Thursday, July 23, 2009


Visited on Monday, July 13th




Ben's Review
A couple weeks ago, Erin and I received an invitation to attend a dinner with other local bloggers from Thom Pham, the owner of Azia and other area restaurants. We agreed, but weren't really sure what to expect, without knowing who else had been invited, or even how many people would be there.

It turned out to be a fairly small group of people - eight bloggers/guests and three of Thom's associates for cocktails and food at the Caterpillar Lounge, which is adjacent to Azia. We arrived and were brought to the bar in the Caterpillar by the hostess and were greeted by Nick, who does marketing for Thom, and he got us squared away with something to drink. In spite of the extensive list of specialty martinis I went with a normal half vodka, half gin martini (which was excellent) and Erin got some fruity concoction the bartender put together that looked delicious.

As other people started to arrive I was a little jealous that I hadn't gotten a fancier drink - several of them were served with dry ice that made the drinks appear to be smoking, it was a really cool effect. We enjoyed conversation as more people, including Thom, arrived and got drinks. Thom is a gracious host and an interesting person to talk with, he has a great story to tell of his arrival in Minnesota and starting several restaurants.



After everyone arrived they brought out appetizers in the bar. We helped ourselves to a great spread of food. There were these squash pot stickers that were fantastic as well as meat skewers, some sushi, and a couple other items that escape me at this point (I should have written this earlier). Everyone sat at the small bar tables in the back of the Caterpillar Lounge and talked while we ate. The food was excellent, everyone seemed to be having a great time.


When everyone had filled up on the appetizers, we were then moved into the dining area of the Caterpillar where were seated for a meal of family style items, some from the Azia menu and some new items as well. The invitation had said "heavy appetizers" but this was a full on meal with wine and several desserts. There were four or five main dishes that were passed around the table. I think my favorite was a tie between the Shanghai noodles, which was similar to pad thai but with very thin "cellophane" noodles, and the basil & jalapeno walleye. I was skeptical of the walleye at first, but it was absolutely delicious.


(Cranberry Curry - another winner)

After we ate Thom gave us a tour of Azia and described what it looked like when moved in (the pressed tin ceilings were covered by a dropped ceiling!) and how the corner used to be full of drug dealers, but it has now been transformed into a hip area that people love to come to. There is also a third restaurant, on the other side of Azia, the Anemoni sushi bar. They have a cool boat in the front corner of the restaurant with a table inside that I'd like to eat at someday :) He said that from any of the three restaurants you can order anything from any menu, which is great because you can choose the kind of vibe you want for the night, without having to sacrifice any of your meal options.



We only stayed a few minutes after the tour finished as it was after 9pm by this point on a Monday night and we're lame like that. The food and experience went WAY above the expectations I'd had for the night and it turned out to be a really fun night, I had a great time.

Erin's Review
When Ben told me we'd been invited to a "cocktail/appetizer" event at Azia by chef Thom Pham, I honestly thought it would be pretty lame. Even that night we weren't that excited to go, as we had no clue who else would be there or what the event would be like. Well, to put it mildly, this event FAR exceeded both of our low expectations! We were the first to arrive, and were greeted graciously by the host and the bartender. Nick the marketing guy, and Ryan (I think?) the manager of the restaurant made sure we got drinks right away. I asked for "something fruity" and was blown away by what I got! I can't remember what was it in, except for blackberry puree. It was definitely delicious!


A few other people showed up - bloggers from twin cities eats, The Food Court, and The Bloated Belly. It was really awesome to finally meet these people in person after reading their blogs for awhile! We had some great conversations about our various blogging experiences :)

After a bit of mingling we got some appetizers. I, of course, headed straight for the wontons. As with most things on Azia's menu, there was a twist to them - cranberry. YUM! These were absolutely delicious and one of my favorite things that I had all night. We chowed down for awhile, and I was already pretty much full... and then we moved on to dinner.


(My second fruity drink - complete with edible flower :)

We were all seated and got to try a number of Azia's dishes - I really loved the Sea Bass, which was served with squash, and the walleye with jalapeno basil cream sauce. Those were the two standouts to me, but honestly I was too full to really give any of the dishes justice, unfortunately! To top it all off, we then got dessert, the almond joy and some sort of banana something or other. I was a little meh about each of these - they were good, but nothing that blew me away. That was fine though - I'd definitely enjoyed enough!





This was an excellent event, and I'm so glad it finally got us out there to try Azia. We will definitely need to come back to try it on our own - I want to go to the sushi bar specifically. I loved the vibe in Azia - they have a number of sections - the lounge and sushi bar definitely feel more cozy than the huge main dining room, but the dining room is beautiful so it makes up for the hugeness. It seems like it would be a great place for a fun night out - albeit a slightly expensive one! Monday night wasn't exactly hopping, so when we go back I want to see what it's like on a weekend. Also a bonus - the kitchens of all 3 places are open until 2am!

2550 Nicollet Ave S

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zumbro Cafe

Visited on Sunday, July 5th

Zumbro Cafe

Erin's Review
Since it had been exactly one month since we went to the last restaurant on our list, we made it a point to go somewhere new this past weekend! The weather was beautiful on Sunday, so we decided to make the trek over to South Minneapolis and do a walk around Lake Harriet followed by brunch at Zumbro Cafe in Linden Hills.

Lake Harriet

After the grueling walk around the lake, we were both starving. The crowd outside Zumbro didn't look promising, but luckily when I walked in, there was a table for 2 inside that no one wanted :) Zumbro Cafe is a very cute place - not a lot of decor, but it's clean, cozy, and friendly.

Inside Zumbro

The pancakes were calling my name that morning, which is pretty rare for me. I chose the "Butters" option as opposed to the 2 probably much healthier options of Buckwheat Wild Rice and Cornmeal. They were delicious! You could definitely taste the hint of cinnamon. I also got the fresh squeezed orange juice, which hit the spot.

Fresh Squeezed OJ

Buttermilk Pancakes

My one bite of Ben's frittata was also wonderful. He also helped polish off my pancakes, so I know he enjoyed those as well :) South Minneapolis is a long haul from us in St. Paul, so it's doubtful we'll go back to Zumbro, but I'd definitely hit this place up for breakfast if you're in the area!

Ben's Review
It has been far too long since we had gone out to one of our restaurants, so we planned to go out for breakfast on Sunday morning. We also had several places in south Minneapolis on our list, so we went for a walk around Lake Harriet and then headed over to Zumbro Cafe in Linden Hills for brunch. Fun fact: Zumbro Cafe is the last restaurant on our list, and will likely always be last :)

We rolled up to Zumbro Cafe around 11:45 on Sunday morning and I got worried as I dropped Erin off that there would be a long wait, due to all the people milling about outside. I went and parked the car and came back to the restaurant to find Erin already sitting at a table. Turns out most people were waiting for a spot on the porch side of the restaurant, but we weren't that picky this morning so we got sat right away.


The interior ambiance of Zumbro Cafe reminded me of the Egg & I in uptown, with a fancier feel to it. The tables are close enough together so you can hear your neighbors conversations and the decoration and outside porch are similar, however there are less piercings and no clear glass coffee mugs :)

The laminated menus are relatively small (both sides of a single sheet), but they feature most breakfast options you would expect. I went with the Zumbro frittatas with the bacon and cheese option. I also added fresh spinach, which turned out to be a good choice. The frittata was large, about eight inches across, and loaded with bacon, havarti cheese and spinach. My meal also came with some roasted potatoes with green onions and sourdough toast. The potatoes were especially good, I loved the green onions and it tasted like they were cooked in some olive oil.

Havarti Bacon Spinach Frittata

The first cup of coffee I had was really good, I even made Erin try some. The second cup, however, tasted a little funny, almost like the cream had gone a little bad, but it was the same cream I had used in the first cup. It's possible that the coffee was getting a little old, I'm not sure if that would cause the taste I had, but something seemed off.


Overall I liked Zumbro Cafe a lot and I would recommend them for a weekend brunch, the service and food are both great.
  • Service: Good service, no issues even though it was busy.
  • Food: Excellent food and they use local, organic ingredients if you care about that sort of thing.
  • Drinks: The menu doesn't have any alcohol, but they do have an espresso bar.
  • Ambiance: There was good ambiance because it's a small place that was full of people in good spirits.
  • Price: Prices were in line with other breakfast places, especially considering that they use organic ingredients. My frittata was $8.75.
  • Convenience: I might be off the mark here, but it seems like going to the Linden Hills area is always kind of a pain. It's not near any freeway, and there's no decent road that cuts through the neighborhood, so I would say it's a bit inconvenient. We went on a Sunday, so we weren't in a hurry anyways.
The Zumbro Cafe
2803 Upton Ave S.