BEST RESTAURANT FOR A FIRST DATE - 2008
Here's a quick way to assess your date's snob factor: Drive the possible object of your affection to this forlorn-looking strip mall off I-94 and White Bear Avenue, and watch the initial reaction. Does her nose instinctively crinkle in distaste as she contemplates the dismal surroundings? Do you see a flash of fear in his eyes as he imagines unwashed horrors waiting in the bleakest of storefronts? And if so, is this person attractive enough to overcome any misgivings you have about his lack of open-mindedness? In any case, your date is in for a pleasant surprise. Through the doors of St. Paul's Tea House you'll find decor stylish enough for Uptown, with bamboo plants, dark red walls, and beautiful, backlit Chinese wood carvings setting the scene. The food's fit for a discerning appetite, too, but also plenty accessible. There's one menu featuring many dishes familiar in American Chinese restaurants, and another of more authentic Szechuan-style preparations. The latter offers many fun, smaller plates to share. Try the spicy dan-dan noodles and the challenging-to-eat but delicious juicy buns. Fried crab balls that often appear on the specials menu are light and tasty and have an amusing, space-age appearance from their crouton coating. You can choose to calm your first-date nerves with a glass of wine or beer, but no full liquor license means no accidental overindulging on sweet but dangerous "martinis." Your judgment-making faculties should remain intact, and with this restaurant easily meeting all date-night needs, including great service, you're free to train your appraising eyes on the potential bedmate across the table.