It’s about that time of year when we, in our frozen state, start to wish we were anywhere but here. Going on an international trip can be a bit out of our price range, though, so we came up with an alternative. Travel the world, via your plate. Here in St. Louis Park we have restaurants featuring cuisine from all around the globe, and we’ve put together a list of some dishes to try if you’ve got that travel bug. And who knows? It might inspire you to buy that plane ticket.
Thai Hot & Sour Soup
Thanh Do Restaurant and Bar
First stop: Thailand. This spicy soup will thaw your January soul. A mixture of tomato, pineapple, bean sprouts, lemongrass, celery, bamboo shoots, onions, vermicelli noodles and a protein of your choice, it’s a bright, eye-opening bowl that will shake away your winter blues and take you to the tropical beaches of Thailand. Full disclosure: It does have some heat, so those who wish to avoid a light sweat should pick a milder dish (ramen is recommended). $10.99.
Curry House Chicken
Cooper Pub & Restaurant
We know that when you think of Irish food you think of shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and corned beef. But in reality, corned beef and cabbage is something only Americans eat on St. Patrick’s Day. Fish and chips are served at nearly every bar in Ireland, but if you want to eat as the locals would eat, curry should be involved. Back when England controlled much of the world, the spices of India made their way to London, and today curries are as much a dish of the U.K. and Ireland as fish and chips. These chicken breasts have been simmering away in a rich curry sauce, and are served with rice—just close your eyes and imagine lush green hills and a light drizzle out the window. Instead of snow. $13.99.
Mill Valley Kitchen
This dish traces its roots back to San Francisco, but got its inspiration from Italy, so take your travel pick. It’s a seafood-heavy soup, so it is not difficult to imagine being on the coast instead of here in a landlocked state. King crab, shrimp, mussels, clams, and market fish are swimming in a tomato-herb broth. It’s warm and inviting, and paired with your favorite wine, you could be sitting in a café in Naples after a long day of sightseeing. $32.
Head south of the border for a light appetizer. Naturally, nearly everything you order at Rojo will take you on a culinary trip to Mexico. But why not go beyond the taco and burrito for something a little out of your comfort zone? Rojo’s ceviche is a wonderfully chunky mixture of shrimp, crab, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime and cilantro—all the bright, fresh flavors you think of when someone says Mexican food. Served with chips for easy scooping, it tastes like the beach is merely yards away, and pairs perfectly with your margarita. $14.75.
Raku Sushi & Lounge
Step away from the deep-fried sushi roll. If you really want to take a trip to Japan, try a few pieces of sashimi next time you go out for sushi. While we’re all for some spicy tuna rolls, sashimi is a great way to really taste the fish or seafood presented to you, with the slices of fish all on their own. Start with the hamachi (yellowtail). It’s mild and buttery—in short, delicious. For those in favor of shellfish, you can’t go wrong with the hotategai (scallops). And if you really want to step it up, head to the “caviar” section of the sashimi menu and try ikura (salmon roe), tobiko (flying fish roe) or uni (sea urchin). The latter might not be for everyone, with its creamy texture and briny flavor, but they’re all worth a try on this culinary adventure. Prices vary.
Now it’s time to head to the Mediterranean for some crispy falafel. At Vitali’s, choose flatbread or a wrap; inside are three baked falafel balls with housemade hummus, a veggie medley of zucchini, carrots and onions, topped with Vitali’s pesto sauce. The colorful plate screams freshness and will take you to the other side of the world in one swift bite. And the bonus is that vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will be able to swoon over the crispy falafel. $8.99.