Last week, foodies across the Twin Cities celebrated Mpls.-St.Paul Magazine’s Restaurant Week, an annual event in which some of the Twin Cities’ best and up and coming restaurants serve two course lunches ranging from $10 to $20 and three course dinners for $15 to $30.
We decided to venture into downtown Minneapolis and try out Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill, located along Nicollet Mall. Ling & Louie’s opened in September 2014 and offers “Asian favorites for modern tastes” and “American classics with Asian flair.” Being college students, the main reason we chose this place was, well, the cheap price tag.
Hidden by a towering front door, is a four story restaurant with lofted ceilings. We gathered at our table adjacent to the kitchen. The inside of the restaurant has dim-lighting, giving it a laid-back feel. Buddha heads line the walls alongside famous quotes from Asian historical figures. The bar, the main attraction, extends to the ceiling, mimicking stained glass. The interior design and typical menu prices suggest that it caters to the downtown business crowd.
The three course menu they offer during Restaurant Week features just a few of the favorites from their regular menu. Fortunately for us, we went with a big group which allowed us to try most of the items they offered. Despite the lack of silverware and water for the first twenty minutes, the anticipation of the meal kept us eager.
One of the appetizers we sampled included the lettuce wraps. In a do-it-yourself, deconstructed fashion, two lettuce leaves accompanied a serving of delicious spiced chicken. Due to a lack of fork, these lettuce wraps fell apart in a sloppy-joe style, delicious manner. We also tried their calamari, which was served alongside a small bowl of spicy aioli and lemon wedge. Although it was not deep fried, as calamari often is, it still had just enough crunch to give it that signature texture. The appetizers certainly didn’t fill us up, and since it was already late considering our usual early-bird, 5:30 Café Mac dinners, we were eager for the main course.
After much debate, we opted to order the New Wave Pad Thai and the Kung Pao Chicken. Both dishes were excellent but nothing extraordinary or shocking. The name “New Wave” was a bit confusing because there didn’t seem to be anything particularly “New Wave” or unique about the dish, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t delicious. The Kung Pao Chicken was very satisfying. Despite the onions being a bit undercooked, the chicken was delicious, the peppers were perfect and chilies were interspersed throughout the dish and were packed with heat.
Dessert, the only course for which you didn’t have an option, was adored by everyone at the table. A churro-flavored, cinnamon dusted, spring roll held a thick banana cheesecake filling. The roll was soft and warm, and complemented the vanilla bean ice cream that soaked into its flaky folds. While the banana flavor wasn’t that evident, the overall dessert was creamy and sweet.
All in all, Ling & Louie’s is not a place that you’ll frequent, but it is a fun excuse to ride the Green Line and test out those heated bus shelters. It’s definitely a place worth visiting especially when those parents come into town and they’re paying.