Restful, graceful little Rice Paper has always occupied a special place in the Twin Cities restaurant scene: It’s the favorite Vietnamese restaurant of yoga retreaters, trail hikers, anti-toxin fasters, gluten avoiders, and other ultra-healthy members of that class of svelte people who wear bamboo clothing from Denmark. So when owner An Nguyen announced plans to move her vest-pocket restaurant from cozy Linden Hills in Minneapolis to the bustling diamond-handbag district of 50th and France in Edina, everyone wondered: Would her legion fans follow her?
Boy howdy, they sure have! And they’ve brought everyone they know. A recent visit to the restaurant found lines out the door and half the menu sold out: Want the signature gossamer-light spring rolls or the perky grapefruit-and-Vietnamese-mint salad? Too bad for you. I mean, too bad for me.
Once I got over my disappointment, I found that the new Rice Paper offers lots to love: loads more tables than the old location; a tidy, affordable, and well-chosen wine list; a nice, new sake program; good Belgian beers; a cute, new version of their signature photo mural of bamboo; and food that is just what Rice Paper fans want—fresh, lively, full of herbs, and healthy as a week at Canyon Ranch. The Cloud Nine tofu appetizer is typical: delicate tofu topped with cucumber matchsticks in a zesty ginger-and-scallion sauce. The Song Huong grilled beef lettuce-wrap platter is presented with two sorts of fresh mint, two kinds of lettuce, bean sprouts, and cilantro, and as you enjoy bite after bite you might notice that you’re doing just what your doctor asked of you—namely, eating your meat as a garnish on a big plate of fresh plants. If you put in six hours on the Stair-Master earlier in the day, follow your meal with toasted-coconut ice cream. If not, know that you’ll leave Rice Paper feeling as healthy as if you’d spent your day deep-breathing with professionals. And if you’ve never heard of Rice Paper but are reading this from a cucumber-scented bath as sounds of Enya surround you, please pay attention: Your new favorite restaurant beckons.