I should qualify that a little bit. This is our new favorite local Chinese restaurant, i.e. one that’ll deliver to our place if we so desire. I probably need to clarify that even more. I’m talking about Americanized Chinese restaurants and cuisine. Granted, this is what you find by default, but with a little effort, you can find places that serve authentic Chinese fare. But that’s neither here nor there at the moment.
New Fresh Wok is located on Larpenteur Ave, just off of Snelling in St. Paul. They opened up sometime last fall and it took us a bit of time before we actually went and ate there, even though it’s less than two miles from our apartment. The reason for the delay is that we were hitting a long string of mediocre Chinese restaurants in the area and we were not all that excited about trying another place just to be let down. The other restaurants weren’t bad, but Lindz and I are used to being spoiled. When we were living in Decorah, IA, we would frequent two really kicking Chinese places in town (yup, two great Chinese restaurants in a town with a population of just over 8000). Of course, there is our hands down favorite Chinese place of all time, China Star, in Rochester (located a disturbingly convenient half mile from our future home and 2.5 miles from Lindz’s folks place). That’s enough of the past.
This post/review is a compilation of a couple of visits, both eating in and getting take-out.
First up, we have the Thai Styled Mango Chicken. This was an okay dish. It had an adequate level of heat to it, but for some reason the flavor was two dimensional. The veggies were good but the chicken was mushy. It reminded me of the chicken breasts that I accidentally bought one time that were injected with a saline solution to make them more tender. It worked, but it felt like I was eating a sponge that kinda sorta tasted like chicken. Even though the flavors weren’t there, I do really like the concept of this dish.
One of Lindz’s requirements for a good Chinese place is good Crab Rangoons. But since they are hard to find, she is willing to settle for Cream Cheese Wontons. This is one of those tricky things to cook, with it comprising of only a few ingredients, you have to nail it every time. New Fresh Wok passes with flying colors.
Outside of Decorah, I haven’t been able to find a place that does a Mongolian Beef to my liking. Much to my surprise and even more to my delight, New Fresh Wok offers up a really good version. I like Mongolian Beef best with just beef, onions, and sauce. They throw in a few more veggies than I would prefer, but it doesn’t detract from the dish. It’s a nice dish with a salty, earthy base highlighted with onions, garlic, ginger, and, of course, the beef.
My true test of a Chinese restaurant is a dish that is not even Chinese. I am obviously talking about General Tso’s Chicken. This is a dish that needs a teeth shattering batter, tender chicken, and a sauce that will make you thankful for the rice because it cuts the heat. New Fresh Wok delivers on all of these accounts. This is the fundamental reason why New Fresh Wok surged to the top of our favorites list.
OK, I didn’t have the Orange Chicken, but Sheryl really seemed to like it. Even though she thought it was light on the veggies.
Naturally, we had to try out a selection from their sushi bar. And, naturally, we went with the Dragon Roll that has eel and cucumber in the center and topped off with avocado and roe. Not the greatest roll I’ve ever eaten, but for the price, it was worth it. Hmm, apparently somewhere along the way I’ve become a total sushi snob.
What would a Chinese meal be without some tea? New Fresh Wok served the standard Chinese restaurant tea. I’m not a huge tea drinker, so that’s all the info you’ll get out of me. But I really like the tea pot.
If you find yourself in the Roseville area and are hankering for some good Chinese, drop in at New Fresh Wok. You won’t be disappointed.
I am writing about the mysterious kale salad that I keep mentioning.
I got the recipe from one of my favorite food-blogs. Right now, the blog is going through a little identity crisis, but the writing is still top-notch. You can find the original recipe here (in the comment section) at The Pete Is On. I have no idea who Pete is, but I find him very entertaining, and our culinary curiosity is freakishly in step. If you like reading my posts, you’ll love reading his. Seriously, go check him out. I’ll wait.
You did just go look at Pete’s blog, right? OK. I’ll believe you, but only this once.
- 1 bundle Kale
- 1/3 cup Tamari Soy Sauce
- 1/3 cup Lemon Juice
- 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 Red Onion
- 1/4 cup Sesame Seeds
- 1/4 cup Pumpkin Seeds (shelled)
- 1/4 cup Sunflower Seeds (shelled)
- Alfalfa Sprouts to taste
- diced Avocado
Mix the soy sauce and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk in oil slowly. Slice onions thinly into half moons and put them into the dressing while you make the salad. Toast the nuts in a dry skillet. Do the nuts separately because they cook at different speeds. Remove the stems from the kale and then chiffonade the leaves and slice the stems into a bite size pieces. Add the dressing (except the onions) to the kale and massage with your hands until softened (about a minute). Add the onion, nuts, and sprouts and toss briefly to cover with dressing. Finally, add the avocado and serve.
When I’ve made it, I substitute almond slices and pine nuts in for the pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Also, I don’t put in any alfalfa sprouts. The first time I made it, I did put in avocado, but I’ve done it without, and it still tastes great. It’s a very solid recipe and can handle any messing around with the ingredients with ease.
If you’ve tried kale before and have been turned off by it’s bitter taste, you should still try this recipe. The dressing (I’m assuming the olive oil / lemon juice) tempers that bitterness quite well.
In the interest in full disclosure, I did get some “eh” reviews on it from my family. But they didn’t spit it out immediately, so that’s good. Even with the occasional lackluster enthusiasm, I’m going to making this salad a lot.
The restaurant that Lindz and I went to was the one located in the hotel. I can’t describe Cosmos any better than the line from the New York Times: “Hybrid of SoHo slick and Minnesota nice.” Like the rest of 601 Graves, it has a modern chic decor. The staff was unbelievably nice from the hostess, to the bartender who chatted with me at the bar while I was waiting for Lindz to come down, and to our AMAZING waiter who was spot on with personality and menu suggestions.
We were seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant, which wasn’t too hard because there were not a lot of people dining that night. But they did take care to place at least a couple of tables between us and the closest diners for a more intimate experience. Lindz and I decided to split a bottle of one of their cheaper wines. $40 is cheap for a bottle considering they had some that ranged upwards to $1000. Like I was ever so subtly hinting at before, our fantastic waiter struck up a conversation with us right after we were seated. In the process of explaining our little celebration, he threw out a few suggestions to try on the menu. One of which was the tuna tartar appetizer. He described it as “habit forming” and that he would eat it as often as he could. Since both Lindz and I like sushi, we figured this would be a safe bet for a starter. Boy were we wrong. Saying that this tartar was a safe bet is like calling McD’s cheeseburger a safe bet and getting filet mignon set down in front of you. This tartar is not comparable to anything that I’ve ever had before. The freshness of the tuna was unquestionable. The richness of the fish and whatever spices they mixed with it was heavenly. Plus, as a side, they put a dollop of avocado ice cream on the plate. This may sound like a weird concoction that you would see on Iron Chef, but it really does work. The creaminess of an avocado transitions beautifully into the creaminess that one gets with a high quality ice cream. So like our waiter said, habit forming. One quick example why I have a bit of a foodie crush on our waiter is that he went ahead and had the kitchen split our app orders without asking us. He was able to anticipate our wants and needs even before we realized them.
The other appetizer that we split was some lobster bisque. I’m not sure what Lindz’ motivation was, but I just like to say “I’ll have the lobster bisque.” Makes me feel like a Vanderbilt. I was not to be disappointed with this selection either. The bisque was a thick creamy seafoody bowl of goodness. It was everything you would expect out of a bisque plus more. The more was a couple of morsels of lobster chillin’ in the bottom of the bowl like the prize in a cereal box. Only better. Much better.
Between our app and main course, the waiter brought out a palette cleanser for us. It was one of those fun little things that molecular-gastronomists like to do. It had a concentrated citrus liquid (orange I believe) suspended in a gelatin skin, which was in turn suspended in a different liquid in a shot glass. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of it and the only thing I remember is the strong taste of citrus and the pop of gelatin skin. While it may not be the highlight of the meal, it was definitely fun and amusing. The timing on the courses was stellar. There was no awkward lag between one dish and another.
Lindz decided to go all out on the fancy seafood this night. For her entree she chose the butter poached lobster. There is really no way you can go wrong with that combination. The little bite that I stole from her proved that very well. Without a doubt, this was the most perfectly cooked lobster that I’ve ever had. The butter flavor was infused into the meat and since it was poached, the meat was unbelievable succulent and tender.
I opted for the white wine braised rabbit. I choose it mainly because I haven’t had rabbit in a long time, also it was the most out of the ordinary dish they had for entrees. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to be adventurous with my food. It pains me to admit this, but this was the weakest dish that we were served the entire night. I’m a self-proclaimed salt fiend and by the time I got to the end of my dish, it was getting a bit salty even for my palette. Other then being a bit heavy handed with the NaCl, this was a great dish. the rabbit was tender and flavorful. The pasta, I’m 98% certain was made from scratch and cooked to the perfect chewiness. All in all, it was a great meaty and earthy dish.
Even taking our wild sushi meals into account, this was by far the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten. That being said, it was also without question one of the top three meals that I’ve ever eaten. As soon as we can afford it, I’m planning on going back.
I do feel a little guilty about the tip we left our waiter. Don’t worry, it was in excess of what we normally do and we are generous tippers. If we could have afforded it, I would have left him a 100% tip because with his help the experience was that great and the food selections were even better. If you can afford to splurge for a night, I recommend this place without hesitation.
Okay, the title sounds more avant garde than the dish is, but we all need an ego stroke occasionally. Like I said in a previous post, my gold-standard of guacamole is the stuff I scarfed down at Sabor Latino. I really don’t have a specific recipe, which I’m a bit proud of. At least with this dish, I’ve moved into the realm of Grandma level cooking!
- 6 ripe Avocados
- Juice of 1 Lime
- 2 small Tomatoes, seeded and medium dice
- small handful Cilantro coarsely chopped
- 1/4 of a small Onion, fine dice
- 2 cloves minced Garlic
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
Cut the avocados in half, twist to separate, and pop out the seed. Scoop the avocado out of the skin with a spoon and into a bowl, then mash it up to a creamy, but slightly chunky consistency with a fork. Immediately add the juice of the lime and mix thoroughly. This is to keep the avocado from turning brown. Add the tomato, cilantro, onion, and garlic. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to adjust the ratios to your preference.