May 062012

Cuisine: Asian Variety, Chinese, Thai
Restaurant Features: Bar, Gluten-Free Menu
Locations: Edina, Minnetonka and Roseville
Addresses and Maps:
Roseville (Rosedale Center) – 1705 Highway 36 West  Roseville, MN 55113 (651) 636-7173
Edina – 3669 Galleria Edina, MN 55435 (952) 928-7888
Minnetonka (Ridgedale Center)-  12649 Wayzata Blvd Minnetonka, MN 55305 (952) 797-9888
Hours:Mon-Thurs 11am-9:30pm * Fri-Sat 11am-10pm * Sun 11:30am-9pm
Links: Big Bowl Website * Big Bowl Facebook PageGoogle Map

Atmosphere: There are several Big Bowl locations in the areas of Minneapolis and Chicago.  The Roseville location is found inside Rosedale Center on the same side of the mall as AMC Theaters, Granite City and Flame. The dining room is big and decorated with a contemporary Asian flair.  There are tables in various shapes and sizes, as well as booths along the outer walls.  There is also a bar area to the left of the entrance.

Menu: Appetizers include Chicken Potstickers, Veggie Potstickers, Chicken Dumplings, Veggie Dumplings, Spicy Sichuan Green Beans, Crispy Garlic Tofu, Grilled Chicken Satay, Chicken and Shrimp Eggroll,  Barbeque Spareribs, Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps, Thai Herb Calamari, Spicy Sichuan Eggplant, and Summer Rolls (Chicken, shrimp or Veggie).

Soups and Salads include Dumpling Noodle Soup, Vietnamese Noodle Soup (Pho), Chinese Hot & Sour Soup, Tom Yum Shrimp Soup, Spicy Sesame Peanut Noodles, House Mixed Salad Greens, Asian Chicken Salad, Mandarin Chicken Salad, and Lucky 8 Vegetables & Tofu.

Chinese Chicken dishes include Kung Pao, Ginger Chicken, Spicy Cashew, Orange, and Sesame Chicken.  Beef Dishes include Kung Pao, Spicy Sichuan Beef, Beef & Broccoli, Mongolian Beef, and Seven Flavor Crispy Beef.  Seafood Dishes include Sweet Ginger Sea Scallops & Shrimp, Shanghai Shrimp & Scallops, Teriyaki Glazed Salmon, and Black Pepper Scallops.

Fried Rice options include Teriyaki Chicken, Teriyaki Shrimp, and Barbeque Pork.  There is also an Unfried Jasmine Rice dish.  Chinese Noodle Dishes include Kung Pao Tofu and Spinach, Kung Pao Chicken and Noodles, Steak & Noodles, and Sichuan Pork Belly with Noodles.

Thai Specialties include Red Hot Pepper Chicken Noodles, Thai Hot Pepper Chicken (or Shrimp) with Basil & Peanuts, Bangkok Shrimp & Scallops and Thai Shrimp Fried Rice.  Pad Thai is Big Bowl’s signature dish, try it with Vegetables/Tofu, Chicken, Shrimp or Salmon.  Big Bowl also has a make-it-yourself Stir-Fry bar option.  You choose your vegetables, meat, sauce, and noodles and they will cook it for you.

There are also a number of Curries including  Spicy Thai Green Vegetable Curry, Yellow Curry Vegetables, Yellow Curry Chicken with Sweet Green Beans, and Claypot Shrimp Panang, and Claypot Panang Curry Chicken.

Big Bowl also offers a Gluten-Free Menu, which includes many of the above items.

Desserts include Coconut Tapioca Pudding, Mango Cheesecake, Honey Apple Crisp, Homemade Double Chocolate Brownie, Lucky Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, and Mochi of the Moment (ice cream and sweet rice).
Price guide: Appetizers $5-7 Entrees $12-18

What we ordered: We started with a round of drinks, I had a Mai Tai, with a traditional mix of light and dark rum, pineapple and lime juices.  Delicious, albeit on the short side.

Later I tried a Margarita, a mix of Sauza white tequila, cointreau, and Yuzu sour.

One of my companions ordered the Ginger Jameson, made with fresh Ginger.

One of us had the Red Sangria

Another companion had the Passion Fruit White Sangria.

For the inconvenience of seating out party of twelve at two different tables, they sent out some complimentary appetizers, including these Steamed Veggie Dumplings ($5.95) served in the house soy-ginger sauce.  The order came with five plump dumplings.

We also tried the Pork Potstickers ($5.95), which also came with five in the order.  These were pan fried to give them a crispy, golden brown crust.  They were served with the soy-ginger sauce, hot mustard and sweet plum sauce for dipping.

For my entree I asked for a recommendation of something spicy and the server suggested the Claypot Chicken Panang Curry ($12.95), so that is what I ended up ordering.  The base of this dish was the delicious, thick peanut-coconut curry, stuffed with pieces of all natural white meat chicken, red bell pepper and snow pea pods.  It had a lot of flavor but only a slight kick to it as far as spice goes.

One of my companions ordered the Pad Thai with Pork ($12.95).  This was a big pile of rice noodles, stir fried with big pieces of barbeque pork, basil, eggs, bean sprouts, peanuts and fresh lemon and herbs.  It looked and smelled great!

One of my companions had the Mongolian Beef ($14.95), a traditional Chinese dish with big tender chunks of beef, shitake and button mushrooms, shredded carrot and green onions in a sauce made with hoisin and soy.

Another companion had the Veggie Stir Fry with tofu, broccoli, green beans, carrots, peppers and onions with Chinese rice noodles.

For dessert we shared a Double Chocolate Lava Brownie

Service: Our visit to Big Bowl was on a busy Saturday night, with a reservation for 12 people made a month in advance.  We had to wait 30 minutes past the reservation time before they could arrange space for us.  When we were seated, they put four of us in a booth and the other eight were seated at two nearby tables that had been put together.  It was very awkward and completely separated our party into two.  For this “inconvenience” they brought us complimentary appetizers.  While we were sitting, the hostess had sat a table fo two at the booth next to ours and three minutes later another employee came rushing over to their table where we overheard her telling that could sitting there that they had to be moved, that that particular table was reserved for someone else and they didn’t seem very apologetic about it. My companions and I were appalled by it. As for the rest of our service, drinks took some time coming from the bar but once we put in our dinner orders, they didn’t seem to take any longer for our party of twelve than it would’ve for a much smaller group.
Overall Impression: This was my second time ever visiting Big Bowl, the first was about five years ago.  Big Bowl is a chain restaurant that prides themselves on using fresh ingredients sourced locally and naturally raised meats.  I liked the fresh ingredients and overall our food was pretty good but the service was less than stellar.  I personally won’t be rushing back anytime soon.
Big Bowl on Urbanspoon

Jan 082012

Cuisine: Asian, Mongolian
Restaurant Features: Bar, Lunch Buffet, Dinner Buffet, On-Site Parking
Locations: Coon Rapids,  Richfield, Roseville
Addresses and Maps:
Coon Rapids– 2085 Northdale Blvd NW Coon Rapids, MN 55433 (763) 767-3018
Richfield– 500 E 78th St Richfield, MN 55423 (612) 861-7991
Roseville- 2720 Snelling Ave N. Roseville, MN 55113 (651) 631-3398

Hours: Daily 11am-9pm

Atmosphere: At the Roseville location there are several small dining areas situated around the restaurant, which are made a little more private with the creative use of live plants.  The dining areas all surround the centrally-located meat and vegetable buffets.  All seating is limited to tables, but there is at least one dining space that allows for tables to be pushed together for larger parties.

Within the restaurant there is a small bar area to accommodate patrons who may have to wait for a table on a busy night, or for those who would like to try one of the specialty tropical drinks or wines.

Menu: The concept of Khan’s is one that allows diners to customize their own stir-fry dishes.  Guests choose from a buffet containing a variety of sliced frozen meats (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, shrimp and imitation crab).  You take a bowl, fill it with the meats and noodles of your choosing, and then move down to the vegetable line where you can choose from a large selection of fresh vegetables to be used in your custom stir-fry.

After filling your bowl with your preferred meats and vegetables, you then add sauces to flavor your stir-fry, such as Garlic Sauce, Cooking Wine, House Sauce, Dragon Sauce, Teriyaki, Curry, Lobster Sauce.  There is a sign over the sauce bar that suggests which sauces and flavorings you should choose, depending on how spicy you would like it.  After you have your bowl filled with meats, noodle, vegetables and sauces, you take it to the Barbeque Area, where  your stir-fry is cooked right in front of you.

Price guide: Lunch (1 bowl) $10  Dinner (unlimited bowls) $14

What we ordered: It is true, Khan’s has changed their appetizer.  Each table now receives a plate of crispy fried wonton chips with a sauce that is a combo of sweet, sour, spicy and garlicy.  They are great but I miss the chicken wing and hot and sour soup that it used to come with.

At first it may seem overwhelming what to include in your stir fry but I have been to Khan’s enough to have my combination down.  I always get beef and the very fine noodles at the bottom of my bowl.  For my veggies I get broccoli, purple cabbage, onions, bok choy, bean sprouts, pineapple, zucchini, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms and a ton of fresh cilantro.  Its the sauces that can get tricky and impact the flavor of your stir fry.  I like sweet, savory and spicy all together so I usually follow the recipe for the spicy and add a scoop of garlic, fresh jalapenos, chili oil, teriyaki, and Thai peanut sauce.  Yum!

My companion made a stir fry that had beef, lamb, shrimp, noodles, mushrooms, bok-choy, green pepper, water chestnuts, crushed red pepper, garlic, and curry.  Much more savory than my dish and quite spicy. Very good!

Service: I have eaten at Khan’s a handful of times each year for the past decade and while they once had very good service, the service at the Roseville location has really gone downhill this past year.  On this particular visit we especially had bad service from the moment we arrived.  There is a big sign that says “please wait to be seated” but there wasn’t a host present and we waited several minutes before someone acknowledged us.  Once we were finally seated, we had to wait several more minutes before seeing our server and then it was an even longer wait before initial drinks as well as refills were brought to the table.   On most visits a server will ask us if we have been to Khan’s before so they can explain the procedure.  On this particular visit, our server did not ask us this.  I can imagine that if we had not been to Khan’s before, we still would have figured it out but its easy to see that newbies might not know how it works.  We went ahead and got in the buffet line fast and efficiently since we both know exactly what we want.  Sometimes Khan’s will have someone available to offer help with sauces, but not on this visit.  The line for the Barbeque goes rather quickly.  We sat down and started enjoying our dinner but then the server brought our check out to us before we had finished our first plates!  I thought this was strange, but I guess I would rather have it now than wait forever later.  I haven’t had anyone to help me with my sauces in the last 2-3 visits either.
Overall Impression: I go to Khan’s for the food and definitely not for the service! The make-your-own stir fry at Khan’s can be varied thousands of ways, depending on what combination of ingredients and sauces you use.  Be prepared because it can take some time to create the stir-fry to your liking, at least it did for me. If you’re lucky, there may be an employee helping customers with their sauces.
Khan's Mongolian Barbeque on Urbanspoon
Khan's Mongolian Barbeque on Urbanspoon

May 122011

Cuisine: Japanese, Seafood, Sushi
Restaurant Features: AYCE Lunch Buffet, Bar, On-Site Parking
Location: Maplewood, MN
Addresses & Maps:

Coon Rapids– 12580 Riverdale Boulevard NW, Suite 101, Coon Rapids, MN 55448(763) 421-3356
Maplewood– 1900 County Road D East  #140    Maplewood, MN 55109 (651) 773 – 5258
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-2:30 4:30-10pm  * Fri-Sat 11am-11pm * Sun 11am-9pm
Links: Osaka Website *

Atmosphere: The Osaka location in Maplewood is inside a strip-mall across from Maplewood Mall and Toys R Us.  The inside of Osaka is much bigger inside than it looks from the outside.  There are several different dining areas, including the sushi bar  which is just behind the buffet.  This room has several booths in addition to seating at the bar.  Several Asian-Style lanterns hang from the ceiling, creating a cute look.

The bar area also has booths.

Osaka also has a room full of Hibachi tables. Get a party together and make a reservation!

The buffets at Osaka are set up in a central area near the sushi bar. All sushi and cold items are on the right side, hot items are on the left.  At the end of the hot items there is a cook manning a hibachi grill, with chicken, shrimp or beef to-order.  There is also another large dining room beyond the buffet to the left.

Menu: Seafood Appetizers include Yellowtail Jalapeno, Mago Lobster Tartar, Nigiri Appetizer, Sashimi Appetizer, Salmon & Salmon Roe, Tuna Dumplings, Jelly Fish and Spicy Scallop Tatasu.  Hot appetizers include edamame, squid yaki, Pork Gyoza, Beef Negimaki, Yakitori, Salt and Pepper Calamari, Shrimp Tempura, Vegetable Tempura, Tempura Combo.

Salads include Garden, Seaweed Salad, and Kani.  Soup options include Miso, Onion, and Dobin.

Sashimi and Nigiri sold a La Carte include Tuna (Maguro), Fatty Tuna (Toro), Spicy Tuna, Yellowtail (Hamachi), Shrimp (Ebi), Salmon (Sake), Smoked Salmon (Sake Kunsei), Salmon Roe (Ikura), Flounder (Hirame), Flying Fish Roe (Tobiko), Eel (Unagi), Scallop (Kaibashira), Red Sweet Shrimp (Ama Ebi), Egg Custard (Tamago), Crab Stick (Kani), Mackeral (Saba), Surf Clam (Mirugai), Sea Urchin (Uni), Squid (Ika), King Crab, Octopus (Tako), and Super White Tuna (Mutsu).

Maki and Tamaki Rolls include Acocado, Kappa Maki, Avocado Asparagus and Cucumber, Boston (shrimp, cucumber, lettuce and spicy mayo), Shrimp Tempura Roll, Philly Roll, Spicy Snow Crab, Lobster and Avocado, King Crab and Avocado, Dragon (smoked eel and cucumber), Spider (deep fried soft shell crab), Alaskan (salmon, avocado, cucumber), Rainbow, Tuna, Salmon, Spicy Salmon, Spicy Yellowtail, Spicy White Tuna, Tuna and Avocado, Salmon and Avocado, Futomaki (japanese vegetable), and Spciy Blue Crab Roll.

Specialty rolls include *Osaka (cucumber, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, crab meat and tobiko), *Scorpion (shrimp tempura, soft shell crab, crab, asparagus rolled in crunchy flakes), *Sumo (spicy tuna, avocado and cucumber), *Tom’s (shrimp, asparagus, crunchy flakes with spicy tuna on outside), *Sayuri (Spicy tuna inside with tuna and avocado outside), Spicy Girl (shrimp tempura and avocado with lobster salad on outside), *Christmas (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and avocado), *Winter (tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado), *No-9 (shrimp tempura with salmon and avocado with spicy mayo and eel, *Osaka Dragon (shrimp tempura, avocado, spicy tuna and papaya), *Lisa Crunch (shrimp tempura, cream cheese and avocado), *Black Dragon (lobster and avocado with eel, avocado and tobiko with eel sauce), *Crazy (eel, crab stick, salmon and asparagus inside with salmon, salmon roe and avocado outside), *OC (spicy salmon and crunchy flakes inside with salmon, avocado and salmon roe outside) and the *Halloween Roll (spicy scallop and avocado inside and tuna, salmon, tobiko and spicy mayo outside).

Traditional Entrees include Teriyaki (chicken, beef, salmon or shrimp), Tempura (vegetable, shrimp or chicken), Yaki Udon, Yaki Soba, Nabe Yaki Udon, Seafood Noodle Soup, Miso Seabass, Pineapple Lobster, Hamachi Kama, and Grilled Saba Fish Filet.

Hibachi Entrees include Vegetable, Chicken, Salmon, Scallops, Shrimp, Seabass, Steak, Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail.

Price guide: Appetizers $4-12 Nigiri/Sashimi $4-15  Specialty Rolls $12-18 Entrees $12-29  Hibachi Entrees $15-31

Lunch Buffet:

  • Mon-Thurs 11am-2:30pm
  • Fri-Sun 11am-3:30pm
Happy Hour:
  • Mon-Thurs 8pm-Close
  • 20% off all Osaka Specialty Rolls
  • Appetizers $3-9
  • Rolls $3-8
  • Sashimi/Nigiri $1.50-5

What We Ate: My companion and I both had the all-you-can-eat weekend lunch buffet.  It was a chilly spring day so one of the first things I tried was the Hot and Sour Soup.  This was pretty good, it had a somewhat thick, somewhat spicy broth with a generous amount of tofu and all the other ingredients that typically go in this soup.

Once I was warmed up from the soup, I was all about the sushi.  There were at least 8-10 different types of sushi rolls and a couple varieties of sashimi.  One of the rolls that I tried was the Lisa Crunch, a tasty roll of rice, shrimp tempura, cream cheese and avocado.  The spicy tuna was decent, as were all the other rolls I tried, considering it was a buffet.  The rolls were heavy on the rice, light on the fish and veggies, somewhat loosely rolled but they all tasted great!  I am especially fond of the soft-shell crab, mmm.

We also tried a plate of Seafood from the hot serving line.  The mussels were very good, mostly tender and tossed in a savory yet slightly sweet black bean sauce.  The smaller clams were even better.  Extremely tender and slightly sweet.  Oh so good! I also tried one of their steamed crayfish, which wasn’t anything exciting.  It did not taste sweet like lobster, instead it tasted like what it eats at the bottom of the lake.  Would be so much better drenched in salted butter.

Another plate I tried came from the hot side of the Buffet.  I literally tried only one bite of each item, as none of it did anything for me in comparison to the sushi.  The fried pork in some kind of  spicy-sweet sesame sauce and was thickly breaded and extra hard and grisly, it looked much better than it tasted.  The fried rice was extremely boring, the chicken with broccoli was sogged out, as were the lomein noodles.  The spring roll was kind of boring with just a simple rice noodle filling and very little flavor.  My favorite thing on this plate was the Fried Potstickers which were small but filled with flavorful pork sausage.

The desserts were very undesirable for the most part.  I’d rather eat more sushi than waste the carbs on these stale cookies and pastries.  The  fruit was simply okay.

Service: Our server refilled our drinks when we asked, that was all the service we really got since we were eating the buffet.

Overall Impression: Osaka is the first sushi restaurant to hit the area, so it is a welcome sight to the many sushi-lovers like myself out in the eastern ‘burbs.  The restaurant is actually Chinese-owned so it isn’t authentic Japanese but the sushi lunch buffet is a great value if you can eat a lot of sushi.  (I definitely ate my money’s worth! )  I thought Osaka was a cute place and the buffet was decent, not to mention it is less than 15 min from my house.

Osaka Sushi and Hibachi on Urbanspoon

Apr 102011

Cuisine: American, Asian, Dessert
Restaurant Features: All-You-Can-Eat, Lunch Buffet, Dinner Buffet, Hotel
Location: Hinckley, MN
Address: 777 Lady Luck Drive  Hinckley, MN 55037   800-472-6321

Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Monday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 10 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 10 p.m.

Links: Grand Buffet Website * Grand Casino on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: The Buffet is sits in the back center, surrounded by a very large dining rooms.  The Buffet itself is divided into different sections: Grand Harvest, Oriental, Entree, International, American Bounty, Homestyle and Desserts.

The seating area


Menu: Items available during the Prime Rib Buffet on Saturday and Sunday nights include:

American Bounty Station: Fried Cod, Ham, Broasted Chicken, Sausage and Sauerkraut, Wild Rice, Corn Bread, Baked Beans, Pizza and Calzones.

Homestyle Station: Corn, Green Beans, Green Bean Casserole, Potatoes Au Gratin, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Gravy.

International Station: Fish, BBQ Ribs, Buffalo Wings, Sesame Wings, Garlic Wings, BBQ Wings, Baked Potato Bar

Oriental Station: Szechuan Beef, Noodle, Fried Rice, Chicken and Broccoli, Egg Rolls, Wontons, and Potstickers.

Desserts: Soft-Serve Ice Cream and Sundae Bar, Bananas Foster, Peach Cobbler, Bread Pudding, Apple Crisp, Churro, Cannoli, Cheesecake, Chocolate Mousse Pie, etc.

Full Salad Bar

Grand Buffet Weekly Specials

Lunch Buffet
Monday through Friday – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $8.99.
Always plenty of variety; hot and cold entrées, delectable side dishes, fresh salads, pizza, and great desserts. Breakfast items served until 1 p.m.

Weekend Brunch Buffet
Saturdays and Sundays – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $10.99.
Pastries, fruit, chef-made omelets, waffles, breakfast meats, salad bar, chef-carved ham and turkey, chicken, fish, dessert, and more!

Crab Crackin Buffet
Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m. for $19.99
Opilio Crab highlights the Crab Crackin Buffet – other offerings include chef carved prime rib, BBQ Ribs, Peel & Eat Shrimp, smoked salmon. Full Salad bar with all the fixings, Asian station with house favorites and a dessert station that features a wide selection of cakes, pies, and sweet treats.

Classic Dinner Buffet
Mondays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $12.99.
Featuring traditional favorites such as chef-carved turkey and ham, broasted chicken, succulent ribs, baked cod, delicious and varied side dishes, our always loaded salad bar, and dessert options galore.

Seafood and Prime Rib Buffet
Tuesdays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $22.99.
Our lavish Seafood Buffet showcases sweet snow crab, shrimp, scallops, oysters on the half shell, mussels, clam strips, cod, salmon; along with shrimp scampi, prime rib, full soup and salad bar, and much more – it’s the ultimate feast for the seafood lover.

Smokehouse Buffet
Wednesdays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $14.99.
If you love barbecue, you’ll love this buffet! Featuring our St. Louis style ribs, smoked turkey, apple wood smoked chicken, pulled pork, Southern style brisket, smoked meatloaf, and Cajun cod; along with distinctive side dishes and regional favorites specially chosen to complement the barbecue theme.

International Buffet
Thursdays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $12.99.
Selections from around the world – carved corned beef brisket, jerk pork loin and our German sausage roll. Entrees included an assortment of Asian entrees, Italian favorites such as lasagna and straw and hay, and traditional items like Yankee pot roast and pan fried cod.

Prime Rib Buffet
Fridays and Saturdays – 4 to 10 p.m. for $15.99.
Our delectable, all-you-can-eat prime rib is hand-seasoned, slow-roasted to perfection, and then chef-carved to order. As always, you’ll find plenty more to choose from – a great variety of hot entrées and side dishes, peel & eat shrimp, our Wok station where all your choices are fresh-made as you watch, and of course, our wonderful handmade desserts.

Buffet menu and prices are subject to change. Grand Traditions Buffet is served on most holidays. Please contact the Buffet for more information.



What I ate: I visited on a Saturday night during the Prime Rub Buffet.  My first stop was at the American Bounty where I tried a calzone and a piece of pizza.  Nearby at another station I found marinara sauce and since I love tons of red sauce, I took a ton for my calzone.  Best idea ever, the calzone with the extra sauce was one of the things I liked the most.  I also tried one of the Buffalo Wings, pretty basic.

Next I tried a plate from the Oriental Station which included Szechuan Beef with Noodles, fried rice, fried potstickers, cream cheese wontons and an eggroll.  Typical mediocre chinese buffet food, nothing stood out as anything special.

I tried a few bites of the Tomato Basil Soup, which was creamy and flavorful.

I also tried some of the Prime Rib.  The initial cut I got was very well done, so I asked for a different piece.  The chef who was carving it then cut into a whole new roast so I could get a slice that was medium rare.  This cut was far better and while the slice wasn’t very thick, the meat was very tender.  It took me many years to get to the point of eating my steaks at a maximum of medium temperature but it tastes so much better when it is still tender and juicy. Cooking beef until it is well done is ruining the meat!

I piled up a plate of different desserts and took only a few bites.  The bananas foster and the bread pudding were both very good.

Service: We made it to the buffet after 9pm on a Saturday night, less than an hour before they closed.  Our server was a quite strange and made very weird comments to various members of my party, but drinks were refilled at record pace and dishes cleared almost as quick.
Overall Impression: The food at Grand Casino Buffet was decent but nothing special; not nearly as good as the Buffet at Mystic Lake.  I’d eat here again if I happened to be at the Casino but I wouldn’t drive out of my way just for the food.

Grand Casino Buffet on Urbanspoon

Dec 282010

Disclosure: I was invited out to do this review and my meal was provided by the restaurant.

Have you been down to Mystic Lake Casino recently?  Have you tried their Buffet? The menu at the Buffet changes every couple of months with seasonal items, so it is always fun to try the plethora of food items no matter what time of year you visit.

Today I will highlight the Winter “Holiday” Around-the-World Buffet, which runs through December and January.  Mystic Lake is offering a special Buy-One-Get-One-Free Buffet Dinner throughout the month of January, get the printable coupon here on their website.

Cuisine: American, European, and Pacific
Restaurant Features: All-You-Can-Eat, Hotel
Location: Prior Lake, MN
Address: 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd., Prior Lake, MN, 55372 (Mystic Lake Casino)

  • Mon – Fri Lunch:  11:30am – 2:30pm $9.95
  • Saturday & Sunday Brunch:  10am – 2:30pm $13.95
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday Dinner:   4:30pm – 11:00pm $12.95
  • Wednesday  Seafood Night:  4:30pm – 11:00pm  $22.95
  • Saturday & Sunday  Dinner:  4:30pm – 11:00pm $16.95

Links: Buffet at Mystic Lake Website * Mystic Lake Facebook Page * Google Map

Atmosphere: The Buffet at Mystic Lake Casino is an International-Themed Buffet with three main stations: European, American and Pacific.  Each station is host to a variety of holiday foods found in that particular region of the world.  There are also two salad bars and a dessert station.

For the holiday season the Buffet is festively decorated with trees and lights but also displays these beautiful, elaborate Gingerbread creations by Marshall Rosenthal.

Menu: Salad Bar items include Mixed Greens, bean Sprouts, Mushrooms, Green peppers, Garbanzo beans, Broccoli, Shredded Carrots, Garden Peas, Julienne Red Peppers, Black Olives, Radish, Cucumber, Onion, Tomato Wedges, Chopped Eggs, Bleu Cheese Crumbles, Cheddar Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, and Sliced Beets.  Dressing include Caesar, Italian, Bleu Cheese, French, Ranch, 1000 Island and Parmesan Peppercorn.  Soups include Chicken Wild Rice, Asian Soup and a Soup of the Day

Other Salad Bar Items include Ham salad, Tropical Fruit Salad, Smoked Salmon, Pickled Herring, Green Olives, Grilled Vegetables, Baby Corn, Roasted Mushrooms, Cherry Peppers, Pepperjack, Cheddar, Swiss, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Oranges, Pears, Peaches, Strawberries, Cottage Cheese, and Yogurt.

Items found at the American Holiday Station include Waffle Fries, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Beef Enchiladas, Stuffed Peppers in Tomato sauce, Alaskan Cod with Mushroom Dill Sauce, Acorn Squash with Apple Bacon Crumble, Rotisserie Chicken, Chicken with Banana Mango Chutney, Macaroni and Cheese, Broasted Chicken, Smoky Cowboy Beans, Vegetable Medley, Roast Beef (lunch), Prime Rib (dinner), Mashed Potatoes, Oven Roasted Turkey, Sage Dressing, Corn Niblets and Blackened Atlantic Salmon.

Items found at the European Holiday Station include Pork Saltimbocca with Fresh Sage and Brown Sauce, Ziti with Sundried Tomato and Pancetta in Basil Cream Sauce, French Peas with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions, Potatoes Au Gratin, Mahi Mahi, Beef Stroganoff, Tomato Provencale, Buttered Egg Noodles, Garlic Cheese Bread, Assorted Hearth Baked Pizzas.

Items found at the Pacific Holiday Station include Cream Cheese Wontons, Sesame Sedd Balls, Pork Egg Rolls, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Vegetable Lo mein, Chow Mein with Pork, Chow Mein Noodles, Dan Dan Noodles with Bok Choy, Mongolian Meatballs, Chinese Spare Ribs, Egg Fu Yung, Honey Seared Pork with Peppers, Steamed Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice, and Grouper in Black Bean Sauce.

Dessert Station Items include Sugar-Free Carrot Cake, Sugar-Free Cheese Cake, Sugar-Free jello, Apple Spice Cake, Caramel Custard, Ice Cream Sundae Bar, and many more.

What we ordered: We first started at the Pacific Station where we tried a little bit of everything.  The Mongolian Meatballs were a spicy-sweet bite of meaty awesomeness, the Chinese Spare Ribs were very sweet and tender, the Dan Dan noodles were packed with flavor, and the sweet and sour chicken, fried rice, lo mein, eggrolls and cream cheese wontons were also very tasty.  My favorite item from the Pacific Station was the Grouper in Black Bean Sauce.  Yum!

Our next stop was the European Station where everything looked so good we tried it all!  The French Peas with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions was very tasty, as was the Tomato Provencale, which was stuffed with Parmesan Cheese and Italian Seasonings then baked.  The Mahi Mahi was decent and the Pork Saltimbocca was full of flavor from the sauce it was cooked in and the prosciutto baked on top.  The Garlic Cheese Bread was full of buttery-garlic goodness with bubbly baked cheese on top.  Delish! Our second plate from the European Station included the rich, meaty Beef Stroganoff, Ziti in Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Cream Sauce, Buffalo Chicken Pizza and the Stuffed Pizza.  Everything was very good.

We made a couple of trips to the American Station where we tried everything that was offered. I made a traditional “Thanksgiving” plate with Roasted Turkey, Rotisserie Chicken, Sage Dressing, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes. Everything was excellent, I must have eaten it all before I took a photo… sorry!
Feast your eyes on this gorgeous cut of Prime Rib from the American Station. Incredibly tender,  juicy and fairly lean.  I could eat at the Buffet for Prime Rib alone!

Other items we tried at the American Station were the Macaroni and Cheese which was very creamy and cheesy but not at all clumpy like mac and cheese can get sometimes.  The Smoky Cowboy Beans were as good as any I have had, and the Alaskan Cod may have been my favorite fish that I tried at the Mystic Lake Buffet, the sauce was flavorful and the fish was not at all fishy.  The Blackened Salmon was also good.

I didn’t have much room for dessert but wanted to see what the Sugar-Free Desserts were all about.  So glad I tried both the Carrot Cake and the Cheesecake because both were delicious, even sugar-free!

I tried one last dessert before I was too full too move, the Caramel Custard.  I love custard and thought this was delicious! It was smooth, creamy and the caramel was just the right touch without being too rich.

Service: We were able to get a table right away and were greeted almost immediately by our server who quickly took our drink order and kept the refills coming all night.  For a Buffet, I thought Mystic Lake did a great job with service.  The Manager stopped to greet us, as he did with nearly every other table of guests, to make sure the food was enjoyed by all.

Overall Impression: The Buffet at Mystic Lake is the perfect place to go if you want a HUGE selection of All-You-Can Eat International foods at a very reasonable price.  I highly recommend you take advantage of the January BOGO Buffet coupon offer! Print your coupon now. Even better would be to have lunch or dinner at the Buffet, then stay the night at Mystic Lake Hotel and try Il Premio Italian Steakhouse the following Night!
Buffet on Urbanspoon

Sep 042010

Cuisine: Asian variety…mostly Vietnamese with French-influence, but also some Chinese and Thai dishes.

Restaurant Features: Bar, On-Site Parking

Location: White Bear Township

Address: White Bear Township Theater Shops 1190 County Road J White Bear Township, MN 55127 They also do take-out! 651-426-3558

I hadn’t been to Orchid Restaurant in a few years (probably since my original review), but stopped there recently and feasted on a bunch of appetizers.  If you like Vietnamese food, I definitely recommend it!

Steamed Pork Dumplings @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township

Steamed Pork Dumplings @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township

Fried Calamari @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Fried Calamari @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Fresh Spring Rolls @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Fresh Spring Rolls @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Spicy Pyster Wings @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Spicy Oyster Wings @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Eggrolls @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Eggrolls @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Beef Skewers @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Beef Skewers @ Orchid Restaurant ~ White Bear Township, MN

Aug 262010

Cuisine: Street Foods from around the Equator:  Asian, Caribbean, Mexican, South American, and Polynesian
Restaurant Features: Banquet Room, Bar
Location: Minneapolis (Uptown)
Address: 2916 Hennepin Ave  Minneapolis, MN  55408  ( 612) 824-7878

Hours: Sun-Thurs  4:30pm-1am   Fri-Sat  4:30p-2am

Links: Chino Latino Website * Chino Latino on FacebookGoogle Map

Outside Chino Latino

Outside Chino Latino

Atmosphere:  Chino Latino is located in Uptown on Hennepin Ave at Lake St (across from Calhoun Square).  It is a cool and chic restaurant that runs two stories, with most tables set closely together.  Most of the tables are big enough for larger parties, but there is also a extra-long community table on the lower level that allows for much bigger parties.  One side of the restaurant hosts a sushi bar, the other side has a giant bar that illuminates the entire restaurant with its orange glow.  The kitchen is on the lower level, as are the bathrooms.
Inside Chino Latino

Inside Chino Latino

Inside View of Chino Latino

Inside View of Chino Latino

Menu: The Menu at Chino Latino is printed on a daily basis, so items may vary depending on season and availability.

Tacos include Barbacoa (shredded beef), Tinga (stewed chicken), Crunchy Carne, and Mijangos (stewed chicken).

Sushi Options include Chipotle Salmon Roll, Salmon Roll, White Tiger Roll, Tuna Tataki, Weed Eater, Kalifornia Krab Roll, Spicy Mango Shrimp Caterpillar Roll, Ring of Fire Roll, and Sushi Sampler.

Little Dishes on my visit included Habanero Poppers, Queso Fundido, Chinese BBQ ribs, Black Laab (Thai lettuce wraps),  Jerk Chicken Skewers, Shrimp Feast, Tostada de Tinga, Firecracker Wings, Popocatepe (nacho-style fries), Potstickers, Shrimp Wraps, Shrimp Lollopops, Plum Blossom Salad, Bulgogi Beef Lettuce Cup, Empanada de Janeiro, Pescado Ahumado, Satay, Nachos del Sol, Chicken Enchiladas, Calamari, Mushi-Buro Beef, Crispy Saigon Rolls, Spicy Edamame, and Polynesian Pupu Platter.

Bigger Dishes to Share include Carne Asada Ala Moreliana (taco platter), Coconut Shrimp Curry, Mahi Mahi, Lo Mein, Philippine Paella, Fish Taco Platter, Banana Boat Chicken, Cuban Pork Roast, Mandarin Beef Stir Fry, Jerked Chicken, Big Chipotle Burrito, Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice, Miso Noodles, Kung Pao Chicken, Argentine Rodizio Roast, Cuban Pig Roast, and Cuy (roasted Guinea Pig).

Dessert Options include Deep Fried Snickers, Molten Chocolate Cake, Fried Bananas with Coconut Ice Cream, S’Mores Platter, Chocolate Flandango (flan layered with chocolate cake), Brownie Tres Leches, Fried Ice Cream, Mango Spiced Cake, Ice Cream, and Banana Split.

There are countless “Hot Zone Cocktails” at Chino Latino including a variety of Mojitos, Martinis, Margaritas, and many other fruity drinks.  Several Beers and Wines also available.

Price guide: Tacos $3-4  Sushi $12-25  Little Plates $7-17  Big Plates  $19-35  Desserts $6-14

What we ordered: **Must warn you that these photos are not very good, I was forced to use flash because of the eerie orange glow**

I started with the House Margarita, made with Sauza, fresh lime juice and Triple Sec.  Maybe I have gotten spoiled with all the sweet margaritas I have had lately, but I thought this margarita was terrible! It was bitter and strong, no matter how many limes I squeezed into it, it did not get much better.  A few of my friends had the same one and enjoyed it.  Must be a matter of preference, but I would not get it again.

Margarita ~ Chino Latino

Margarita ~ Chino Latino

I ordered the Pescado Ahumado, a delicious dish of bite-size pieces of smoked swordfish tossed in a light, creamy citrusy dressing, served with fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and thick corn tortilla chips.  I loved it!  The smokiness of the fish was subtle but gave it such a nice flavor, there was no hint of fishiness at all.  The texture of the swordfish was very dense, almost more like poultry than fish.  Excellent choice!

Pescado Ahumado ~ Chino Latino

Pescado Ahumado ~ Chino Latino

One of my companions ordered the Chicken Enchiladas.  There were 3-4 corn tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken and black beans, then covered with a spicy chile salsa and topped with shredded lettuce, sour cream and tomatoes.  I tried some of these enchiladas and thought they were good, but not a highlight on the Chino Latino menu.  So many other fun and yummy things to try!

Chicken Enchiladas ~ Chino Latino

Chicken Enchiladas ~ Chino Latino

Another companion ordered Fried Rice with Chicken.  This was a giant order of fried rice, with tons of peppers, green onion, egg and chicken.  Absolutely delicious!

Chicken Fried Rice ~ Chino Latino

Chicken Fried Rice ~ Chino Latino

Another companion ordered the Potstickers, an order of six large pan-fried dumplings stuffed with chicken and vegetables.  Served with a ginger-soy dipping sauce.  Very yummy!

Postickers ~ Chin Latino

Postickers ~ Chin Latino

Another companion ordered the Ochos Rios Jerk Chicken Skewers, one of the best things that I tried! The chicken was very spicy and served with a delicious, refreshing mango pico de gallo.  The sweetness of the mango was the perfect compliment to the spicy chicken.

Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa ~ Chino Latino

Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa ~ Chino Latino

Another companion ordered the Nachos del Sol.  These nachos were unlike most you might be familiar with, because they were served with fried plantain chips instead of tortilla chips.  The bowl contained black beans, chorizo, pico de gallo, queso fresco, sour cream and jalapenos for dipping the chips.

Nachos ~ Chino Latino

Nachos ~ Chino Latino

And last but not least, is the Sushi Sampler that two of my companions shared.  Just one look at this tray and I was envious of their choice! For $25, this is the best sushi deal you can get at Chino Latino because you get to try the Tiger Shrimp Roll, Mango Shrimp Caterpillar Roll, Wasabi Tuna Balls, and Chipotle Salmon Roll.  Outstanding sushi!

Sushi Platter ~ Chino Latino

Sushi Platter ~ Chino Latino

Service: We had very good service while at Chino Latino.  We had a party of eight without a reservation but they were able to seat us without too long of a wait.  The drinks took some time and the food was brought out as it was made, so we were all eating at different times.  One thing that is very nice is that Chino Latino has some round tables and booths made for up to 10 people so we were all able to conversate more intimately and there is a lazy-susan in the middle of the table to easily share dishes.
Overall Impression: I love the food at Chino Latino and think the concept of  “street foods from the hot zones” is absolutely genius.  I wish the prices were a little more affordable so I could eat there often and try everything on the menu!

Chino Latino on Urbanspoon

Apr 092010

Have you been out to the Walker Art Center lately? If you haven’t, you really should! You especially need to try 20.21,  the Wolfgang Puck restaurant located on the 2nd floor (however you do not need to buy admission to the Walker to eat at 20.21).  I recently had lunch there, on a mission to try out the new Asian-influenced menu put together by Executive Chef Asher Miller.  I tried a variety of selections from the menu, which I will be highlighting here.  Everything was outstanding!

Cuisine: Asian Fusion

Restaurant Features: Bar, Sunday Brunch
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Address: Walker Art Center – 1750 Hennepin Ave Minneapolis, MN 55403 612-253-3410
Links: Wolfgang Puck Website Google Map

Hours: Wed-Sun 11:30a-2:00p


Starters or “First Flavors” run from $7-12 and include

  • Creamy Cauliflowers Soup with Toasted Almonds and Lobster
  • Tandoori Arctic Char with Cardamom Raita and Bengali Tomato Chutney
  • Stir-fried Chicken Lettuce Cups,
  • Curried Pork Spring Rolls and Pork Pot Stickers with Black Vinegar Dipping Sauce
  • Steamed Shrimp and Scallop Dumplings in a lobster sauce (pictured below in 1st photo).  These seafood dumplings were the very first thing that I tried; they consisted of a steamed dumpling filled with a shrimp and scallop mixture, along with a variety of herbs.  Each of the three dumplings was garnished with a sliver of red chili pepper and then topped with a pea tendrils, thinly cut strips of radish, and carrot.  The dumplings were plated atop a thin layer of lobster sauce. Very good!
  • Pan Toasted Pork Pot Stickers (pictured below in 2nd photo).  If you like sausage, you will love these pork pot stickers! The savory sausage and herb mixture was stuffed inside the Chinese-style dumplings, which were then toasted in the pan until they were a crispy golden brown.  They were served with a Chinese black vinegar, which was both sweet and rich (similar to balsamic).  I love pot stickers and these were top-notch.

There are also a number of Salads ($13-16) including:

  • Gulf Shrimp Cobb Salad with Applewood Smoked Bacon and Lemongrass Shallot Dressing,
  • Chinese Chicken Salad with Hot & Sweet Mustard Dressing, Crispy Wontons and Candied Cashews,
  • Korean Beef Short Ribs with Pea Tendril Salad and Sesame Dressing,
  • Japanese Glazed Salmon Salad with Avocado, Pickled Vegetables, and Ponzu sauce (pictured below in 1st photo).  If you like salmon, you can’t go wrong with this salad!  The fish was cooked but still very tender, placed atop a bed of mixed field greens.  Thin strips of colorful carrots, radish and Japanese seafood salad decorate the edge of the plate on one side, with slices of avocado and lemon on the other.  A light, but filling salad.
  • Thai Chicken Salad with Puffed Rice, Lime, and Crushed Peanut (pictured below in 2nd photo).  This was a really cool and unique salad, unlike any other I have had.  The chicken (all white meat) was ground into small pieces and combined with small rice puffs that were about the same size and color as the chicken.  Thinly sliced strips of carrot, red cabbage, jalapeños, lettuce and toasted peanuts were mixed in with the chicken and rice puffs, then the salad was tossed with a citrus-chili vinaigrette.  I loved the combination of textures in this salad, it was both tender from the chicken and slightly crunchy from the rice puffs, peanuts and veggies.  It had a nice kick to it from the jalapeños and the citrus-chili vinaigrette, but was also light and fresh. Delicious!

Burger and Sandwich ($14-22) Options:

  • American Beef Burger (with Aged Cheddar and French Fries)
  • Maine Lobster Club (with a Bacon Vinaigarette served on Toasted Pecan-Cranberry bread
  • Chicken Salad Croissant (served with Sweet Potato Fries)
  • Banh Mi” Pork Sandwich (pictured below).  The Banh Mi is a Vietnamese-influenced sandwich that starts with a French roll and then a layer of pork-based country-style pâté, with stacked thinly sliced pieces of pork tenderloin, then topped with pickled onion, cilantro and carrot.  There was also a semi-sweet  creamy sauce.  I had never had a Banh Mi sandwich before but thought it was a very interesting combination of flavors.  It was served with golden fried fingerling potatoes.

20.21 also offers three different Bento Boxes, all of which are served with Tempura Asparagus and Miso Soup ($12-15):

  • The Duck Confit with Chow Fun Rice Noodles and Stir Fried Vegetables
  • Golden Curried Tofu with Peppers, Coconut Rice.
  • Korean Style Beef Short Ribs and Hunan Glazed Eggplant (pictured below).  The beef was tender and spicy,  with a peppery dipping sauce suggestively placed in the same section of the Bento Box.  The eggplant was cooked until soft and had a sweetness to it from the Hunan glaze.  The asparagus was fried with a tempura batter and came with the most fabulous spicy green cilantro dipping sauce.  Loved that! The miso soup was also very good.

Main Dish ($14-20) offerings include:

  • Steamed “Hong Kong Style” Atlantic Salmon (with Bok Choy, Szechuan Chili Oil and Jasmine Rice)
  • Drunken Chow Fun (with Rich Noodles, Basil and Peanuts)
  • Green Thai Seafood Curry (Prawns and Sea Scallops)
  • Pan Roasted Chicken (Snap Peas, Carrot-Ginger Puree, and Caramel Soy Sauce)
  • Signapore Style” Street Noodles with Masala Braised Short Ribs.  This may have been my favorite dish of the many I tried.  I loved the texture of the homemade noodles which were thick and hearty, stir-fried with a spicy cooking oil of some kind.  The   beef was so tender and full of flavor from being braised with a curry masala sauce.  Along with beef and noodles there were stir-fried veggies including spring peas, onions, mushrooms, and asparagus.  This dish was very filling and the portion size was quite big.

The dessert menu ($5-10) is brought to you by Pastry Chef Corinne Sherbert  and includes:

  • Assorted Miniature Cookies (Yuzu Bar, 5 Spice Cheesecake Brownie, Orange Pound Cake)
  • Ice Creams & Sorbets (Spicy Almond, Olive Oil, Lemongrass, Orange all with assorted sauces)
  • Spoon, Cube and Cherry (pictured below).  This dessert is so much fun!  Inspired by the famous sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Walker’s Sculpture Garden, this cube of dark chocolate contains a hidden treasure inside.  Chocolate cream and bite- sized pieces of German chocolate cake are what await inside the dark chocolate walls.  The spoon is made of a light chocolate cookie crisp.  I recommend this be shared!

20.21 also offers a variety of specialty cocktails including this Hemmingway Martini, made with Ketel One vodka, grapefruit juice and fresh lime.  Very light and refreshing!

Overall Impression: We had excellent service at 20.21 but the food is what called out to me.  Executive Chef Asher Miller has wisely created a menu with a very nice selection of Asian-inspired items, with something to please nearly everyone.   The prices are also very reasonable for an upscale fine-dining establishment.
20.21 on Urbanspoon