Asian Stars Du Nord

Two fascinating Asian restaurants, one Korean, one Taiwanese, bloom in the northern suburbs

Why the high praise? The food, certainly, which is made with the assurance and confidence that only comes with cooking something for 30 years. One day I watched a tiny, tiny cook in a pink Yves Saint Laurent T-shirt and tennies pour a good four pounds of seafood pancake into a two-pound pan, shifting it all, straight armed, with a light wrist, like she was merely waving a handkerchief at the stove's flames.

That was impressive, but as much as the food, Dong Yang, to me, communicates a sense that, as a restaurant, this is a brief phenomenon and a privilege. I get the sense that this little grocery-cum-lunchroom embodies the briefest of immigrant experiences in Minnesota, that sometime 40 years ago you could have walked into a Swedish kitchen someplace in Nordeast and paid a pittance for sausages and potatoes, and that soon thereafter all the Swedish children became teachers, social workers, or engineers, and lofted Mom out of working for a living. I bet that will apply to the women of Dong Yang in the briefest moment, history-wise. And then they'll only cook for their real families. For the glorious meantime, though, the rest of us can venture in there, and, if we're nice, get to play.

And I do mean if we're nice. The counter-service-only restaurant stops taking orders at 7:30 at night, and if you are there at 7:36, you better be prepared to offer to shovel walks next winter if you want dinner. Frankly, though, I think it would be worth it.

Ask the moms at the counter: Matthew Lee at Dong Yang
Jana Freiband
Ask the moms at the counter: Matthew Lee at Dong Yang

Location Info


E Noodle Cafe

1711 Rice St.
Roseville, MN 55113

Category: Restaurant > Diner

Region: Roseville

If you're too shy to ask the moms at the counter what's good, please know that the menu is partly on a piece of paper stuck in a Lucite frame on the countertop, and partly made up of brightly colored pieces of paper stuck on the wall above the ordering window. That's where you'll find all kinds of hot-pot soups, squid specials of the day, and such. But there will always be that (write it down!) ka ji mee fish, those gal bi short ribs, those delectable man doo dumplings, as well as kim bop, sushi-roll like appetizers filled with pickles and sweet pork. (This may be a little too much of an insider's reference, but if anyone remembers that first incarnation of Quang, when it was a tiny hole-in-the-wall in that strip mall, Dong Yang reminds me very much of that: careful home cooking for anyone with enough sense to appreciate it.)

Meanwhile, a few miles to the east, on Rice Street just north of Larpenteur, in the exotic land where Falcon Heights, Maplewood, Little Canada, and Roseville meet St. Paul, I found a--Hey! Quit making faces! What do you mean the corner of Larpenteur and Rice is not an exotic land?

You only say that because you haven't seen E-Noodles' Taiwanese QQ noodle soup with red garlic, pale sliced pork, fish and squid balls, and two, count them, two, kinds of gelatinous noodles with chewy, squishy textures. And I am telling you frankly, one of these noodles is clear and it glistens. Exotic. Don't tell me what's not exotic.

These QQ noodles are a part of E-Noodles' strongest suit, their soups. My favorite is their Taiwanese beef noodle soup ($5.75), a giant bowl of wheat noodles in a curry-tinged broth topped with spinach, halved grape tomatoes, marinated, grilled slices of beef, and wee little rectangles of tangy pressed bean curd. It's got a wintry, deep, dusky, jungle-by-the-sea aspect to it that's utterly memorable. Just when you think you've mastered massive Asian beef soups with all the pho you've been eating--voilà, something utterly surprising.

Japanese udon noodles with salmon ($5.95) is another soup to try. Here you get a long plank of fried teriyaki salmon resting atop a big bowl of thick, chewy udon noodles interspersed with various sorts of fish and crab cakes, wisps of seaweed, fresh string beans, and a couple of fried squares of tofu. It's light and simple, adeptly done and incredibly filling.

The little spic-and-span storefront also sells rice bowls, which might be the best dead-cheap food in town: Order the sesame tofu for $4.99 and you'll first receive a cup of nicely powerful hot-and-sour soup, brimming with all the tasty, expensive, and too often forgotten mushrooms that perfect the dish. Then, then you'll get a big bowl of rice covered with crisp squares of tofu, slices of carrot, and fresh button mushrooms, all of which are united in a sweet, tasty sesame sauce.

Likewise, Japanese pork chops ($5.25) are a bargain hunter's and/or global fast-food connoisseur's dream come true. Try these and you get a cup of that hot-and-sour soup and a rice bowl topped with fresh veggies, crowned with two golden pork cutlets, each pounded thin, panko-breaded, fried till they're crisp as a crunch, and gilded with a sweet dollop of teriyaki sauce--yum. If you're just back from a term abroad in Tokyo but still paying for the plane ticket, welcome to your new favorite restaurant.

I wasn't too crazy about the Korean dishes that I tried at E-Noodle, they tend to have one note of either salty or spicy, and I didn't try the range of standard American Chinese takeout that the place offers, like lemon chicken, but I think you'll be pretty happy with anything on the menu that's labeled Taiwanese or Japanese. There are bubble-teas and dishes of flavored shaved ice for dessert; I am a big fan of the lychee shaved ice, in which canned lychees in syrup are drizzled with condensed milk (it's available in a cup for $2.25 or a bowl for $2.95). Are you bored with slushees? Not anymore, you aren't.

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