Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rice Paper - Edina, MN

My boss was in town (she works from home in Kentucky) and she likes to get most of our team together and run up the ole’ expense account by buying us dinner. Trash wanted to go someplace boring, but I talked her into changing it to a place she remembered she actually does like – Rice Paper. Rice Paper recently relocated into a bigger fancier space and I’d been hoping to try it out. Finally, I had my chance (after moving out of Edina, of course).

The place is known for making better-quality Asian fusion food with simple flavors. They take out the salty and fattening parts of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai cooking and clean it up a bit. It has a pretty good reputation around town.

I got there a little before five and saw the lights were turned off. When I drove by the entrance, I noticed they don’t open until 5, so I’m glad we all agreed to meet at 5. By the time I had parked the car and called D.Rough (who was finally going to get to meet my boss and other co-worker tonight at dinner), the place had opened and somehow seated Trash before I could get in the door.

The inside is dark, but has a lot of windows, so I’m guessing on particularly sunny days, it’s probably glorious inside. Today was very rainy. Lots of dark wood with a modern Asian-inspired theme.

D.Rough showed up and then we got a call from the boss and co-worker that they were stuck in traffic and would be late. Trash, D.Rough and I commenced ordering appetizers and I got a nice glass of Pinot Grigio. Right before the appetizers showed up, so did the other two people we were waiting on. All the various introductions were made and everyone got along just grand.

The appetizers showed up and looked fantastic. The Monsoon Dumplings were everyone’s favorite and somehow, I managed to score two of them. Veggie-filled dumplings served with a scallion-oil dipping sauce. No complaints on these things, even without meat – hahaha. The spring rolls also came without meat (Trash is a vegetarian – aka fun-ruiner), but were pretty good. They weren’t amazing, but they tasted fine. Not sure why they didn’t taste all that fresh, unless they made them too long ago and they had sat a bit too long. Just a little gummy on the rice paper (which I found ironic). D.Rough and I were also amused that the restaurant says the spring rolls are only available in limited quantities so you may not get any if you don’t get there early enough. Really? Your restaurant is named after one of the main ingredients in a fresh spring roll. I don’t think IHoP runs out of pancakes, do they? (I seriously don’t know, since I don’t go to IHoP)

I got the Mekong Encounter, which is grilled chicken with snow peas, asparagus, and sweet red bell peppers in a mildly-spicy Thai red curry-coconut sauce with Kaffir lime leaves. I think the Rice Paper does a fantastic job with presentation. If I had any photography skills at all, I would bet all of their dishes would make you hungry. Sadly, I don’t, and Blackberry hasn’t designed an SLR smartphone… yet. The "mildly spicy" description really focuses on the first part of the phrase – it wasn’t even remotely spicy. Even CorpseKitten, who orders Thai food with a negative spice level, would be able to eat this. I was hoping for something – they did put a fancy squiggle of sri racha on the side of the plate so I could get a couple of bites of heat, but I prefer the spice cooked in. However, the flavor of the coconut curry was really good – I could have had a bowl of this as a soup and been satisfied with it all. The vegetables, while steamed may have lost some of their freshness. Sometimes steaming kills flavor and vibrancy and sometimes it helps. This was the former of the two. The dish was good, but not stellar.

D.Rough got the Rice Paper Coconut Shrimp. It was six shrimp covered in coconut flakes and sesame seeds, drizzled with scallion oil, served with a salad and jasmine rice. I think Trash got the Lunar Clay Pot, which she seemed happy with.
I didn’t get to try any of D.Rough’s dish or Trash’s dish, so I am unable to report on them, although I found out later D.Rough agreed with me on the cost vs. flavor theory I had developed. The food is fine, but you can get the exact same thing (or much better tasting) for less than half at a lot of places. This is Edina culture at its finest. If it looks fancy and you pay a lot, it must be the best.

We left the restaurant after making sure our boss had a ride back to her hotel – sometimes we fight over who’s going to take her back since it gives us an opportunity to smack-talk our fellow employees and also to ask for raises.

Then D.Rough and I went and bought D.Rough her very first smartphone – iPhone 4. Moving straight to the top of the chain!

Top 5 things about Rice Paper
1. Monsoon Dumplings
2. The coconut curry in the Mekong Encounter
3. Excellent wine selection, especially for an Asian restaurant
4. Staff was really nice and helpful
5. Free parking

Bottom 5 things
1. Wished the spring rolls tasted more fresh
2. Coconut curry had no spice at all
3. Really expensive for what you get. 3 people could eat at another place for the price of one dish here
4. You have to get here early to get a spring roll made with rice paper
5. I don’t mind fat and salt in my Asian food, so I grumbled that I had to pay more to get less flavor – that’s just me, though

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