Born in Vietnam and raised in the United States by Chinese parents, chef Nina Wong has always infused her dishes with a variety of Asian tastes. After marrying Thomas Gnanapragasam—a third-generation Malaysian of Indian descent—Wong discovered more unique flavors to integrate into her signature sauces and syrups. Originally opened in 2005, Chin Dian Café channels the pair's unique backgrounds through Asian soups, salads, and noodle and rice dishes, even offering some gluten-free options. Popular dishes, such as chow mai fun and chicken-and-chive dumplings, keep patrons rolling in and have earned the restaurant media acclaim from the Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, and the dictionary.
Wally's Falafel & Hummus’s culinary craftspeople prepare dishes from a robust menu directly in front of hungry diners. An appetizer of hummus introduces taste buds to authentic flavors, such as garbanzo beans, tahini sauce, and garlic ($3.49). Stomachs swoon over the falafel sandwich, which captures tomato, cucumber, and tahini-drizzled hummus spread in a soft pita bread trap ($3.99). Under ornate brick arches, high-backed booths ensconce cozy tables that support a plate of shawirma—hearty slices of tender lamb or chicken grilled over a controlled-pyrotechnic display ($8.99).
Taj Indian Grill’s menu is brimming with classic Indian dishes, but it leaves room for Pan-Asian favorites such as Thai green curry ($8 with chicken) and sweet-and-sour chicken ($7). Start with an appetizer such as samosa, triangles of crust stuffed with spiced veggies or chicken (two pieces, $4), before selecting a main mouthful such as tender lamb rogan josh ($11). For a romantic or gigantic meal, there’s the tandoori platter for two ($27), a plate piled high with chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, lamb tikka, steak tikka, shrimp, rice, and cilantro naan bread. Complement your plate with a potable pairing of beer, wine, or Indian tea or coffee.
Jalsa Indian Fast Food transports diners on an aromatic journey through many regions of India with an authentic menu of traditional street fare. Diners collect several snack-sized dishes, or chaat, to construct an eclectic meal. Use your teeth or a matchbox-sized oil rig to drill into the warm potato core beneath an aloo vada morsel's chickpea-batter crust ($1.35), or free lentils and spicy scents from the interior of a deep-fried kachori ($1.35). Eaters can also opt for a single large entree such as classic chicken tikka masala ($7.99), a creamy curry with rice escorted to tables by brooding paratha bread or a corsage-bearing piece of roti.
Chefs at Copper Pot Indian Grill fire up clay tandoori ovens to bake yogurt-marinated chicken and prawns seasoned with carom seed and red-chili powder. The chefs pick recipes from different parts of India to feature the country’s varied flavors, rotating their selections every four to six months, or whenever they complete a game of Monopoly. They stock a lunch buffet with fresh naan and pudhina paratha and maintain a well-rounded wine list with varietals from California, France, New Zealand, and Argentina.
Seafood and red meat define the core of Malabari food. The cuisine melds multiple culinary traditions represented by the colonial nations that visited the Malabar region in southwest India, but rice dishes and specialty curries local to the region stand out. Each made-to-order dish at Malabari Kitchen celebrates that history, like textbooks you get to eat. Take the njandu curry: its softshell crabs are marinated and cooked with dry-roasted and ground coconut-coriander paste. Creamy rice pudding with cashews and pistachios—a dessert called kheer—might finish off meals. Mambazha lassi, a mango puree blended with milky yogurt, also complements dining experiences at Malabari Kitchen.