Thursday, July 23, 2009

Azia

Visited on Monday, July 13th

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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!

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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.

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(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!

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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!

Deets
Azia
2550 Nicollet Ave S
Minneapolis

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

you two are sooo posh getting invited to these special events and such. i feel like i know a couple of celebrities!

Elizabeth J. Kaufenberg

Troy said...

Wow...that food looks really good.

shannondawn100 said...

I love this post! I read about the invitation and meal at Azia on someone else's food blog...can't remember who...and had a fleeting thought, that I wonder if Erin and Ben were invited. I would be thrilled to get an inside look like this in person! The pictures are absolutely beautiful and I am so happy for you that you got to experience this opportunity! It must be a nice break from "changing lives!"
--Shannon

Sarah said...

Hi Erin and Ben -- your pictures are amazing! It was a great night and seeing these photos makes me hungry for some Azia all over again.

It was wonderful meeting you guys, too. Happy eating!