Sunday, April 29, 2012

Adventure Out

Did you know that Cheng Heng's has been serving ridiculously delicious Cambodian food on University Avenue in St. Paul for 16 years? I didn't until recently. I first saw a friend's post on facebook raving about their latest visit. Hmm, what is this place I've never heard of? Can I trust his ravings? Well soon, it seemed everywhere I turned someone was raving about Cheng Heng's. Well then, it's time I check this place out for myself.

Tonight, my fiance and I went for dinner after doing a little recon on what might be vegan on the menu. Turns out quite a bit can be made vegan (score.) We got the stir-fried bean sprouts with fried tofu on a recommendation. As with all the food, we wondered how they could possibly pack so much flavor in a single dish. I ordered the Machu Ankgor soup mostly because I love to try the unknown and it had lotus stems (which I've never had) and the strange (to me) flavor combination of pineapple, tomato and mint. I got it with clear broth instead of chicken and fresh tofu. Holy nom! I've been complaining a fair amount lately about the overly heavy, earthy flavor of indian dishes, lentils and really anything with cumin and coriander. This is the opposite with a sour, sweet but full flavor. Oh...and.... they served whole young coconuts full of cool coconut water and semi sweet luscious coconut flesh. Yum!

Cheng Heng's is suffering under the brunt of the Central Corridor construction right now (like many of my favorite restaurants), but they have a parking lot with access off University Ave and amazing food you should try. With news that a Culver's is opening a few blocks from my house, I'm more determined than ever to encourage people to visit University Avenue's gems and cultivate more locally owned, unique and delicious restaurants on the Central Corridor. To that end, in no particular order, I promise you will like your meal at any of these places:

Must Eats on University:
1. Cheng Heng's - Cambodian. Kind of dive, but plenty of room and even more flavor!
2. Ngon Bistro - Vietnamese. Bistro/bar with an awesome patio, delicious food and sustainable ingredients.
3. Saigon Cafe - Vietnamese. Large space and larger bowls of tasty vietnamese soups (pho) and crusty bread bahn mi sandwiches.
4. Little Szechuan - Chinese. Named as one of the 50 best chinese restaurants in the country. Get the green beans and the szechuan spicy tofu!
5. Flamingo - East African. Offers a lunch buffet and a great veggie sampler. The women owners are friendly and never forget a face. 

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