BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT Minneapolis 2001 - Dragon Court
In China, Chinese food is big: Banquets are thrown for every occasion (and lots of non-occasions), and no matter how they tried, Communist forces never managed to limit citizens' devotion to the complex web of interacting elements that make a good meal. Ideally every aspect of the meal must be balanced against an opposing force: foods with a glossy glaze and rough, unglossy stews; crisp textures and silky ones; cooling vegetables in one plate, hot chiles on another; etc. In Minnesota, Chinese food is not so big. While the state revels in innumerable Vietnamese restaurants, the really standout Chinese restaurants can be easily counted: Little Canada's My Le Hoa, south Minneapolis's Rainbow Chinese, Edina's (and now Minnetonka's) Big Bowl, Dinkytown's Shuang Cheng, Maplewood's Singapore Chinese Cuisine, the East Bank's Village Wok, and--new this year--Dragon Court. On any given day you'll find comparably lovely dishes at any of these places, but unless it's the Chinese New Year, you'll only find elaborate, expert, even enlightening traditional banquets at Dragon Court. Ranging from four to eight courses and priced around $10 a head, you'll get to balance silky, subtle sub-gum fish-maw soup with crunchy and bright lobster with fresh ginger, salty clams tossed against brisk greens, whole spicy walleye against rich roast duck. Big platters, big tureens, and big flavors making big fans--maybe Chinese food is getting big here after all.