Royal Orchid reopens in Columbia Heights
Columbia Heights gets a new Thai dining option
Royal Orchid, which formerly had a location in Roseville in addition to its spot in the skyway of downtown Minneapolis, has reopened on Central Avenue in Columbia Heights after being closed in Roseville for the past year and a half. This is a welcome development for the stretch of Central Avenue that's heavily lined with fast food outlets, but light on fresh and flavorful options. The Hot Dish stopped in to check out the new restaurant.
The space is humble but tidy and cheerful, with ample free street parking available in front of the restaurant, and free ramp parking in the rear. We were the only diners in the restaurant (we arrived between lunch and dinner), so service was fast, friendly, and attentive.
The spring rolls came out promptly--three cone-shaped rice paper hand rolls stuffed with vermicelli noodles, lettuce, carrots, and thin slices of tender, seasoned chicken, with a side of sweet tamarind dipping sauce topped with crushed peanuts. The cone shape made the rolls slightly cumbersome to eat and dip (a little spoon for the sauce would have improved matters), but their flavor was perfect: fresh, light, and sweet.
The Panang Curry was pleasantly spiced, if a bit thin. The chicken was tender and perfectly done, but the vegetables seemed to have come out of a frozen bag--a smattering of peas, carrots, and green beans that were serviceable without being particularly enjoyable. The portion size was perfect for our taste: generous and satisfying but not indulgent. While many Thai restaurants automatically serve their curries with a side of rice, here it must be ordered in addition to the main dish for an extra dollar.
The Curry Sauce Noodles (rice noodles cooked in a sweet and spicy curry with bean sprouts and tofu, topped with green onions, cilantro, and peanuts) was an unexpectedly soupy dish, with thin noodles and small cubes of tofu submerged in a bowl of curry broth. It was nicely spicy, with a sinus-clearing kick to each bite, but another side of rice proved necessary to sop up the excessive liquid.
Royal Orchid doesn't yet have a beer and wine license, but they're working on it. As far as Thai restaurants go, it's no match for Sen Yai Sen Lek, two miles down Central Avenue in Minneapolis, but it's a perfectly serviceable alternative to the mediocre Chinese buffets and less-than-mediocre fast food joints that make up the rest of the area's dining options. We welcome them to the neighborhood.
Royal Orchid 4022 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights 55421 763.789.9999 Royal Orchid's Facebook page
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