Scattered Gems

With nothing in common but uncommonly good food, two far-flung wonders are revealed

Satay 2 Go Asian Cuisine
6670 150th St. W., Apple Valley
952.891.8551
satay2gomn.com

 

Coconut Grove Caribbean Restaurant and Pub
3554 Penn Ave. N., Minneapolis
612.521.2622
coconutgrovecaribbean.com

 

One thing you can do, if you're standing within a hay bale of wig hair outside of a morning television studio waiting to talk about Hidden Treasures of the Twin Cities Food Scene, one thing you can really do quite easily, is eavesdrop when the guy from the traveling gator show starts hitting on the girl with the buns of steel. (And I don't mean just any lass with a golden fallback position, I mean the actual girl with the trademarked whoosis. And yes, I stared at it. I am only human. And I can honestly report that she's shorter than you might think.)

The gator guy was everything you might predict: Southern, brave, missing parts of some fingers. "Do you wanna touch it? Touch it!" he said, enthusiastically, extending a young alligator, a young alligator hissing like a boiling kettle and gnashing its tiny little razor teeth.

"Ooh," said the girl with the buns of steel, gingerly extending one French-manicured fingertip, petting a ridged scale on the gator's back.

The gator guy explained that he hopes to end up in Las Vegas, as the Siegfried & Roy of reptiles.

The girl with the comely retreat responded with a photo of her infant child and a reference to her happy home life.

The gator guy looked at the child's photo. "We call them gator bait. Put them on the end of a grappling hook, they thrash around, lure the big ones out of deep water."

The girl with the buns of steel grew quiet, and prepared herself to demonstrate exercises anyone sitting at home could do on their very own couch.

Which got me to thinking: How strange, how odd, how unexpected! Moreover, could I really present two fantastic, completely unrelated, oddball gems together in one column? Two restaurants that I can't really justify writing an entire column about, due to their likelihood of appealing to remote geographic constituencies, but that are both truly special and unforgettable in their own ways?

Yes, I thought, watching the gator guy wrangle his wee, thrashing beast into a dog kennel filled with towels, yes I can. Life sometimes is very odd. Very strange. Very unexpected if you observe it closely. So my column will be, too.

 

 

SATAY 2 GO

When Greg, Chicago transplant and Apple Valley resident, wrote to recommend Satay 2 Go, I thought, "Oh heavens, that is really far away." It's so far away, it's even farther away than the zoo. Because, as you all know, the world as seen from Minneapolis looks like this: There's Minneapolis, then the Mall of America, the zoo, Iowa, Texas, some water, South America, and finally Antarctica, with the penguins. Well, driving a third of the way to the penguins is a heck of a journey for satay. Even though Greg assured me that the restaurant was "2 good 2 miss," I determined it would have 2 w8. Yet when Alice, unrelated to Greg and also of Apple Valley, wrote to tell me how great Satay 2 Go was, I knew I had to motor on out: Two reader recommendations are, in my experience, the earthly equivalent of a bolt of lightning to the head.

I ended up outside of the Home Depot in Burnsville, peering with confusion at the low buildings that crouch in its orbit and the obscuring rings of SUVs around them.

I later ended up outside of the Home Depot in Apple Valley, peering with confusion at the low buildings that crouch in its orbit and the obscuring rings of SUVs around them. But this, this was completely different. This was the home of Satay 2 Go.

I entered the little storefront with its lemon walls, its bakery case full of fresh-made golden pork buns, chicken curry buns, yam crescents, and more. I saw half a dozen fellow Minnesotans waiting silently, staring with absolute unblinking absorption at the orange-curtained cooking window that let forth the clatter and hiss of wok cooking. They looked like nothing so much as six cats staring at the one radiator that they know conceals a mouse. At that moment I knew I had found something enormously important.

I consulted the various laminated color printouts that make up Satay 2 Go's menu. I ordered noodles, curry, satay--the works. By the time I got to my car, I was tearing into the chicken satay, sweetly marinated tender chicken skewers served with an ebullient sauce of ground peanuts and flowery rice vinegar served on a bed of fragrant, liltingly light coconut rice. By the time I reached Cedar Avenue, I was sneaking slithery chow fun noodles out of a box, with my hands, and determining that these were easily the best chow fun in the state. (Satay 2 Go is just east of Cedar, on 150th Street South. Not west. East. East. Rhymes with feast. Don't forget, or you will be sorry. And even if you are not sorry, you will be in Burnsville, which is disorienting at best.)

By the time I got all my boxes home and could look at them in the clear light, with a fork, I became completely convinced that Satay 2 Go has the best Singapore hawker-stand food in the state. You see, in Malaysia and in Singapore, which broke away from Malaysia nearly 40 years ago, a lot of the best food doesn't come from tablecloth restaurants, it comes from stalls called "hawker stands," informal spots that specialize in one or two treats derived from any (or all) of the Asian cultures that have fed the Malaysian population. In these hawker stands you'll find Chinese noodles, Malay grilled satay, Indonesian curries, Indian breads, Peranakan fusion (Malay plus Chinese), Japanese snack foods, and so forth. At Satay 2 Go, you'll find the same sort of informal, cheap, and delicious foods you'd find at Malaysian hawker stands: Chinese noodles, Malay grilled satay, and so on. Yes, I said there is a Singapore hawker stand restaurant in Apple Valley.

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