Inside a restaurant whose vibrant purple awnings help diners spot it from afar, cooks concoct 75 different dishes derived from the "roof of the world." Artwork-laden walls surround the tables and cushioned chairs in the dining area, where patrons enjoy home-cooked items ranging from Tibetan-style dumplings made with lean chopped beef to batter-fried sesame chicken. The restaurant's separate bar area provides patrons with a place where they can grab a drink, watch TV, and practice thumb-wrestling moves with others.
The clatter of chopsticks and the clinking of silverware sounds throughout the dining room at D. Fong's, where diners can dig into finely crafted dishes cooked Cantonese and Szechuan-style. Owner David Fong, Jr. draws on family recipes and techniques learned while working in the kitchens of his father's Bloomington eatery, David Fong's Restaurant, which has been a local institution since 1958. D. Fong's also provides catering for corporate events, graduation parties, or the city-wide celebrations held whenever someone beats the final boss of Tekken 3.
With seafood, beef, lamb, tofu, pork, duck, chicken, fried rice, chow mein, lo mein, and chow mei fun on Tian Jin Chinese Restaurant's menu, there's a dish to accommodate any and every Chinese food whim. But Mpls.St.Paul Magazine recommends the restaurant for its authentic Mandarin and Szechuan dishes, adventurous appetizers like the home-style gizzards ($6.95), and the house specialties. Szechuan specialty ma po tofu ($9.95) wraps vegetarian tongues in a savory bean curd embrace, and cumin lamb is a succulent medley of the titular meat, fresh bell peppers, and onions in an earthy sauce ($14.95). Or, take a dive in the tastes of the ocean with the sea cucumber with scallion sauce ($16.95). No matter which dish you request, you're bound to discover a wealth of unexpected Chinese flavors that haven't yet danced with your taste buds or serenaded your incisors with John Fogerty lyrics; Heavy Table magazine says Tian Jin "is doing some remarkable things with the food that sheds real light on how it’s meant to taste."
Thom Pham, the founder of Thanh Do, Azia, and the Caterpillar Lounge, first learned to cook as a child in the Vietnamese village of Qui Nhon. As a youth, he helped his grandmother, Bo, run her catering business. After a Minneapolis family adopted 14-year-old Thom, his culinary sensibilities began to shift, creating the mix of local Minnesota flavor and Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai influences found on Thanh Do's menu. When not digging into cranberry curry, diners can chew through spare ribs that chefs have marinated overnight, then cooked over a gentle flame for six hours while reading Goodnight Moon aloud. Pham's team can also cater to vegetarian diets with tofu or mock duck. Sunny-yellow walls and fiery orange lanterns infuse each meal with a sense of warmth, preventing diners from kindling campfires with chopstick friction.
With three generations of restaurant-owning experience, the Kozlak family puts forward high-quality American fare with an emphasis on excellent service in a comfortable neighborhood setting. Only certified-Angus-beef steaks and prime rib, as well as fresh seafood, are found on the extensive menu. House cuts include the Bone-In Steer Tenderloin ($41.95), which is considered the finest steak available, fusing the flavor of the bone with the tenderness of the filet. The Filet Oscar ($42.95) is topped with crab meat and crisp asparagus and finished with smooth béarnaise sauce. For all non–beef eaters, the pinnacle of comfort food is found in the creamy abyss of the chicken pot pie ($12.95). There are many other chicken, lamb, pasta, pork, and seafood choices, including a dish that consists of watching neighboring diners feast.
Similar to the Great Wall of China, the menu at Pagoda is a daunting, seemingly endless composition: more than 200 items populate its 20-something pages. The length of the menu makes a bit more sense when patrons realize the restaurant serves dishes from China, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, and Thailand.
Such a wide variety is a good thing, too, considering Pagoda "really has an eye on feeding the busy neighborhood," according to the Star Tribune. It does just that with chef-recommended creations, such as pork rib stew and walnut jumbo shrimp. For dinner, diners can opt for entrees with bottomless sake specials, and for lunch, they can choose from more than 90 dim-sum dishes until 3 p.m., when local students awake from their afternoon naps and collectively howl in anticipation of dinner.