Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Amazing Thailand

Visited on Saturday, November 15th with Jake, Allison, and Justin

Outside Amazing Thailand

Erin's Review
After a long day being a photo assistant at a wedding with Kate, I was absolutely exhausted. I was originally supposed to go out somewhere in St. Paul with Kate that night, but she ended up having to go work at her "real" job. Ben texted me during the day to ask if I wanted to go out to dinner and we decided on Broders. Unfortunately, the wait was longer than we could handle. Maybe someday we'll get there... Ben then suggested Amazing Thailand which sounded just fine to me. I basically just wanted some noodles in any form.

Inside Amazing Thailand Inside Amazing Thailand

We got there a little early and had to wait a few minutes for our table to be ready. As soon as we were seated I ordered the Jalapeno Cream Cheese Wontons because I was starving. Half of the table had decided on Pad Thai in some form for the entree. Too bad for us when someone (Allison I think?) asked if it was good and the server flat out said no. Hmmm... we quickly went about changing our order. The server said that the Pad Thai is made in a different style than most people are used to so a lot of people don't like it. Has anyone out there tried the Pad Thai at Amazing Thailand? Is it really that bad?? Since our server was so full of opinions, I asked her what she would recommend and told her I had originally wanted Pad Thai and was just looking for some comfort food. She told me to get the Pad See Iew. So I did. Jake did as well. Allison got the Spicy Noodles and Justin got the largest plate of yellow curry fried rice that I have ever seen.

Yellow Curry Fried Rice
For real. Who could eat this in one sitting??

The wontons came out soon after we ordered and were quickly devoured. They were excellent, although one that I had didn't actually have jalapenos in it. I was only slightly bitter about that.

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Wontons

My Pad See Iew was exactly what I wanted. A large plate of delicious noodles, veggies, and chicken, and egg. Pretty close to Pad Thai... I think thicker noodles might be the difference. I loved this and will probably order it instead of Pad Thai when I'm in the noodle mood at a Thai place again. Everyone else loved their meals, except for Allison. I think she just was wanting something different though, it wasn't that her meal was prepared badly. She did enjoy her cinnomon cookie martini though, so all was not lost for her.

Pad See Iew

Cinnamon Cookie Martini

I really enjoyed Amazing Thailand. It was full and bustling and the decor was interesting. I would go back... but probably won't for awhile due to the abundance of other Thai places on the list.

Ben's Review
After watching the Gophers lose horribly to the Badgers on Saturday we decided to get some dinner with Jake, Allison, and Justin. Jake and Allison live close to Broders so we were going to try to go there but we couldn't get in :( After driving back to Saint Paul to pick up Erin (who was locked out of the house), we settled for hitting up one of the many Thai places we have on the list now, from all the suggestions we got from the poll, Amazing Thailand in uptown.

There was no way in hell I was paying $13.50 to park again (I'll stop bitching about that soon I promise), so I dropped Erin off at the restaurant and drove around the block to find a spot on the street, which I did a block and a half away. Nice. Jake, Allison, and Justin also found a spot on the street not far from me.

As I walked into the restaurant I immediately noticed the cool Thai-looking decor. I don't know if the decorations were ACTUALLY Thai, but it fit the stereotype of Thailand, with gold shrines straight out of an "Indiana Jones" movie. The bar is big and full of people, it looked like a good place to hang out. The bar is square with one side being a wall and then three sides are the actual bar with a big island in the middle where all of the booze is stored.

Inside Amazing Thailand

Inside Amazing Thailand

We got seated (sat?) about five minutes after arriving as we were a little early for our reservation. I was, as usual, stumped about what to get. I recently got on a curry kick, making some Indian curry a couple weeks back and really wanting some Thai curry over rice. With a menu as big as the one at Amazing Thailand though, that seems a little bland. Although, Erin's dad will tell you that you should "get a burger when you're at a burger place", and I figure any Thai place is a "curry place." Luckily the special that night was a pumpkin curry that was served in a little pumpkin with the rice on the side that Erin convinced me to get. As usual, good advice on her part.


The curry was indeed served in a small pumpkin that I thought looked more like a squash. They initially forgot my rice side, so I was confused for a minute about what was going on, but we got it sorted out. The curry was excellent and just what I had been craving - a very runny curry with some chicken and veggies over rice. When you order your dish they ask how spicy you want it on a scale of 1-5. In typical indecisive fashion I went right down the middle with a 3. Our server told us that the numbers were "Minnesota numbers" as opposed to "Thai numbers", saying that the cooks used to make it even more spicy but they got too many complaints. A 3 was a good mix of spice while still having good flavor.

Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Curry

I thought our server was pretty cool, she even did some snooping on a table near us to see what they had ordered because it looked good. However, she steered Allison away from the pad Thai and suggested a different noodle dish instead that Allison didn't really like. Bummer for her :)

One of the best things about Thai restaurants is that you usually have enough to bring home for another meal, which was awesome. All in all, a great meal.
  • Service: Our server was great and they kept our water glasses filled.
  • Food: Excellent pumpkin curry and huge portions.
  • Drinks: Full bar with a decent beer selection. Not sure if they have happy hour specials or not.
  • Ambiance: It was busy on the Saturday night that we were there and the place had a good din.
  • Price: The prices were decent. Our bill was $50 with tax and tip which included a couple drinks and an appetizer.
  • Convenience: This is uptown so parking's a little difficult. Amazing Thailand is across Hennepin from Calhoun Square so if you go south just one block you're in a residential area where you should be able to find a free spot.
Amazing Thailand
3024 Hennepin Ave S

Highly recommended for the food and atmosphere

Sunday, November 16, 2008

jasmine 26

Visited on Thursday, November 12th with Ryan and Corlissa

jasmine 26

Ben's Review

Erin arranged to have dinner with Ryan and Corlissa last Thursday night. We ended up going to Jasmine 26, at 26th & Nicollet. Without knowing exactly where the restaurant was, I grabbed an open parking spot on Nicollet which was luckily only a block away. (I didn't want to pay $13.50 again!)

As we sat down, Ryan told us that they had Surly Bender on tap, in addition to the rest of the beers on the menu. I looked over the list and nothing called out to me, so I opted for the Bender. Our server came back a minute later and apologized, saying that they didn't actually have the Bender, it was instead Surly Furious. No apologies necessary :)

The water glasses at Jasmine 26 are tall and heavy, so when I grabbed my beer I was a little surprised at how light it seemed. I figured I was just used to the weight of the water glass and forgot about it. Throughout dinner though, I couldn't help but feel like the beer glass was NOT a real pint glass and Erin agreed. I didn't ask the server, but I have a strong suspicion that they have miniature pint glasses, maybe 12 oz. Also, there was a head of about 1.5 inches on the beer, further reducing the amount of beer I was getting. This turned out to be the only negative of the meal.

Erin and I ordered the lettuce rolls as an appetizer - these are kind of like spring rolls except they are wrapped in lettuce and tied with cilantro, I thought they were kind of cool, but a little hard to eat without looking like a fool, everything kind of falls apart as you bite in. For my entree, I was drawn to the spicy eggplant stir fry in the 'Specialty Dishes' section of the menu. I was thinking of going for the pad thai, but that seemed like a cop-out; I'm at a new place and I should try something I haven't had before.

lettuce rolls

The stir fry was excellent and big enough for lunch the next day, which seems typical of the Asian places we've been going to. We've either been splitting an entree (Tum Rup Thai), or I get another meal out of it. Although the stir fry was called 'spicy', I wouldn't have guessed it. It had a great flavor, but it didn't bite back like I would expect a spicy dish would. I also tried some of Erin's crepe, which I thought looked like a huge omelet. It was good, but I would like it to have more meat, it was mostly bean sprouts inside.

Beef something

I liked Jasmine 26, but there was nothing that would make me go back before trying other Vietnamese restaurants around town.
  • Service: We had good service, it probably helped that it wasn't very busy when we were there.
  • Food: My stir fry was great and the portions were large.
  • Drinks: Small pint glasses make you feel like you're getting cheated. The bar looked like a cool place to hang out.
  • Ambiance: I've read other reviews of Jasmine 26 when people said it was full of people. It was a little slow when we went, but I can picture the restaurant having a nice din to it when packed in on a weekend.
  • Price: Good prices, $12 for my entree that got me two meals. Beer was $5.
  • Convenience: We found a spot on Nicollet to park but I would guess it'd be a little more difficult on a weekend. Plenty of buses go down there too.
Erin's Review
My friend Ryan suggested that we join him and his girlfriend for a double date last week first because he enjoys our company, and second (and probably most importantly) because he wanted to be featured on the blog :) I told him to choose any place on the list. His choice (after one rejection from me) was jasmine 26. Sounded fine to me!


We arrived at 7:30 and the restaurant was pretty empty. I had perused the menu on the website earlier that day, but still had no clue what to order. Ryan had gotten a Thai beer (or so he said) that was pretty good, so I ordered that right away. It took us all a good long time to decide what to get because the menu is pretty extensive. The server was very friendly and attentive throughout the evening.

inside jasmine 26


The lettuce wraps were chosen by Ben as an appetizer. They were pretty good, but my preference is usually toward fried appetizers. I chose the Jasmine Crepe for my entree. The "crispy tumeric coconut crepe" tasted great, and was filled mostly with bean sprouts with a little bit of pork and shrimp. I wasn't even that hungry but I ended up eating pretty much the whole thing, so it wasn't super filling. This was exactly what I wanted for my entree, but be forewarned that if you are super hungry you might want to choose a different dish.

jasmine crepe

Ryan and Corlissa both liked their entrees. I believe they each got some variety of fried rice. Ryan commented several times that his tasted faintly like ketchup, but in a good way. So take that for what it's worth :)

The atmosphere of jasmine 26 was nice - I liked the decor and lighting. It was very date-like, which is in contrast to many of the other Vietnamese places on Nicollet. The food at some of the other places may be better (I personally liked Quang better, but I'm not exactly a connoisseur of Vietnamese food...). However, if you want to enjoy an adult beverage with your meal in a well-decorated and nicely lit room, this is a good choice. I would compare jasmine 26 to Ngon Bistro in St. Paul.

jasmine 26
8 E 26th St

for the atmosphere

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barley John's

Visited on Saturday, October 25th with the Brew 52 crew


Erin's Review
I always love a good Brew 52 meet up, so I was excited to go to Barley John's last weekend. It was a beautiful fall day, and although I was initially annoyed when I saw the group sitting outside, it ended up being just fine. Colin, the brewer at Barley John's, was nice enough to come in on his day off to go through the tasting with us. We went from light to dark, starting with the Little Barley Bitter, moving on to the Stockyard IPA, then to Old Eight Porter, and finally the Dark Night (I don't know if it is Night or Knight - it isn't listed on the website so I'll go with Night since that is what Rett put on Brew 52). Little Barley Bitter was my clear favorite, unsurprisingly, but I actually also enjoyed the IPA and Porter. I hated Dark Night - just not a fan of that type of beer at all.

Little Barley Bitter Stockyard IPA
Old Eight Porter Beer

The patio at Barley John's is very nice, even though I usually hate patios that face parking lots. I liked the patio better than the inside, which is tiny and pretty boring in terms of decor. We moved inside after the tasting to eat dinner with the siblings. They don't have many tables for groups larger than 4, so I'd recommend making a reservation if you do have a bigger group. The staff seemed quite overwhelmed with how many people were there that night, but that is likely just because of the Brew 52ers that were there - other than those people, the place would have been full but not packed.

Growing hops

Joe ordered the hummus as an appetizer, which I thought had a great habanero flavor without being overpowering and too spicy to eat. It took me quite a while to decide what to get for my main meal - Barley John's has a surprisingly large menu. I decided to go with a Beer Brat as it seemed appropriate. I loved the waffle fries that came with it, and the brat was done perfectly. My only complaint was with the bun. It was cut weirdly so the brat didn't exactly fit inside the bun, it kind of rested on top of it. Parts of the bun were also very hard, to the point that it seemed that it might have been a little stale. Because I loved the brat itself, and the sauerkraut, I will forgive the bun, but it did make the meal a little worse.

Habanero Hummus

Beer Brat

Overall, I had a great time at Barley John's - the beers were tasty and the atmosphere was very friendly. I'd recommend sticking with the sandwiches or pizzas for your meal - from what I have heard, these seem to be better than the pastas or other entrees.

Ben's Review
Rett arranged a Brew52 meet-up at Barley John's two weekends ago, so we thought we'd have dinner there as well (it doesn't take much for us to agree to order something rather than cooking). Colin, one of the brewers, was guiding the group through a sampling of four of the beers they have. Since it was a nice fall day we sat outside while we sampled the brew. It was a little windy that day, but luckily someone supplied a blanket for Erin from their car, so she was OK for the hour or so we spent out there :)

It was fun to have someone talk us through the beers, I would highly recommend getting a flight of beers if you stop by they're all good except for the current seasonal the Dark Knight - it's 13.5% alcohol and aged in bourbon barrels, I can't drink these kinds of beers, just too heavy and syrupy for my liking.

Old Eight Porter

The inside of Barley John's is small. The bar itself is about twelve feet long and there are around ten tables total. We grabbed a table with my two of my sisters, Becca and Amanda, and my brother-in-law Joe. They seemed reluctant to let us pull a fifth chair up to a four person table, but they let us as long as we didn't block the walkway. The menu is a little more than I would expect from a brewpub, although I still ended up getting the cheeseburger. Joe ordered the Habanero hummus which I thought was pretty good. Not only do they have sandwiches, burgers, and brats, but they've also got full entrees - rigatoni, beef tenderloin, etc.

Inside Barley John's

Inside Barley John's

They also have a decent selection of scotches, and they even have a scotch flight as a menu item, which is a sample of four scotches, two from column A and two from column B. I will definitely be back at some point to have the scotch flight, as that wasn't going to suffice for my meal on this night. They have a list of scotch on the website, but I feel like the menu in the restaurant had more listed.

My cheeseburger was pretty good, and it came with really good waffle fries, I love it when places don't charge extra for waffle fries - they're delicious. The burgers come pretty plain but they do have a good selection of add-ons that are fifty cents each: bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, garlic mayo, sautéed mushroom, roasted garlic (bacon was $1.75 if I remember right, yikes). Roasted garlic and garlic mayo? Oh, hells yes :)

Barley Burger 2

Our service was OK, the servers seemed to be swamped because the place was full, but even with a full house there aren't that many people. Next time I go I will be sitting at the bar to try my scotches and more beers.
  • Service: No complaints, but nothing special.
  • Food: Burger was good, hummus was good. I'd be interested to see the beef tenderloin.
  • Drinks: I'm pretty sure there is a full bar, and they have their own beers as well as a good selection of local beers that complement their beers.
  • Ambiance: I think going here in the summertime and sitting outside would be better than a cooler fall afternoon. They have hop vines that cover the patio which is a nice touch and they would look cool when they are in bloom (or whatever hops do when they are 'ready'). I didn't notice much character in the dining room and there wasn't much decor, it was pretty plain.
  • Price: Typical prices, $8-$9 for a burger, $4-5 for a beer.
  • Convenience: Barley John's is in Roseville just off of County Road D and 35W and they have a parking lot.
Barley John's Brew Pub
781 Old Highway Eight SW
New Brighton, MN

Highly recommended for the beers and casual food is pretty good as well