Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Everest on Grand

Visited on Wednesday, January 14th


Ben's Review
I was leaving for Colorado last Thursday and we had bought a $25 gift card for $10 at, so we thought Everest on Grand would be a good choice for a Wednesday night dinner. I was REALLY excited for this meal, because I've been wanting rice dishes a lot lately and Erin made me wait until she had done some homework before we went, so I was starving!

Some reviews that I had read during the day mentioned that the service was poor, so as I walked in I was wary. I grew more concerned as we sat at our table with water and menus for a good five minutes before our server came over. Five minutes is actually a really long time to sit before having a server come over. Luckily that was the only issue I had. Our service after that was great, and we got our waters filled frequently. One review had also talked about the Nepali-themed interior which I thought was a bit of a stretch.


We ordered the chicken momo as an appetizer (Erin wasn't feeling the yak, but I'll try it sometime) and they were delicious, although at this point I would've eaten anything I was so damn hungry! The sauce that came with the momo was especially good. For our meal, we went with one of the combo meals, the Maasu-daal-bhaat which is a choice of one meat curry and one veggie curry. We got the chicken tikka masala for our meat option and Kabuli-chaana (a garbanzo bean curry) for our veggie choice. The combo meals come with rice and a lentil soup that we both thought was excellent.


When they first brought the food out I was concerned that we wouldn't have enough, but it turned out to be a little too much, as is usually the case. There wasn't going to be enough to be worth bringing home, so I just ate a little more of the tikka masala to make it look respectable. I loved all the food we got. Both curries were fantastic and at the medium-spicy level they were spicy enough to taste good (though I think Bill would disagree).


Also included in the combo meal is a choice of dessert. Honestly, I couldn't understand what our server said for the second option, so I just went with the first option, rice pudding. Being that I had stuffed myself on dinner I didn't have much of the rice pudding, but it was good and it was a nice contrast from the spicy food we had just eaten.

I give Everest on Grand two thumbs up and I'll definitely go back try some more of their curries.
  • Service: Service was good, after the initial delay.
  • Food: Excellent curries and lentil soup. I love this kind of food.
  • Drinks: They have a small but varied beer selection, which was nice. All the beers were bottled.
  • Ambiance: Everest on Grand is not a large place, so it feels intimate. There were also a few children there, and it seemed to be kid-friendly.
  • Price: I think that if we didn't have the gift card we wouldn't have spent the couple bucks extra for the combo meal. The regular meals are around $9, which I think is a great deal for the food you get.
  • Convenience: Everest on Grand is located, amazingly enough, on Grand Ave. in Saint Paul. Bus lines and on on-street parking abound.


Erin's Review
As you may recall (although I've tried to block it from my memory completely) it was approximately -30 degrees last Wednesday. Going outside really wasn't one of my top priorities, but we've had the Everest on Grand gift certificate burning a hole in our pockets for awhile now and I had promised Ben that we'd go last Wednesday. After doing some homework, we got to the restaurant at about 7:30pm, and were one of a few tables there. The atmosphere in Everest on Grand is very very casual, with bright lights and a colorful interior.


After waiting what sure felt longer than 5 minutes to me, our server finally came over and was actually quite friendly and helpful. In order to warm up somewhat, I immediately ordered a Kaalo Chaya tea which was spicy and delicious. I could have used some sugar but there was none on our table and I was too busy trying to regain feeling in my toes to care that much.


Ben already said what we got for food. My favorite part of the whole meal was the daal - it was so tasty! I will definitely be trying my hand at making a similar soup at home. I am really not a fan of spicy food at all - I don't mind a little bit of spice, but if it at all is making my tongue lose feeling, I'm not interested. The daal wasn't spicy at all, so it was great to be able to have that to eat in between bites of our more spicy entrees. The medium level of spice was just a little too much for me. I know, I'm a wuss.

I loved the chicken tikka masala - I don't think I've ever eaten this dish before (GASP! The horror). The garbanzo bean curry was also fabulous. There was some other thing that was brought out that was pretty tasty. I had no idea what it was. According to the online menu, it must have been achaar, which apparently means pickle. It was actually guessing it was some kind of cold potato salad, so I was WAY off.



I drank approximately one gallon of water during dinner and my water glass was never empty. The service was great after the waitress finally came over. While I was in the bathroom, Ben ordered the rice pudding for dessert. Another thing I don't think I have ever eaten. I liked it a lot, if only as a respite from the spiciness of the meal.


Everest on Grand was great - I'd love to go back and get a big bowl of daal and some of the garlic naan... or any of the other entrees because they all sounded delicious!


Everest on Grand
1278 Grand Ave
Saint Paul, MN

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mai Village

Visited on Friday, January 2nd with Chelsea

Outside of Mai Village

Erin's Review
Between Christmas and New Years, I was in Anaheim, California for work. It was a pretty exhausting trip, and I got home at about 1am early Friday morning. After sleeping in and lounging around the house all day, my friend Chelsea came over to return my car that she'd been using while she was in town (oh, and to hang out with me too I suppose). We sat around for awhile, but after a few hours, the hunger pangs couldn't be ignored. I had eaten out for a week straight, so really was in no mood to go out again, but the food in the house didn't really lend itself to a meal that could be easily prepared. We sat around for a good long time avoiding the decision, until I decided that what I was really sick of was greasy unhealthy food. Vietnamese seemed like a great option where I could have something reasonably healthy that was not like the food I had been eating the whole week. Plus, it is always pretty affordable, which is crucial right after all the holiday spending.

Walking in

I was very surprised when we got to Mai Village - I expected it to be kind of a dive, but it was very nice. It is a pretty large space too, and was fairly crowded last Friday, despite the frigid temps outside. We were seated right away, and I faced more indecision as I tried to figure out what to order. Initially I was thinking of some sort of soup, and what I wanted was the soup that Kate had when we went to Ngon. I didn't see anything that sounded exactly like that, so I finally made the split second decision to get the shrimp noodle salad when the waitress was taking our order.

Inside Mai Village


The salad was actually quite good, but could have benefited from 2-3 more shrimp. My meal was about 30% more expensive than Ben's, but yet I got about 50% less meat. I know shrimp is more expensive than chicken but ... a few more would have been nice. Other than that, the salad was tasty and was a great light meal after all of the heavy food I had eaten on my trip. I had a few bites of Chelsea's beef and broccoli which tasted pretty standard.

Shrimp Rice Salad

Beef and Broccoli

I enjoyed Mai Village - it is beautifully decorated, and the service was good. I did like Ngon more, I think because our server there was great and I liked the food slightly better than at Mai Village. Both places would be great for dates and are probably a little more upscale feeling than others on University. I do want to try many more of the Vietnamese places in the area before going back to either Ngon or Mai Village. If you have any recommendations (that aren't already on the list) please comment!

Ben's Review
After MUCH deliberation about what to do for dinner (should we stay in? should we order pizza for delivery? Chinese? go out?) Erin made the call that she wanted Vietnamese food. I had heard about Mai Village several times, and it was nearby, so off we went with our friend Chelsea who was in town for the holidays.

On the way to Mai Village I think we probably passed about six other Vietnamese places that should probably be on our list, we'll have to find all the ones along University and check them out. I dropped Erin and Chelsea off at the door and then went in search of a parking spot, realizing afterward that there is a parking lot out back :) I found a spot on the street that was just as close, so no big deal this time.

Right as you walk into Mai Village you are greeted with a small wooden bridge that crosses a pond filled with what look like very exotic fish. I loved the interior of the rest of the restaurant as well. I don't know if this is authentic Vietnamese decorating, but it looks cool regardless; just look at the pictures and you'll see what I mean.


Mai Village Decor

Inside Mai Village

I found Erin and Chelsea at their table as they had already been seated - no wait for us on this night! Even though there are many tables the place was nearly full, I only noticed a couple open tables. When the server came over to take our drink orders, I asked what they had on tap. She started rattling off the list of their tap beers, starting with Summit EPA, and went through the rest of the list. I ordered a Summit EPA, the first one she had said and Erin rolled her eyes at me. I didn't want to order the Summit without hearing the rest of the list! Who knows what gem I could have missed by making a rash decision?? I love Summit, but I view it as a standard beer in Minnesota restaurants, I can get it nearly everywhere we go. Instead I like to hear the whole list and then immediately fall back to Summit if nothing else of interest comes up, as was the case at Mai Village. I got a tall Summit, which was indeed tall, it was a 22oz. glass.

For once, it didn't actually take me much time to decide what I wanted, in spite of the large menu. I hadn't had a Vietnamese noodle salad in awhile so I knew I would get that, the only decision was grilled chicken or sauteed chicken. Tonight, it was the sauteed chicken and it was a good choice.

Sauteed Chicken Rice Salad

They serve the noodle salads in comically large bowls, but it's nice because you can mix your salad together without worrying about spilling anything. After a splash of fish sauce my noodle salad was fantastic, as I would expect from any Vietnamese place. I've decided that I want to try making a chicken noodle salad at home. It really can't be that hard, there are rice noodles, chopped cucumber, grated carrot, sauteed chicken, and fish sauce. We might even have all those ingredients in the kitchen right now. I figure if I can have enough noodle salads at home, I'll be more inclined to try more adventurous dishes at the next Vietnamese place we try. Until then, noodle salads it is!
  • Service: Great service, no complaints for our simple meal.
  • Food: I loved my noodle salad, Erin wished she had gotten more shrimp :(.
  • Drinks: They have a lot of beer on tap, but Summit was the most interesting, I thought. Pretty sure they have a full bar.
  • Ambiance: The interior decorating and the pond with the fish make this a fun place to eat.
  • Price: Prices were great, I think my noodle salad was $8-$9. I don't recall what the beer cost, but our bill was right around $20 before tip.
  • Convenience: Parking out back and a couple bus routes on University make it pretty easy to get to.
Mai Village (no working website that I could find)
394 University Ave W
St. Paul, MN

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cafe Maude

Visited on Monday, December 22nd with Erin's family and Jono

Cafe Maude

Ben's Review

On the way to Erin's birthday dinner at Cafe Maude we were trying to find a bar to kill some time at before our reservations with Erin's family. Unfortunately, that area of south Minneapolis is seemingly devoid of bars, so instead we crashed at Jake and Allison's house, who luckily live about six blocks from Cafe Maude, for a drink before dinner.

We got to Cafe Maude around 7:30 on a Monday night. I had barely been able to get reservations, even on a Monday. Jake and Allison told us that it was very busy there, nearly all the time, and it was indeed full when we arrived. Erin's family had already been seated towards the back right of the restaurant. The inside of Cafe Maude was very contemporary looking, I think they've done a great job of designing and decorating. I was really amazed at how full this place was on a Monday night, when all you are hearing about is the dire economy, clearly people are still willing to spend money at popular restaurants.

Inside Cafe Maude
(taken when we left so many tables had cleared out)

It was a little loud that night, I don't know if it's normally like that, but I found it a little difficult to hear the conversation and the server misheard my beer order (they have Bell's Two Hearted on tap, nice). There are several items on the menu that looked good, especially the Grilled Hangar Steak (Erin's sister Liz got that), but I went with just a grilled hamburger with mozzarella cheese, they didn't have cheddar that night, (which seemed really strange), and garlic aoili on the side. The burger was $9 to begin with and they ding you for each topping, even $1 for onions and the garlic aoili. Since the burger is a la carte I also got an order of the house fries to share with the table.

Burger with Mozzarella and Garlic Aioli

Fries with Truffle Fontina Fondue

My burger was really good, and the fries were OK. With the fries there were certainly enough to share, we didn't even finish them all. While the burger was good, and they cooked it medium as requested, I almost liked Erin's mac & cheese better. In hindsight, I probably should have tried something that was a little more exotic than a burger - I mean, you can get a burger anyplace and now that I look at the menu again, the roasted chicken or the green curry would have been interesting dishes to try. Oh well, maybe we'll be back sometime.

  • Service: Our service was good, our server knew how to make sure everyone was taken care of, in spite of how busy it was.
  • Food: Excellent food and a diverse menu has something for everyone.
  • Drinks: They have a full bar at Cafe Maude and a big list of specialty martinis and cocktails. Small tap beer list but they have Bell's and Surly.
  • Ambiance: There was a loud ambiance when we were there and the place definitely has a buzz to it. Almost all the media I read say it's very popular and it feels that way when you are there.
  • Price: Prices are a little on the high side - not that it's a bad deal, but it's going to cost a little more than a casual restaurant.
  • Convenience: Located on Penn & 54th St., there must be buses on Penn and they have a small parking lot.

Erin's Review
We always go out for dinner with my family for birthdays, and this year I was kind of agonizing about the choice of restaurant. Last year at this time, we weren't doing the blog yet, but now I felt a lot of pressure to pick a good place and make sure it would be enjoyed by everyone. Since I had read so many rave reviews of Cafe Maude all over the internet, I figured it was a pretty safe bet. Because December was such a busy month, I didn't end up making a final decision until the day we went - luckily we were able to get a table.

When driving by Cafe Maude, you would never expect it to be such a nice place. It is in a tiny strip mall next to a hardware store on 54th and Penn. Once you walk in, it is nicely decorated and bustling with modern art on the walls. Our table was a booth behind the bar. The tables are packed in pretty close together, but I didn't feel like we were listening in on our neighbor's conversations or anything.

Cafe Maude artwork
(artwork at Cafe Maude)

Since we had just stopped for a drink at Jake and Allison's, we heard a little bit about what they liked about the place. Allison recommended the Blackberry Martini (called the Natasha on their menu) so I went ahead and ordered that. It came out quickly and was delicious. Delicious to me means that it didn't taste like alcohol, so for people who enjoy stiff drinks, don't order this one.


I had spent a good amount of time reading reviews, and I was intrigued by a few of the dishes that I had read about. I knew that I for sure wanted to try the Tuscan Rice and Parmasean Croquettes, and decided I also wanted the Mac and Cheese. My mom agreed to split these two items with me. I thought both of these were fantastic! The mac and cheese was perfectly creamy with just a few breadcrumbs and wasn't grainy at all. The croquettes were creamy as well and had a nice crusty shell. I also had several of the fries and I loved them - I thought they were perfectly crispy without being too crunchy, and I loved the fontina fondue they came with.

Maude's Mac and Cheese

Tuscan Rice and Parmasean Croquettes

Tuscan Rice and Parmasean Croquettes

Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well. My dad probably the least of everyone, he had the sauteed blue prawns and thought they were just okay. Liz had the steak and mashers and rings which looked great. Jono had the nicoise olive chicken, which I tried and thought was pretty good. It had a ton of stuff on the top of it which made it difficult to eat - it looked more like a salad than flatbread.

Sauteed Blue Prawns

Grilled Hangar Steak

Mashers and Rings

Nicoise Olive Chicken Flatbread

Being my birthday, I decided I deserved a dessert. None of the desserts actually were sounding that awesome to me, but I ended up choosing the lemon cheesecake which was good. Nothing that blew me away, but good. It could just be that I wasn't in a dessert mood that night.

Lemon Cheesecake

I loved Cafe Maude and really want to come back during the day to try breakfast or brunch. The food that I had was great, and the ambiance of the restaurant was perfect for a small group or a date.

Cafe Maude
5411 Penn Ave South