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Jasmine 26

From deli roots, this Vietnamese bistro goes upscale

Jasmine 26
Photo by Terry Brennan
I’ve been to America’s most esteemed Vietnamese restaurants, San Francisco’s Slanted Door and Chicago’s Le Colonial, but both left me underwhelmed: What did they have that Minnesota’s great Vietnamese spot, Jasmine Deli, didn’t? I mean, aside from wineglasses, wine lists, and lighting more appropriate to dining than to operating rooms. Well, call that conundrum solved: Minnesota finally has a fine-dining Vietnamese restaurant worthy of national consideration, and it’s in fact an outgrowth of that Eat Street favorite, Jasmine Deli.

Jasmine 26 is just around the corner from Jasmine Deli, but the ambience and ambition are leagues apart. The room itself is disco-dark, the better to enjoy an unusual sparkling sake or sip playful cocktails, like a rum-spiked bubble tea. The food, however, can stand up to the brightest lights. The lettuce rolls, for instance, have a sushi roll’s complex architecture, with tender poached shrimp butterflied and tied with scallion-ribbons around lettuce leaves, stuffed with a thin, sweet omelet which itself cradles a filling of cellophane noodles and pork. However, all those ingredients fail to make the dish taste busy, each bite tastes as light and bright as a garden. Fresh tofu cubes are flash-fried with paper-thin slices of garlic, Thai chilies, and sweet bell peppers in such a way that the tofu becomes as crisp as a potato chip on the outside, creamy as custard inside. The lemongrass short ribs are fragrant and tangy, though the traditional Vietnamese pork-sparerib preparation here is applied to long-braised, spoon-tender beef. The sour tamarind hot pot is made with lots of real tamarind, not mere vinegar (as it is in most of our local Vietnamese joints).

Jasmine 26 is already legendary for having the longest soft-opening in history (the doors opened last fall but the operation was immediately hobbled by a death in the family). Now that they’ve finally had their official grand opening, I predict that they’ll become legendary in other ways—perhaps as the Vietnamese restaurant that put Minneapolis on the national map.

8 E. 26th St., Minneapolis, 612-870-3800 » Dinner daily. $

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

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Sep 28, 2009 03:14 pm
 Posted by  chan

I had the worse dining experience ever at Jasmine 26. We had a large party of 30 people, as I may say, the food was good but the service was really bad. Two people had to wait for their meals as everyone else ate. They would not split the check, after requesting it before and during our meal. The bill came to over $700 and quite a long list of items listed, needless to say, paying the bill with over 30 people trying to figure out what they ordered was a hassle. We spent more time trying to figure out the bill than eating our food. THe manager/owner refused to accomodate our requests by splitting the bill. He had NO interest whatsoever to please his customers. Instead, when we became upset, he yelled at us, called us profane names and called the cops. Mind you, this was a 40th! birthday party, not wild 21 year olds. None of us were nearly close to being intoxicated. The police arrived and after standing around for 1 minute, left with nothing to assist with, they were even amused listening to our conversation with the managers. They also charged $25 fee to cut a birthday cake, which, they never advised us of the fee when we asked. AND not to mention we had to point out mistakes made by the waitress on the charges that people had already paid for and haven't been deleted off the final bill. When we told the managers that we will never go back there again, never once did they apologize for their mistakes or try to correct it, he told us "good and never come back". Now I'm not a restaurant owner nor do I own my own business but I know more business etiquette and customer service more than the owners show or will ever have. I DO NOT recommend this place to anyone or my worst enemies!

Apr 14, 2011 12:11 pm
 Posted by  Carol W.

wow, couldn't disagree more with the above...my daughter and I (she lives in california) just talked about Jasmine 26 and how it was our favorite mpls. restaurant, that it has everything, excellent, creative food, a beautiful dining room, and reasonable prices. The staff is always very friendly and the service excellent. They always try very hard to accommodate my gluten free needs. My daughter agrees there is no better Asian restaurant that she knows of in Calif. We have taken many people there over the last few years and have had a great experience everytime.

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