Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen: Will it lift the curse?

Popular restaurateur boldly closes Azia to embark on new challenge

Overall, I liked much of what I tried at Wondrous and was disappointed only by a lackluster chow mein (though can a dish that's mostly celery and gravy ever be considered vibrant?), a ho-hum pineapple curry, and a grainy mango crème brulee. But the best and most surprising reason to frequent Wondrous is Pham's new culinary foray: weekend dim sum brunches.

On a recent Saturday when I visited, I was worried to find the restaurant not very busy. There were no round tables with lazy Susans in the center, ringed by extended families, speaking in reassuring Chinese tones—the hallmarks of great dim sum palaces in larger cities' Chinatowns. In fact, Pham was the only Asian I spotted in the entire place. When the first cart rattled up, I feared the waiter would open its shiny metal tins to reveal cold, congealed contents that had been sitting around for hours.

One bite of shrimp shumai, those tasty little tulip-shaped dumplings, proved otherwise. They were the work of pros. Pham's employs a family of experienced dim sum cooks who start making the weekend preparations at 6 in the morning. Fried bean curd skin, another dim sum staple, was a delicate chewing gum in a salty dipping sauce.

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Location Info

Map

Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen

533 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen
533 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
612.338.1479; www.wondrousmpls.com
appetizers $7-$14; entrees $14-$40

Tater tot lovers should try the fried tarot buns, which taste a bit like sweet mashed potatoes with a crisp, oily bark. And don't let the dumplings pass by without trying the chiu chow, which are stuffed with pork, scallions, and nuts. Pham's crew covers many of the classics, though he says he hasn't yet had enough requests to add chicken feet—a seriously authentic dim sum item—to the list. Whatever you do, finish the meal with a fried sesame ball made from glutinous rice flour rolled in sesame seeds and filled with a sweet, creamy lotus bean paste. The one I had was hot from the fryer and so delicious that I had to hold myself back so as not to stuff the whole order into my mouth as if I were playing a game of Chubby Bunny.

With Wondrous already running fairly smoothly, Pham says he'd like to bring Azia back in another form, if he's able to work out the right deal with the Nicollet Avenue building's new landlord. He also owns several other properties in south Minneapolis that he hopes to turn into restaurants when the time is right. Surely his fans will follow.

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