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

Menu:

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

Mar 282010
 

This is an updated review from the original I wrote in May 2007.  I have eaten at Norman Quack’s countless times since then and felt a new, updated review was long overdue!

Cuisine: American, Fish, Steaks, Chops & Ribs
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, On-Site Parking, Flat Screen TVs
Location: Forest Lake, MN
Address: 843 West Broadway Avenue   Forest Lake, MN 55025    651-982-6777
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-10p   Sun 11am-9pm
Links: *Norman Quack’s Website *Norman Quack’s Facebook Page *Google Map

Outside of Norman Quacks
Atmosphere: Norman Quacks is conveniently located at the end of a small strip mall facing Broadway Ave, between Hwy 61 and I-35.  The space is big and open, with a bar area to the left when you walk in and the dining room on the right.  There are a number of booths and tables throughout the restaurant, with space to accommodate larger parties in the back.  Everywhere you look there are interesting objects hanging on the walls, and a library’s-worth of books stacked on the half-wall between the booths, giving the restaurant character while making the booths more private.

The Bar Area also has tables as well as seating at the bar.  There are also a couple of flat-screen TVs that typically view local sporting events.

Menu: Appetizers at Norman Quacks include Colossal Onion Rings, Quesadillas, Potato Skins, Cheese Curds, Chicken Tenders, 7 Layer Dip and Chips, Buffalo Tender Bites, Peppered Tips & Blackened Toms, Chicken Wings, BBQ Pork Ribs, Creamy Pepperjack Queso & Chips, Coconut Shrimp Kabob and Garlic Alfredo Toast.

Salad offerings are the Chicken Tender Salad, Spinach Tips and Tomatoes, Fajita Salad, House, Salmon Black & Blue, Chicken Caesar, Oriental Shrimp, and Caesar Salad.  Soups include Creamy Baked Potato, Prime Rib Stew, and Soup of the Day.

Sandwiches include BBQ Pork and Cheddar, Buffalo Chicken, Prime Fajita Melt, Walleye, Catfish Po’ Boy, Monte Cristo, Skinny Ribeye, Roasted Bahama Chop (pork with jerk sauce, mozzarella and pico de gallo), Dante’s Revenge, Triple Play Sandwich (layers of ham, turkey, roast beef and bacon with cheddar, mozzarella and jack), French Dip, Philly French Dip, B.L.T, and Blackened Salmon Melt.

The following sandwiches can be made with either chicken breast, ground beef burger or bison burger: Plain Jane, Sloppy Rio (with cheese sauce, beans and sauteed peppers), Mushroom, 4 Cheese, Smoke Head (sauteed mushrooms, onion, bacon, bbq sauce and cheese), Peppered with Bacon and Blue Cheese, Patty Melt, Clubhouse and Bacon Blue.
Price guide:
Appetizers $7-9  Salads $7-9  Burgers/Sandwiches $7-10  Entrees $11-17

Happy Hour: 4-6pm EVERYDAY.  1/2 Priced Appetizers (all except the Samplers)

Weekly Specials:

Sunday- $10.95 12 oz Prime Rib with Onion Rings
What we ordered: We started with the basket of freshly baked Ciabatta Bread.  The bread is served with a flavored whipped butter, the flavor of which changes daily.  We had garden-herb butter on this visit.

Bread Basket at Norman Quacks

We also got an order of Cheese Curds.  I love the cheese curds at Quack’s! The gooey white cheddar curds are battered with  the same unique batter that is used on the giant onion rings, and are slightly salty.  They are fried perfectly until crispy golden brown on outside, and not too greasy.  Great dipped in the ranch that comes with it.

For my meal I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, which is what I order 90% of the time I visit Quacks. This is my favorite sandwich on the menu and is the best Buffalo Chicken sandwich I have had anywhere. They start with the biggest chicken breast they can find, then bread it, deep fry it, and coat it in delicious and mildly spicy Buffalo sauce. It has a couple of sliced of thick-cut bacon and melted cheddar cheese, tomato and lettuce served on the side. Very big and very messy, I usually end up using silverware to eat it.

One of my companions ordered a “double” of the the Sunday Prime Rib Special (usually 12 oz cut served with onion rings for $10.95). This GIANT cut of prime rib weighed in at around 25 oz, most of which was meat with just a small amount of fat.  Served with au jus and creamy horseradish.  Excellent cut of meat for a great price, making Quack’s a popular place on Sundays!

Another companion ordered the Two-Pork Chop Dinner (can order one or two chops), served with fries (choice of potato) and soup or salad.  These were two big, tender and juicy pork chops, with Cajun seasonings.  Big enough to share between two!

One of my companions also ordered a Bloody Mary, which came dressed with beef stick, olives, celery and pepperoncini pepper.  Thick and spicy!

We did not have dessert on this visit but here is a photo of the Giant Chocolate Cake that I took just a few months ago on a different visit.  Heavenly and gigantic with at least four layers of dark chocolate cake nestled between more layers of thick, chocolate butter cream frosting.  I recommend that you share this big boy!


Service: Our service on this occasion was great!  We were greeted and seated immediately and our order was taken promptly.  Within minutes of being seated we were given a nice big basket of bread fresh out of the oven right.  Drinks were refilled promptly  and food came out at a reasonable pace.
Overall Impression: I’ve already mentioned that Norman Quack’s is one of my favorite restaurants.  They have a fine selection of quality steaks and fish, the specialty sandwiches and burgers are all really good, and the half-priced appetizers during Happy Hour are a great deal.  The Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and Prime Rib are what we crave, in fact there is a good chance you’ll find me (and at least one companion) here on any given Sunday. See you there!
Norman Quacks on Urbanspoon

Mar 112010
 

Cuisine: American, Fish, Irish,  Steaks
Restaurant Features: Bar, Banquet Room, Live Music, On-Site Parking, Patio,
Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Address: 2171 4th Street White Bear Lake, Minnesota 55110 651-426-2300
Hours: Mon-Sun 11a-2a   Kitchen

Links:* Manitou Station Website * Manitou Station Facebook PageGoogle Map

Atmosphere: Located in a newly constructed two-story building at the heart of downtown White Bear Lake, Manitou Station is the newest and grandest restaurant in town. If the beautiful gazebo built above the front entrance didn’t catch your eye, one walk through the beautiful space and you can see that fine attention was put into every detail.  At the heart of the main level is a spectacular wooden bar (built by Dick Barth) that is a re-creation of a bar in Galway, Ireland.  The beautiful ceiling is made of tin tiles that were hand-pounded into an intricate design and then painted.

The main dining room is spacious and open, with large windows running the length of the room and brighten it with natural light.  At night the chandelier lights are dimmed and it takes on a while new mood, one that could be either lively or romantic, depending on who you’re with.  There are a number of high-backed large booths around the perimeter of the room, with wooden tables spread out in the middle.  There is also another smaller dining area adjacent to the bar, as well as seating at and around the bar.

The second floor of Manitou Station is where you will find the Grand Station Ballroom.  With gorgeous hardwood floors that stretch the length of the entire building, the large space will seat up to 200.  There is also a second banquet area on the upper level called the Whistle Stop Room, which will hold up to 50.

In the front corner of the banquet space (directly above the front entrance), there is a beautiful Gazebo-style room that overlooks downtown White Bear Lake from several angles.  It’s a very cool view!

Menu: Appetizers at Manitou Station include Walleye and Wild Rice Cakes, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Parmesan Chicken Strips, Steamer Clams, Scotch Egg, Sunny Sandwiches, English Fish & Chips Basket, Window Pane Chips, Brie & Fruit with Crustini, Fries, The Station Sampler and Mediterranean Sampler.

Salads offered are Starter Salad, Traditional Cobb, Steakhouse Wedge, Shrimp Louis, Apple and Walnut, Classic Caesar, Grilled Chicken Caesar, Blackened Chicken Caesar, Greek with Oregano Chicken.  Soups include Beef & Guinness Stew, Clam Chowder, Crab & Whiskey Bisque, Cheddar and Ale, Chicken Wild Rice and French Onion.

Sandwich and burger options at Manitou Station are the Parmesan Crusted BLT, Corned Beef Brisket Melt, Rachael, Deli Style Turkey, Deli Style Ham, Chargrilled Salmon Club, Curried Chicken Salad Croissant, Prime Rib Dip, BBQ Bacon Cheddar, Mushroom and Swiss, Avocado Cheddar Ranch, Cheddar, Swiss or Blue Cheese, California Burger or Chicken.

Entrees include English Fish & Chips, Flat Iron Steak, Beef & Guinness Stew,  Chargrill Finished Prime Rib (12-16 or 24 oz),  Filet Mignon, Roasted Chicken, Parmesan Encrusted Walleye, Sage & Brown Butter Seared Scallops, Peppercorn Ahi Tuna, Salmon Oscar, Pasta Carbonara, Chicken & Artichoke Alfredo, Wild Mushroom Risotto, and Rock Shrimp & Lemon Risotto.

Desserts at Manitou Station include Vanilla Cheesecake with Berries, Peaches Foster over Ice Cream, Apple Crisp and Ice Cream, Chocolate Ganache with Berries, and Bread Pudding with Ice Cream.

Mantiou Station has a wide variety of tap beers and specialty beers including Boddington’s, Magners Irish Cider, Moose Drool, or Matilda.  Some of the Specialty drinks include Mango Cosmo, Absolut Paradise, Summer Vacation, Woodford Manhattan, Dirty Blue Martini, Jameson & Ginger, Manitou Breeze, Chocolate Truffle, Pontoon Ride, Irish Bulldog and Baby Guinness

Price guide: Appetizers $7-11  Salads $9-13  Sandwiches/Burgers $8-12  Entrees $13-25

What we ordered: We started with the complimentary rye bread, fresh from a local bakery.  The thick, dense bread was neatly sliced and had the flavor and slight dryness you would expect from a rye bread.  Caraway seeds too!

Manitou Station is known as the place to go for Scotch Eggs, so we tried these to start.  Delicious! A simple hard-boiled egg that is wrapped with a sausage patty, lightly breaded and then deep fried.  These treats were served with a mustard dipping sauce.  If you haven’t ever tried one, what are you waiting for?!

I had also heard great things about the Steamed Clams so we got an order of these too.  These clams were superior to any others I have had around.  They were steamed open with fresh garlic, white wine and butter; all flavors that go so well with seafood! They were cooked for just the exact amount of time and were soft and tender, easy to extract from the shell.  Squeeze a little lemon on one of those little guys and you will have eaten half the plate before you know it.  Would you believe that this large plate of clams is only $8??!! You can’t even see half the clams in this photo because they were covered by the three large pieces of bread that came with.  They totally under-priced these little gems but you won’t hear me complaining!

The Parmesan Crusted Walleye came highly recommended and sounded like a great choice, so that is what I ordered for my entree.  Fabulous decision! The walleye fillet may have been the biggest I have seen to date and it looked incredibly appealing as well.  The fillet was lightly seasoned and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese, then baked until the cheese was a dark golden color.  The texture was both light and flaky, just as it should be.  I also loved that it didn’t have a thick breading on it like you see at many other restaurants (great for a low-carb diet!).  The wild rice pilaf that was served with it was also on the light side and perfectly complimented the fish.  Another great example of how fish and rice were meant to go together ;)  The steamed broccoli was also very good, with just a little butter and salt to season it.  The order was very big and even after sharing with my companion, my plate was still half full. (Have I mentioned I love leftovers?)

My companion ordered the Filet Mignon with Mushroom Demi Glace (other options included Blue Cheese Butter or Bearnaise Sauce).  The tender cut of meat was aged, giving it that extra-special meaty flavor so many carnivores (like me and my companion) love.  It was mildly seasoned with salt , then chargrilled until it was medium-rare.  The meat was so tender it practically melted in my mouth.  I confess I ate more than a few bites of my companion’s steak, I loved it so much.

With the steak we also ordered a Crock O ‘Shrooms, which is large enough for at least two people to share.  These are a must-have if you like mushrooms with your steak!! Sauteed in a  broth of garlic and butter, these little button mushrooms hold flavor like a sponge.  Yum!

Despite being very full after the appetizers and entree, I ordered dessert as well.  I had never had Peaches Foster but it sounded wonderful and tasted even better! The dish was prepared with fresh, firm, peaches that had been cut into bite-sized pieces and coated with brown sugar, then cooked until they were caramelized.  The peaches were served over vanilla ice cream, giving a whole new twist to peaches-and-cream.  The texture of the peaches was similar to cooked apple,  and they were just the perfect blend of tart and sweet.

They brought us some complimentary truffles, made in-house daily.  These truffles happened to be mint but the flavor changes every day.  Very good!

We also tried a couple of the Specialty House drinks: Chocolate Truffle Martini and the Pontoon Ride.  The chocolate truffle martini was made with Kahlua Mocha, Creme de Cacoa and Bailey’s Irish Creme.  A yummy, creamy, chocolatey treat that is great after dinner (if you still have room!).  It was not only drizzled with chocolate but also had a homemade truffle in the glass.

The Pontoon Ride was made with Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, Sierra Mist, and a splash of orange juice.  Very cool, refreshing citrusy drink.  Would be great out on the patio in the summer

Service: We had excellent service! The people at Manitou Station know how to treat their customers right.  There are two parking lots available to customers, one in the front and one in the back (general purpose parking), as well as on-street parking so we had no problem finding a space.  We were greeted with a  smile at the hostess stand and were given a nice big booth.  Our server, Nick, was very knowledgeable of the menu and did a great job of giving recommendations.  Our food was paced at a leisurely rate as we ordered different courses, and drinks were served and refilled promptly.  The Management staff (including restaurant owners) seem very considerate of their guests, periodically stopping at tables to ask how everything is. I really appreciate the personal touch… not enough restaurants do that these days.

Overall Impression: We loved everything about Manitou Station: Cool atmosphere for either lunch, dinner or drinks, great service, creative cocktails, scotch eggs, seasoned clams, giant walleye, tender-aged beef, and peaches foster….. need I say more?  I will be back again soon!! Also, Mantou Station is going to be a happening place on St Patrick’s Day with a special menu, event tent and live music.
Manitou Station on Urbanspoon

Feb 282010
 

This is an update to the original review I wrote in March 2007.  Time for an update!

Cuisine: Italian
Restaurant Features: Bar, Live Music, Nightclub, Sunday Brunch, Student Discount
Location: Minneapolis, MN (Dinkytown)
Address: 327 14th Av. SE. Minneapolis, MN 55414 612.378.4849
Hours: Mon – Thu: 11:30 a-9p      Fri – Sat: 11:30 a- 11p       Sunday: 11a-9p
Links: Loring Pasta Bar Website * Loring Pasta Bar on FacebookGoogle Map

Atmosphere: The inside of the Loring Pasta Bar is not only super cool, but breath-taking and romantic as well. Located inside a beautifully renovated building in Dinkytown (formerly known as Gray’s Drug Store) , the Loring Pasta Bar is an amazing site to see.  Ceilings are 2-3 stories high, with an upper-eating area overlooking the court-yard style main dining room.  Large trees and beautiful plants line the perimeter (glass windows are often opened or removed during summer months to really give you the feeling of eating outdoors.).  They also have live music every night from 6-9pm, usually in the form of a jazz band.

Besides having additional tables for dining in the upper level, there is also this cute little romantic lounge.


Menu: Appetizers include Artichoke Ramekin, Ciabatta Bruschetta, Fried Calamari, Pan Fried Potstickers, and Spicy Tuna Sushi Roll.

Salad options are the House Salad, Caesar Salad, and Salade Sauvage.

Pastas on the menu seem to change frequently and may include Beef Shortribs Farfalle, Fettuccini Carbonara, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Roasted Chicken and Mozzarella Ravioli, Linguini with Clam Sauce, Mushroom Penne, Cheese Tortellini Classico, Cheese Tortellini Nuovi, and Mac N Cheese.

Menu entrees also seem to change at least seasonally and may include items such as Seared Sea Scallops, South American Beef Tips, Grilled Salmon, New York Strip, Beef Tenderloin, Osso Buco (Braised Veal), Blackened Catfish, and Shrimp or Chicken Vegetable Stir-Fry.
Price guide: Appetizers $8-9 Salads $5-7  Pasta $13-17  Entrees $16-23

Student Discount of 30% with Valid Student I.D. (Excluded 6-9pm Fri & Sat)

Special Events:

  • Salsa Dancing every Friday and Saturday night 10pm $8/10  (18+)
  • Live Music from 6-9pm every day

Sunday Brunch Buffet: $10.95/Students $15.95/Adults

  • Items change weekly but always include a variety of breakfast items, lunch items, pastas, desserts and fresh fruits.

What we ordered: We started with an order of Bruschetta, a savory mix of  roasted red peppers, chopped golden tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, topped with a balsamic sauce, all sitting on little toasts of ciabatta.  The four pieces didn’t go far but everyone enjoyed it.

I ordered the Cheese Tortellini Nuovi after much deliberation and asking the server for suggestions.  A pleasant choice!  The bowl-sized portion of tortellini was bathed in an enticing cream sauce, rich in flavor from a mix of spices.  The pasta was topped with sliced prosciutto and toasted pine nuts, a symphony of textures.  Oh Heavenly pasta!

One of my companions ordered the Spicy Tuna Roll, a large order of 9 pieces.  The roll had raw tuna, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo, carrot and rice.  Served with a side of edamame ( wasabi and ginger too, of course!)

Another companion ordered the Roasted Chicken with Mozzarella Ravioli.  The raviolis are hand-made and tossed in a Napolitana sauce (concassed tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil, and extra virgin olive oil).  The bowl was topped with a serving of roasted chicken and freshly grated cheese.

We were celebrating a birthday that night and so one of my companions enjoyed this Chocolate Souffle with Vanilla Ice Cream.


Service: It was very busy on this Saturday night and parking can be scarce; options are metered parking or pay lots.  I ended up parking in a lot a few blocks away.  We had a reservation for a fairly large group and they were able to seat us all promptly.  Our server was really efficient at serving a large group.  Our visit extended over a couple of hours as we enjoyed our food and company, with food and drink served throughout the time.
Overall Impression: I enjoyed my visit to the Loring Pasta Bar just as much (if not more) than my first visit three years ago.  The atmosphere is really cool and they have a variety of pastas and entrees on the menu.  Seems like it would be a cool place to come for Salsa dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.
Lakeside Club on Urbanspoon

Feb 152009
 

Cuisine: Japanese

Restaurant Features: All-You-Can-Eat, On-Site Parking, Bar
Location: Woodbury, MN
Address: 779 Bielenberg Dr. Unit 106 Woodbury, MN 55125 (651)578-7888

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2pm 4pm-10pm  Sat-Sun 11am-11pm
Links: Google Map

Akita-outside1000

Atmosphere: Akita is located in the corner of a strip mall (NE Corner of Tamarack Trail and Bielenberg Dr) and is larger than I expected it to be.  In the center of the restaurant is a large wooden pagoda-type structure, which is where the sushi chefs work their magic, and the alcoholic beverages are made.  Along one side of the structure is a sushi bar that seats about 12 people, the other three sides have bistro tables that wrap around and can accommodate two to four people.

Akita-sushibar1000
Another view of the bar/restaurant

Akita-dining1000Akita also has several booths along the outer walls of the restaurant which seem to offer a little more privacy.

Akita-inside1000

Menu: There are three menu options at Akita: Habachi (which has a separate dining area), A La Carte and All You Can Eat.  You may order anything off the AYCE Menu (all food is made-to-order) including:

Appetizers- Seaweed Salad, Edamame, Flying Fish Egg Salad, Miso Soup, Vegetable Salad, Cold Tofu, Chicken Wings, and Onion Soup.

Sashimi- Salmon, White Tuna, Snapper, Surf Clam, Mackerel, Crab Meat, and Tamago.

Sushi- Octopus, Sushi Pizza, Tofu, White Tuna, Salmon, Snapper, Mackerel, Unagi, Shrimp, Squid, Surf Clam, Tamago, Spicy Salmon, Spicy Tuna, Crab Meat, and Tobiko.

Maki Rolls (4-6 rolls per order)- Dragon, Spider, Rainbow, California, Shrimp Tempura, Cucumber and Surf Clam, Crispy, FutoMaki, White Tuna, Crab, Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon, Sweet Potato, Cucumber and Avocado, Cucumber, Salmon, Avocado, Tamago, Unagi, Tobiko, Dynamite, Pickled Mushroom and Pickled Radish.

Temaki (Hand Roll in a cone shape)- Shrimp Tempura, California, Spicy
Tuna, Cucumber and Surf Clam, Cucumber, Avocado, Spicy Salmon, Salmon,
Cucumber and Avocado, White Tuna, Crab Meat, Sweet Potato, Unagi,
Snapper, and Tamago.

Teriyaki- Chicken, Grilled Pike/Mackerel, Salmon, Salmon Head, Beef, Salmon Neck, Eggplant, Mackerel

Tempura- Shrimp, Squid, Crab Meat, Eggplant, Vegetable, Snapper, Potato, Mushroom, and Toro.

Teppanyaki- Baby Muchroom Beef Roll, Green Onion Beef Roll, BBQ Eel Fried Rice, Seafood Fried Rice, Sirloin Beef, Chicken, Salmon, Vegetable, Japanese Fried Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice, Chicken Fried Rice, Chicken Fried Udon, Japanese Fried Udon, Seafood Fried Udon, and Vegetable Fried Udon.

Udon (Thick Noodle) & Soba (Thin Noodle) in Soup- Vegetable, Dumpling, Spicy Seafood, Seafood, Beef, Tempura, Spicy Beef, Crab Meat, Chicken Teriyaki, Chicken Cutlet,  and Pork Cutlet.

You may also get any of the following foods deep-fried: Scallop, Dumpling, Pork Cutlet, Chicken Cutlet, Curry Chicken, Capelin Fish, Curry Pork, Tofu, Curry Beef, Spring Roll, and Squid Ball.

Desserts include Green Tea Ice Cream, Red Bean Ice Cream, and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Price guide: All You Can Eat Dinner $25  A La Carte $3-10 (per order) Hibachi $17-34

What We ordered: My companions and I first shared this large bowl of edamame (soy beans)

Akita-edimame1000

I started with a Dragon Roll (tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado, and rice rolled with salmon or tuna on top and then drizzled with spicy mayo sauce).  This was one of my favorites! I loved the combination of flavors and the slightly sweet crunch of the tempura shrimp along with the spicy sauce on top. One order includes 8 large pieces, almost too big to fit in my mouth. (I think I ate two full orders of the Dragon roll just to myself!)

The spicy tuna rolls were also delicious.  The tuna seemed to be cut into very fine pieces and mixed with a spicy mayo sauce, then paired with finely-sliced cucumber and wrapped with seaweed and rice.

Akita-dragonroll1000
Next I tried

some sushi; Salmon, Yellow Tail and Surf Clam.  The fish was sliced thin and was of pretty decent quality; fresh.

Akita-salmonyellowtailsushi1000
We also tried the Beef Teriyaki, which was thinly sliced, tender and slightly sweet form the teriyaki sauce.  The order is big enough to share with others and conveniently cut into thin pieces.

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The Fried Scallops were also very good.  I have eaten many scallops in my time, but I had never had them deep-dried until now.  Very good! The outside was very crispy and the inside was hot, but the combination of the tender scallop meat with the crunchy outside was a great combination, similar to a fish-stick or nugget, but so much better.  The top was drizzled with a creamy sauce (mayo?)

Akita-friedscallop1000Another companion tried the Unagi (eel)

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Another companion ordered the Octopus Sushi with Surf Clam and Yellowtail Sashimi.  The sashimi is sliced very thin and almost melts in your mouth.  The octopus does not have a real strong flavor, but the texture is quite chewy.

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For dessert we each tried the Green Tea Ice Cream (although I think we were all too full to really enjoy it).  The small scoop was just the right amount to cleanse your pallet after a very filling meal of sushi!

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Service: I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect as I had read many mixed reviews about the service at Akita, but my visit on a quiet Tuesday night was quite good.  The hostess wasn’t very friendly and our waitress spoke limited English, but we were able to get by without a problem.  All of our food was made-to-order and brought to us in a reasonable amount of time and our drinks were refilled in a timely fashion.  We were able to order as much as we wanted, whenever we wanted.  Our server was very up-front in letting us know that they have a surcharge of 15% for excessive waste, so it isn’t the best idea to order foods that you will not eat.
Overall Impression: Best All-You-Can Eat- Sushi offering that I have found in the Cities yet! For $25 I was able to try a large selection of the menu and ate enough to be totally stuffed out of my mind.  Try going on a Monday or Tuesday when it is less busy and you should be happy with the service.
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