Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen — December 2, 2010

3 01 2011

Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen
533 Hennepin
Minneapolis
http://www.wondrousmpls.com/

Thom Pham owns several very successful restaurants in the area, but his newest venture is causing a lot of buzz. Sitting on the corner of Hennepin and 5th, his Wondrous Azian Kitchen aims to lift the downtown spirit with flashy colors, inventive drinks, and a fusion of tastes.

We were impressed at the use of space and the cleanliness of the ornately decorated restaurant. The bar seemed small, but the dining area was large enough to seat our group of 10 while offering plenty of tables for more intimate gatherings – most of which filled quickly on a cold Thursday night (read = reservation recommended). Even more importantly, service was great. The waitress was patient with our staggered arrivals, and happily repeated the drink selections (which were aplenty) each time the group grew. We never needed to flag her down and she was pleasant the whole night through.

Each pair ordered an appetizer to pass around the table. The Wondrous Cranberry Puffs are a meatless version of crab Rangoon with cranberries and curry spice mixed inside the shell. They were tasty, but not outrageously different from the generic take-out version. And, the Kabocha Squash Dumplings (hand-rolled with squash and green onions) lacked excitement. We’d recommend the Pan Fried Pork Dumplings instead, which had more apparent seasoning and a naturally more appealing texture. Thom Pham’s calamari was also a hit, if only for the fabulous sauces on the side – the fluorescent jalapeno herb sauce was outstanding enough to eat alone and the sweet Thai chili packed plenty of heat.

For dinner, Jim opted for the traditional Kung Pao with chicken, including peanuts, bell peppers, dried whole chilies, water chestnuts, and bamboo. The entrée was good and filling, but not unique from standard Asian cuisine. It was basic enough to be easily made at home. Meanwhile, I thoroughly enjoyed the Big Spanker (imagine ordering that in front of a large group). The soup – which could be ordered as a “Little” instead of an entrée size – soaked lemongrass, asparagus, cranberries, mushrooms and noodles in a red-curry and coconut milk base, and came with a choice of either chicken or a hearty helping of vegetables. I chose the latter and, even without the meat, was completely full.

Overall, we were pleased with our experience. While some menu items didn’t turn out to be as extraordinary as expected, we determined that to be our own fault. The classics are there for everyone – we just needed to choose more adventurous options. And, everything was delicious, no matter how plain or wild. Thom Pham gets our praise for bringing new flavors – and a new energy – to the Hennepin ‘hood.

RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Ambiance/Environment: ♠♠♠
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠1/2
Service: ♠♠♠1/2

Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠1/2

Total bill, including tip: $65

Wondrous Azian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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