“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
in the Twin Cities, but totally worth the stop. I have two that I want to recommend. Especially now that the winter’s really arrived and I find myself craving a hearty meal from one of their kitchens.
Parma 8200 – Yet another D’Amico restaurant, opened last summer, hidden away in an office park in Bloomington. It bills itself as updated “classic Italian taverna” – huh? Whatever it is, it’s good. It’s a rustic Italian but with some nice updates. It’s pasta that is smooth and silky, and sauces that are, for the most part very tasty. I’ve definitely been of the opinion that we over-index on Italian restaurants in the TC metro, and the last thing we needed was another one. However, after a stop at Parma 8200 I think I’ve come ’round to the idea.
I was somewhat skeptical when a friend suggested we meet there because of its odd location in an office tower in a somewhat random location in a spiritless building in the Normandale Lake office park. However, once inside, my prejudices were confronted because I was transported to a restaurant that feels more upscale than its menu prices, has a good vibe without trying too hard, and is stylish and contemporary while still being cozy and casual. We ate on the outdoor patio (it was August, mind you) and though it was sweltering outside, it was shaded and cool and the patio was lovely. The dining room inside and bar area shuns its suburban location and could just as easily be downtown. But, the reason it’s coming to mind of late is the pasta and the fried Sicilian rice balls. When the snow falls, I start carb loading for hibernation…I must get there… pronto!
Tea House – Amazing, authentic Szechuan food, in some random spots. They now have 4 locations, St. Paul (bordering the east side, near Maplewood), Plymouth (the one we usually go to, near Hwy 55, in a strip mall that’s seen better days) and now two in Minneapolis, one near the U of MN and the other downtown in an office tower.
If you like Chinese food you may have already discovered these, as they’re not new and they’ve certainly been raved about for years by local publications as well as reader awards, etc., and for good reason! There are two menus so review both the “American” one as well as the Chinese one with translations.
What has me thinking about Tea House on this cold winter day is their soup dumplings, or “Shanghai Mini Pork Soup Dumplings” or “Shanghai Mini Juicy Buns” on their menu. If you haven’t had these, they’re little bites of heaven. The delicate dumpling wrapper surrounds a meat filling like a typical potsticker or dumpling but surrounded with a few teaspoons of broth, created by the gelatinous broth that is added when wrapping the dumpling — this is not easy to do and is likely why there are only a few places I know of in the cities that do it (the other beyond Tea House is Szechuan Spice in the LynLake area of Mpls, and the chef-owner is a partner at the St. Paul Tea House actually). The key to eating it without splattering all over yourself or having juice run down your chin (cute when it happens to my 5-year- old, not so cute on an adult) is to first, put the dumpling on a spoon, then take a small bite from the wrapper, slurp out the hot broth, and then eat the bun. I’ve never met anyone who has tried these and not loved them.
Fortunately for me, the Tea House in Plymouth is near my work and our kids’ preschool so we frequent the place, it’s actually my 5-year-old’s favorite restaurant. She can eat a whole basket of 6 soup dumplings herself! If you need to take the chill off, get out your GPS and go find one of these Tea House spots, they are SO worth the drive.