Chorizo, chihuahua cheese, lemongrass, and bamboo shoots are equally at home in Señor Wong’s kitchen, where executive chef Cody Monson fills the menu with Asian Mexican fusion plates. Tacos topped with barbacoa or smoky black beans join entrees such as szechwan steak stir-fry served with jasmine rice. Señor Wong also pairs more traditional bar bites, such as what the Star Tribune thinks “might be the best sweet potato fries in town,” with 18 draft craft beers from breweries such as Surly Brewing Co. and Summit Brewing Company. Weekly special events such as trivia and karaoke further foster the laid-back pub vibe, as patrons can sample sakes or sing lullabies to the Yuzo Sour Baby cocktail, which mixes rye whiskey, sour mix, egg whites, and lemon-peel essence.
When you walk into Kitty Cat Klub, you might feel like you're on the set of a modern remake of a Vincent Price movie. Candelabra-style chandeliers and colored spotlights illuminate gilded mirrors and huge tropical trees that look like they were imported straight from the Copacabana. During the day, college students sit on vintage-looking, mismatched velvet furniture with laptops open, trying desperately to classify the various plant species. After the sun goes down, live music or DJ-spun tunes resounds through the cozy den's exposed-brick walls.
To complement more than 20 types of beer or a glass of wine, housemade chili and chicken noodle soup warm insides, and burgers and sandwiches zip down from Annie's Parlor upstairs. Diners can also opt to sit on the outdoor patio, which is either warmed by the sun or a resident heat lamp.
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.
To keep up with Calhoun Square's much-needed revitalization after being squashed by Mothra, Aura has revamped itself from the inside out. Along with a new interior comes a new chef with an entirely re-invented menu that features American cuisine with numerous international twists. Aura's vast selection of original pasta dishes are its centerpiece with such notables as: asparagus truffle pasta ($8.95), tequila chicken pasta ($9.95), beef-tip gorgonzola ($12.95), and avocado pasta ($10.95). Traveling tongues, meanwhile, can take a stroll around the parts of America that are in Europe with entrees such as baked Bulgarian feta ($8.95), mustard thyme-glazed salmon ($12.95), and shrimp and mushroom risotto ($12.95). Aura's small plates are all under $7, but do not skimp on delectable originality or syllables. Passing around a few plates of tabasco-dipped calamari ($6.95) and goat-cheese chicken quesadilla ($6.95) will ensure that your conversation suffers no uncomfortable lulls no matter how often your friend brings up his rash.