Saturday, March 13, 2010

Namaste Café – Minneapolis, MN

I had a particularly bad day for a number of reasons and D.Rough thought maybe I just needed to eat my way through this stressful time. It’s amazing how fast people realize you are a comfort-food eater in times of trouble. Which also explains a lot about me and why I write a food-focused blog... She suggested Namaste Café, since she had been talking about it for a couple of weeks. I waffled a bit, only because I was really indecisive. Eventually, I looked at the menu online and thought it sounded good.

The restaurant is in Uptown and is in a large house, very similar to a Key West sort-of feel. There are probably tables out on the porch and in the yard during the summer, but it just has a very quaint homey feel to it. It serves Southeastern Asian food, which may not help pinpoint the style if you’re not geographically inclined. But think of it as Indian with some different spices and you’ll get the picture.

The menu has a lot of interesting items on it. A lot of them have curry in them and all of them look delicious, even the vegetarian ones. I had it narrowed down to two items and let the waitress decide. Did I want the Hot and Tangy Lamb with Potatoes or did I want the Squash Curry with Bison? She steered me away from the hot and tangy lamb when she said it’s REALLY vinegary. I’m still wanting to try it, but I wanted to really like this place, especially in the mood I was in. I opted for the squash curry with bison – spice level 4 out of 5. D.Rough already knew what she wanted, so she got the Almond Curry Chicken – also spice level 4 out of 5. We also needed some sort of appetizer, so we got the Paapri Chaat.

The appetizer came out and D.Rough told me this dish was basically Indian Nachos – probably the best description there ever was. She’s a foodie, so she knows what she’s talking about (and when she doesn’t, she convinces you that she does anyway). Here’s the description from the menu of the dish: House-made crunchy flour chips topped with boiled chick peas, spiced potatoes, yogurt, mustard seeds, tamarind chutney, mint chutney, coconut chutney, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and chaat masala. I don’t even know what some of those things are, let alone am able to pronounce them, but it was incredibly good. If they made this into a larger dish, I would probably get this. All the different sauces/chutneys added up to an awesome appetizer.

The entrees arrived and originally they looked like small portions. This is always the case and then when you’re about halfway through and think you’re going to die, you realize these people know what they’re doing. The bison (raised locally) had an amazing flavor. I’m a big fan of bison meat (and most meats, for that matter), and it surprised me to see it on the menu here, but there’s a reason it’s there. It’s delicious, especially with some extra spice in it. The squash was perfectly cooked with some texture, but lots of flavor and the ginger and garlic were perfect in this dish. It’s served with rice and eventually all of the rice ended up in the meat bowl to soak up the curry and other juices. Delicious. Really.

The Almond Curry Chicken isn’t much to look at (a lot of Indian dishes end up looking like poo, but are absolutely awesome), but was REALLY good. The chicken was very flavorful and wasn’t overwhelmed by the curry or ginger or garlic (or almond). The texture was good, as was the spice level. Actually, both of our dishes could have been kicked up another notch on the heat level. 4 was fine, but I think both of us would have been good with a 5. Next time.

We were really surprised at how inattentive the staff was. We waited around for water refills and silverware and D.Rough was going to order Chai (Namaste was voted best Chai in Minneapolis in 2007 and people still talk about it), but the people never showed up to ask us if we needed anything else. This was the only real let down of the place. Well, that and how few people were here to eat dinner – which is a shame because it’s really amazing food. Maybe people got fed up with the service and stopped showing up. As good as the food was, I’d serve myself if I had to, just to eat here again. I can get over service issues when the food is worth eating.

If you get a chance, go here and eat (or drink Chai if they finally take your order). Not only is the menu very interesting and has some surprises on it, you’ll also get really well-prepared food that’s not terribly outrageously priced. I think you’ll like it if you try it. Plus, if it matters to you, they are all about natural, local, and organic foods – Go them.

Top 5 things about Namaste
1. Paapri Chaat – Indian Nachos
2. Squash Curry with Bison
3. Almond Curry Chicken
4. Awesome menu selection
5. Fun restaurant atmosphere

Bottom 5 things
1. Inattentive staff – big time
2. Too many things I wanted to try on the menu
3. The inside isn’t very large, so I’m guessing on busy nights, it’s difficult to get a table (you can drink next door at Duplex while waiting, I would think)
4. Visually small portions that fill you up long before you get to the end of it
5. I was surprised the 4 out of 5 spice level was so wussy – thank you Minnesota hahaha

1 comment:

Bruce said...

Squash really is very good curried -I do a mean chicken squash curry myself.

Too bad I don't live close enough to try this place out, it sounds like I'd like it. Actually, I think my vegetarian mother would too.