So I’m thinking my new catch phrase needs to be “not as annoying as Rachel Ray . . . ”
I just got back from three weeks away, starting with the Leno trip and ending with two weeks of a family vacation, finally.
I got to the office this morning to find out two pieces of news. Our show got renewed for a second season, and the NYT review came out in Monday's paper. I was shocked, to put it mildly, since shows like mine rarely get talked about in our national paper of record.
So what about back home . . . ? I leave town for five minutes and Tubby Smith is moving to The Barn. I am thrilled. Restaurant news is slim these days—we are in the doldrums as we await the flurry of spring activity that I am salivating over already. That being said, I have seen a lot of hub and bub on this site and elsewhere over the Temple menu and chef change, especially in light of recent restaurant exit polls indicating that casual and honest dining is this year's pink. Think 112 Eatery if I am speaking Latin to you.
I am a big fan of Pham's, but food has never been what his restaurants are about. They all have some very good dishes and a few signatures worth the trip, but the menus are inconsistent in terms of quality and content. His restaurants are about style. He does that very well. Would he do that much more business if he got serious about the food? I'm not sure—it might not be what his customer is after. Would Bellanotte be any busier if they had good food? I think not.
Pham, however, has an interesting dilemma, since he might be able to pull in more bodies if he took the food program to another level above what it is currently executing at. It might not be the Slanted Door or Fatty Crab, but he could make some real noise if he hires a real food guru to oversee his projects. I wrote as much a month ago, knowing full well that Temple would have to change — and by change, I mean that promoting a sous chef won't alter much in the kitchen, but who knows?
Check out the Hmong and Cambodian food at Va Lor, 371 University Avenue, across the street from Mai Village in St. Paul. It is dirt cheap, and the food is very honest and authentic. While the menu is a bit of a mine field, a reader turned me on to the place, which he said features a killer papaya salad, and he was right. If risk-taking in teeny neighborhood restaurants is your idea of a good time (count me in, by the way) then you should check it out.