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So Angry I Could Spit! Time to Defend Our Vietnamese Restaurant Scene.


I just got a book called Opinionated About U.S. Restaurants 2011, which has a Minneapolis and St. Paul section. I’m feeling opinionated about it.

When the new book by Steve Plotnicki appeared on my desk, I was intrigued. Was someone really daring to take on the Zagat empire by coming out with a similar book, in which numerical scores are awarded by survey-driven reviews? And could a former record company talent developer who’s now a self-described “prolific food-blogger” really get his head around “The Most Important Restaurants in the U.S”?

In regards to Minnesota, let me put it in the local vernacular for you: Yeah, no.

The Minneapolis St. Paul section gets off to a good enough start: La Belle Vie, best restaurant. Great. Sounds good to me. Second best, Heartland. Okay. Third, Origami, the Warehouse District sushi pioneer. Really? Coincidentally, I was just at Origami last week. Best sushi, I’ll give it that. But a better restaurant than Piccolo or Haute Dish, nope. Speaking of Haute Dish, they ain’t in there. Neither is: Nick and Eddie, Ngon Bistro, Travail, Spoonriver, Sapor, Jasmine 26, Saffron, or, more forgivably, newcomers like Pizzeria Lola, Tilia, and Heidi’s. But the book does devote ink to closed restaurants, like Om and 20.21, and completely indifferent restaurants, like B.A.N.K. and the St. Paul arm of the chain Kincaid’s (though it excludes the Bloomington one).

None of which would have roused me to the state of actually writing about this guide. But this did: What does Steve Plotnicki have to say about Minneapolis and St. Paul Vietnamese food? “While the Twin Cities offers successful versions of many different cuisine, Vietnamese doesn’t seem to be one of them.” Oh, really? Sir, we have one of the most vibrant Vietnamese restaurant scenes in the country, due to our robust and wonderful Vietnamese population. Don’t you dare!

So here’s another critic’s view of Minneapolis-St. Paul Vietnamese food. It’s awesome! Whatever you do this lifetime, don’t even think of missing out on the opportunity to dine at:

Ngon Bistro
Seriously, it’s all I can do not to sing praise from the rooftops every single week for this St. Paul gem that combines local farm produce and mad Vietnamese cooking skills. I pit their Nem Nuong against any Nem Nuong in the USA! ngonbistro.com

Jasmine 26, and Jasmine Deli
The fancy, sexily-lit Jasmine 26, a beer, a coconut hot-pot—what more do you want out of a date? And of course the cult superstar little sister deli has great bun salads. jasmine26.net

Mai Village
Have you had the seven courses of beef dinner at Mai Village while your children ooh and ah over the carp-pond, replete with bridge? If not, you are not living right in St. Paul! maivillage.net

Astounding, stupendous, astonishing, amazing: We are a city united in love of Saigon’s banh mi sandwiches. Are we not? facebook.com/SAIGON-RESTAURANT-SAINT-PAUL

Everything else!
Pho Tau Bay, Quang, Trieu Chau Bay, Pho 79, Pho Tan Phat, Caravelle, Pho Ca Dao–good lord! We live in a fantastic, fantastic land of great Vietnamese food. I’d pit Minnesota Vietnamese food against New York Vietnamese food any day of the week.

In fact, I think I’ll go get some. I wonder if I could trade the book for some goi cuon?

Editor's Note: Due to multiple requests, we've added
this image to show the excerpt of the book that's being
called into question.
It's published on page 205 of
Opinionated About U.S. Restaurants 2011.


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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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