CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Kings, Continents, and a Whole Lot of Cold (Louis XIII -- Edina, MN and Azia -- Minneapolis, MN)

Here's the post I started about a week and a half ago and then lost. Sorry, kids. I've been whorin' it up, though, and I should have some juicy tidbits to report this month. Stay tuned.

I'm baa-aack. I've returned from the sub-arctic temps of rural Minnesota where my hopes of literally freezing my ass off were thwarted. I am happy to report that after many years of straight up shitty food in the heartland, I've found some hope.

Jon's family has a cabin about an hour north of the twin cities. It's cute, it's cozy and it mostly sucks for good food. Refined sugars, packaged foods, jello with all sorts of crap in it, casseroles and meat and potatoes are the order of the day. Fortunately for us, we stopped at a Costco (who give their money to the Democrats, by the way. I fucking LOVE that place!) on our way up north and bought a huge tub of organic greens for our six day stay. They were a Godsend.

Anyway, we managed to eat out a few times. Some of these times were greasy spoons in the lovely town of Mora, where the cabin is. Nothing notable to report there.

On the day we flew in, we hit the Southdale Mall in Edina, MN for some last minute Christmas shopping with Jon's parents. I had read up on where to eat before we left and heard that Louis XIII was a hot new spot to visit. Um, OK.

As you walk into Louis XIII, you've got dorkass "I'm-so-hip-can't-you-see-how-hip-I-am" music playing. Once inside, you feel a little like you're in Vegas. The booths are draped with fabric, and the room we sat in had velvet curtains and ugly ass 80's chic looking chairs and light fixtures.

Now for the food. The bread was great, and came with salted butter which is not the norm here in SF. In MN, those fools like their salt. I liked it too. Our appetizer of shrimp lollipops (shrimp wrapped in phyllo dough) was aight. Not great, but OK. I had a simple croque monsieur, which was tasty, but there was too much butter on the bread and it wasn't smushed down enough. The skinny fries that came with were yummy as hell, though. Jon's onion soup with huge ass French bread slices and his Thai chicken salad were better than most Minnesota fare, but unremarkable nonetheless. His Dad's seafood soup (basically a cioppino) seemed OK.

Here's where the real bullshit comes in. We ordered coconut cake. I love coconut. I love coconut cake. In fact, I may just make one for myself for my birfday (which is in 12 days in case someone else wanted to make one for me). So we order the cake and...what the fuck??? It's not a fucking cake. It is (and I shit you not) Frosting with frosting. Diabetes on a plate. Buttercream frosting layers, and thick ones at that, with some caramel coconut goo in between. I wanted a FUCKING CAKE. That's just super lame.

Now for the service. Very friendly. But these folks seem to think that playing musical silverware is what makes your restaurant "haute cuisine." They were picking up and putting down forks and knives like it was the changing of the guard. With no purpose. In fact, when I actually needed a knife, I didn't have one. They actually changed our silverware TWICE between the salads and our entrees. And our waitress wasn't at the top of her class. She knocked the aforementioned silverware (and my mother in law's glasses) to the ground several times. Jon and his dad politely suggested that this might be due to her midwestern size. I never thought of obesity as being a handicap to being a server, but clearly it is. This poor woman could not navigate our table to save her life. And as nice as she was, Jumbo-lina was a little clueless, taking our order and then going to another table instead of putting it in the system or telling the kitchen. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

All in all, I might go back if I was doing a little shopping at the Southdale mall and I wanted to escape the food court, but I wouldn't make it a mission.

Now Azia on the other hand...

I did my research before we left SF, and I thought that my next conquest just might have to be Azia (pronounced Asia -- can you stomach THAT without puking?). Azia was garnering lots of buzz from all the right corners of the food kingdom, so on our way to the airport to fly home from the heartland, we hit that bitch up.

Azia is one of those places that is trying to be hip, which is OK because they succeed. The bathrooms get major props (except it's really hard to tell which is men's and which is women's since the only indicator is tiny little dolls on top of the doors). Tom Pham is the Executive Chef and his story is not unlike that of our very own Charles Phan, from the Slanted Door. Good ol' Tom came from Vietnam and was taken in by a Lutheran Family in Minnesota. His Southeast Asian heritage married with a little Minnesota goodness makes this restaurant just sexy enough.

Our server was very good, if a trying a little to hard to be refined. He knew his shit, but dude, just tell it like it is. It's just food, it's not the Sistine Chapel for Christ's sake. We asked for suggestions as the menu is longer than the line for Space Mountain. Then we did our damage. Here's how it went.

I had a little Tempranillo to begin with followed by a Gavi to go with my entree. Jon had a Tsingtao. We got ourselves nice and cozy for that plane ride home.

For appetizers, we had some cranberry puffs, which are like crab rangoon but with cranberries instead of crab. I was shocked by how tasty these were. They had a little curry powder for some kick and I was licking my fingers in delight. Jon's mom wanted the crisp avocado rolls, which were basically egg rolls with avocado inside. Tasty and simple. Jon ordered potstickers which he proclaimed to "not suck" -- which is saying a lot as he is a potsticker afficianado. He was pleasantly surprised.

We ordered their "Spanker" soup for the table. Yes, your eyes don't fail you, it's called spanker soup. Whatever. Anyway, it was tasty. We ordered it with tofu and it was a little spicy with coconut milk, more cranberries, asparagus, mushrooms and other tasty bits. A little watery for me, but Jon's family LOVED it so it was a good choice.

Entrees. They used a star system to denote spiciness. Aw, how cute. Dishes are marked with no stars, one star or two stars. I ordered my dish with eight. That dish would be one of their specialties, the Carmelia. This was a mixture of pecans, shrimp and coconut over vermicelli. It was delightful. All spicy and crunchy and just good. But here's the one small problem -- serving it over vermicelli is dumb. Like Scientology dumb. And they served it on a hip flat plate. Dumb. This dish is pretty soupy and needs rice. And a bowl. Then it would be perfect. I loved it, but the presentation was stupid.

Jon ordered Walleye, since it's a local fish. It had a jalepeno-basil sauce and it was just great. Jon's dad got the Passion prawns. Poor guy. They were cold with a neat little passion fruit sauce for dipping. I think he expected something different, but he was brave and ate it anyway. It was really good, although he didn't care for the mashed taro root that came with it. That's fine by me because it meant I could eat it -- hooray for taro!

Jon's mom wussed out and had pad thai, his sister had a Vietnamese curry with tofu, and her boyfriend had lamb. Portions are huge. I mean elephant huge. I would definitely share something if I went back.

The remarkable thing about all of this? We all liked it. All six of us. And if I were in Minneapolis again, I would make it a point to go back. Especially because we didn't have time to order dessert. It was the best meal I've eaten in Minnesota in the six years I've been going there.

So if you have to go visit the twins, you've got some options. The food situation has really improved over the years, don't ya know? Stay tuned -- we just may go back for the fourth of July.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art." -- La Rochefoucauld


Anonymous Anonymous said...

O.K. We got the idea you are some sort of whore. But not a restaurant whore you desire to be. I would say more of an elite whore. It is so obvious you try to prove yourself to be above the ranks of the obese and ranks of those who frequent the chains and malls. Not too mention the preference of Costco over Sams club. If you were truely a restaurant whore you would realize most small restaurants choose to purchase items at Sams Club vs. Costco. And, if you were truely a restaurant whore you would realize it is the bottom line that counts toward success of a restaurant.

I too have visited both restaurants. I had some of the worse lazy "but I am cool" service at Azia. Additionally the sirloin salad's meat was so old the flavor dwarfed the aroma of my red wine.
Don't fool yourself.

2/14/2005 11:07 AM  

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