Monday, September 26, 2011

Rice Paper - Edina, MN

Rice Paper Contemporary Asian Restaurant
3948 W. 50th Street, Edina, MN

Price level: $$$
Atmosphere: Fine Dining

Rating: 3/5
"it's aite"

The restaurant is nestled in a small shopping center on 50th and France. My neighbor and I argued for the longest time about what the street name was called, I insisted it was Frances and he said France. We made a bet that whoever was right had to pay for our dinner at Rice Paper. I was clearly wrong but found a small victory when Rice Paper was found to be closed. They are usually closed between 2PM - 5PM so for you people who run on Asian time like me, no late lunches at Rice Paper.

On Sunday, we finally made another attempt at dinner time this go around. The restaurant is very beautiful. There's dim lighting, simple yet fancy furniture, with a small flower vase and candle as a centerpiece. Of course I had to tough it. It's real. A bamboo wallpaper lines the left side of the restaurant; the rest of the walls are painted a deep, forest green. It gives off an inviting and relaxed atmosphere. At first glance, it seems like a great first date restaurant.

Our waitress greeted us immediately with a nice and friendly smile. She offered us waters in lovely frosted white glasses. The food items on the menu had these fancy names like Dragon Dance Dumplings, Perfume River Invitation, Echo of the Tropics. Pretty names but tells me not a god damn thing. I couldn't make out what to expect from the menu and if they resembled my Vietnamese favorites. Instead of just vegetable dumplings, or chicken dumplings, or both, you had a choice between Dragon Dance, Monsoon, or Midnight Market dumplings. Really? Fine... I'll go along with it.

rating: 5/5
Appetizer: Dragon Dance Dumplings. It normally comes with a cranberry ginger sauce but because of my loathe for ginger, I asked for the scallion oil instead. The dumplings had a nice crisp and a great flavor. The scallion oil was perfect and absolutely addicting. It looked like nouc mam mixed with thai sweet chili sauce which gave the dumpling a nice tangy, sweet, and slighly spicy kick. Yum. Definitely a must order again! Because I loved the sauce so much, I decided to keep it and dip other things in it.

After the dumplings, we had quite the wait. I noticed that there was only two waitresses for the entire restaurant which could be okay.... if they didn't also serve as a host, a cashier, and a busser. It shouldn't come to a surprise to me as many Asain restaurants have a one-waiter/waitress show. Rice Paper now felt like a typical Asian restaurant hidden in better presentation, wrapped up nicely with a bow on it.

Ah, but it's not. For our wait, they gave us a free appetizer. Never in a million years will a typical Asian restaurant give you free food without squeezing the life out of you. 

rating: 2/5
Free Appetizer: Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce. I'm not a huge fan of spring rolls mainly because I don't like raw vegetables. Raw bean sprouts, mint, and lettuce is not screaming my name. I took a few bites just to reaffirm my dislike for them and yep, even packaged nicely with shredded carrots and a flower shaped carrot doesn't change my mind. The peanut sauce had a strong peanut flavor that reminded me of liquid peanut butter. I appreciated the freshness of the spring roll but it's definitely not for me. Because I didn't order it, I would do a repeat and not order it again.

As I'm starting to think that this may be the first gourmet Asian restaurant that I like.... the main entrees came out and fell short.

Entree: Twirling Chopstick Noodles with Chicken and Tofu. The chicken was bland and the noodles taste doughy. Again with the shredded carrots. The doughy noodles plus the peanuts gave the dish an odd texture. The only redeeming factor to this dish was being able to dip the tofu puffs in the scallion oil and peanut dipping sauce. 

rating: 3/5
Entre: Rice Paper Rice Plate Saigon Style with Chicken and Tofu. The rice plate comes with the option of being Saigon style (vietnamese) or Thai style. The chicken and tofu is stir fried in a brown, sweet, and sour sauce which I liked. I reinforced the tangy-ness with dipping it in the scallion oil sauce. (Ok, I may be obsessed). The sesame chips were a bit on the stale side. The chicken had a strong lemon grass flavor. This dish was easier to eat than the noodles.

Overall, the food was below mediocre and the prices were steep for the small portions. I didn't finish my food mainly because I could no longer palate the doughy noodles and bland flavors. The service is great though, I was pleasantly surprised with the free food, the waitress was friendly and packed the food to go (only to probably be dumped at home). The dipping sauces were Rice Paper's only redeeming factor.

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