Dancing Ganesha: Lost in Translation

The spot aims to take Indian food upscale, but communication gaps can detract from the tasty cuisine

A little back-and-forth ensued, with various questions from my party, and a lot of gesturing and explaining from the staff. At one point, the cook shook his head in frustration and muttered something about somebody else making a menu that was difficult to execute, and then leaving him to deal with it. In the end, he reassured us that this, indeed, was the thermidor—or what they were serving as thermidor these days. This time the meat tasted much better, having retained its tender texture (it had been marinated in a creamy sauce, then cooked in the tandoor), though I was still miffed by the menu's misleading description and wished our server had explained that the dish had been modified at the outset.

The other "contemporary" dishes also left me with more questions than answers. The Coorgi mushroom curry tasted good, but I couldn't understand (nor could the kitchen explain) what justified its $18 cost. The grilled fish with saffron rice was tasty, too, but I was disappointed that our waiter wasn't able to answer a basic question about it—what kind of fish is it?—much less where the fish came from.

My concerns about Dancing Ganesha have less to do with cooking than communication. If the restaurant aspires to serve customers unfamiliar with its dishes, it's essential that the descriptions are clear and the servers are able to explain them further, if necessary. I'm the first to delight in the colorful phrasings of non-native-language speakers, such as those I found on a competitor's website: "Uncompromising and Excellent Food Quality with a Lady's Touch!" "No wonder it is 'Talk in Town.'" But Ganesha's menu description of sev batata puri, "Popular Bombay eatery that takes you to Bollywood," gives no clue as to its contents. And the waiter's elaboration, "spicy bread," neglected to mention the chickpea-potato topping.

Dancing Ganesha serves everything from traditional dishes to gourmet fusion specialties
Alma Guzman
Dancing Ganesha serves everything from traditional dishes to gourmet fusion specialties

Location Info

Map

Dancing Ganesha

1100 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

DANCING GANESHA
1100 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, 612.338.1877
appetizers $5-$12; entrées $11-$30

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A good waiter understands and manages customers' expectations, anticipating, for example, that diners might expect saffron naan to taste like, well, saffron. If the bread actually comes filled with a sweet, pink substance—it could have been the inside of a strawberry Pop-Tart, for all I knew—the waiter might want to mention that. (If we'd known we were getting a Pakistani-style dessert naan, stuffed with saffron, cashews, almonds, cherries, and fennel, we might have received it better.) And while the staff was certainly cordial, many of the waiters seemed inexperienced with the finer points of service. At a meal that results in a triple-digit bill, I'd hope a waiter might refrain from blurting out, "Oh, shit," if he happened to, say, spill a few drops of soup in my water glass.

After that incident, I felt like I needed a drink. Fortunately, Ganesha is one of the few Indian restaurants able to oblige that request. The fancy cocktail list, which includes drinks like a ginger-laced "Indian Cosmopolitan," was better in theory than execution. Twice I tried to order the same drink and was told it was unavailable. The mint leaves in the mango mojito were spotted with brown. When a diner interested in the "Kama-sutra" cocktail asked, "What's Passoa?" she received neither an answer (passion fruit liqueur) nor a promise to find out, but simply a blank stare. Later, the server forgot to include the drinks on the bill before dropping off the check and had to sheepishly retrieve it to make the correction.

For now, Ganesha covers the basics—including a bang-up $10 lunch buffet—but the upscale elements haven't quite gelled. Local diners seem eager to experience the elegant possibilities of Indian cooking, so I hope it won't be long before Ganesha gets its curriculum fully in order. 

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