PM.

                3 Replies
                1. re: thehammero
                  ChillyDog RE: thehammero Oct 22, 2013 10:06 PM

                  Are they really open? Has anyone been there?

                  1. re: ChillyDog
                    stcait RE: ChillyDog Oct 23, 2013 05:28 AM

                    We got takeout from there the first week it was open. We ordered the fresh spring rolls with shrimp and Ma Po Tofu. The spring rolls were delicious, but had a dipping sauce that could be improved (it seemed like a simple teriyaki.) I would not recommend the Ma Po Tofu, it wasn't bad but there was nothing special about it.

                    We will be trying again, but will trying some other menu items. Crossing my fingers! The inside of the restaurant seemed really nice and the service was fast and friendly.

                    1. re: ChillyDog
                      Rowdy RE: ChillyDog Oct 23, 2013 01:01 PM

                      Yes, they opened two or three weeks ago. We've had takeout from there a few times, and the food has been serviceable to quite good. I'm reluctant to judge them so soon after they've opened and would like to give them time to shake things out. So far, though, I'd say they're definitely worth a try.

                  2. b
                    BlauerPlanet RE: cheese_please Jan 19, 2014 02:22 PM

                    BUMPING - Has anyone been and can report?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: BlauerPlanet
                      cheese_please RE: BlauerPlanet Jan 19, 2014 06:56 PM

                      A friend of mine went. She said it was really good. Apparently, the chef is willing to make anything you want. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet.

                      1. re: BlauerPlanet
                        thefunkytrout RE: BlauerPlanet Jan 20, 2014 08:12 AM

                        I went last week for lunch. I thought it was good, though not the best asian food I've had in St. Paul. The staff were exceptionally pleasant and helpful however, and it was a fine place to go with a group. As pointed out above, the menu is somewhat Szechuan-leaning Chinese with a few random non-Chinese items thrown in. I had the "shredded fish with Szechuan garlic sauce," which was listed as one of the high spice-level items on the lunch menu. I would call it closer to Minnesota-medium and not terribly garlicky, so if you want something more spicy it may be good to ask. Everything tasted freshly prepared, just not particularly bold. Some of the people I was with were really enthusiastic about their food though.

                        I want to go back and just ask for the chef or server to recommend something that they or their Chinese customers like. Maybe the regular dinner menu is a bit more adventurous tasting too. With the number of Chinese affiliated with the University living in the area and Shanghai Market next door, I'm hoping they can break away from the temptation to lean towards a standard pan-Asian-American format. That said, the crab rangoon were pretty great if you're into that kind of thing, as they actually tasted like something beyond just cream cheese. Very clean and simple interior which I liked. Also, there is a large round table with a lazy susan that is great for groups.

                        Finally, I saw a Yelp reviewer was disappointed with their Pad Thai there, which is a great example of why I have a hard time taking Yelp too seriously.

                        1. re: thefunkytrout
                          ChancesR RE: thefunkytrout Jan 20, 2014 05:26 PM

                          So, are you saying you tried the Pad Thai and thought it was fine? Also, it's disappointing to hear C99 is relying on hideous Americanizations like Crab Rangoon, which most Asians would consider equivalent to vomit. Of course, you have to cater to your audience, and considering the proximity to the State Fair, it of course makes sense.

                      2. r
                        Rowdy RE: cheese_please Feb 1, 2014 08:01 PM

                        This place is in serious need of some community support. We've had many meals from there, and they've been uniformly fresh and tasty. Yet there are very few tables occupied whenever we go by.

                        Please give Cafe 99 a try. It's a real gem in this neighborhood!

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