Minnesota is home to a lot of restaurants, bars, and breweries, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Minneapolitans just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food luminaries to share their under-the-radar recommendations for a semi-regular feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
As chef and co-owner of South Minneapolis mainstay Piccolo, Doug Flicker has an affinity for seasonal, small plates, always precise, and always inventive. And he's about to add an even more seasonal venture: Sandcastle, the upcoming concession at Lake Nokomis. On his rare days off, Flicker heads to Kimchi Tofu House by the University of Minnesota for the interactive soup, the mom-and-pop hospitality, and the Korean take on small plates, the side dishes called banchan.
A friend of my wife's and mine clued us in on this spot a couple months ago and it quickly became a favorite. Why do I like it? It's small. It's no surprise that I'm a fan of small. To me, small means focus, attention to a few things in order to get them right. They specialize in one style of soup, soondubu jjigae, that you get with different ingredients. The soup is made with soft bean curd (aka tofu) and Korean red pepper paste. My favorite is the one with dumplings. To top off the soup, when they serve it, they give you a whole egg that you crack right into it. I love the interactive nature of this!
The kitchen geek in me loves the fact that there is a specially designed stovetop with what looks like chimneys instead of individual burners. The clay soup pots get individually placed in each chimney. They heat the pot and pour the soup in keeping everything incredibly hot.
This is also a mom and pop joint. Owned by a friendly couple that care if you like the food. After I inquired about one item of the many small bowls of side dishes, banchan, offered to every guest, the owner was quick to replenish it for us. He checked in to ensure we liked it and then, obviously pleased that we did, gave us more. It was a great experience!
It's funny how life outside of work can seep into kitchen life. On the latest menu change we're doing a lobster stuffed Monterey bay squid. It has glazed turnips, can't wait til spring, and turnip cake, so tofu is a perfect addition. We can't just put tofu on the plate, so we sous vide it with some seaweed (kombu, Japanese this time, not Korean) and soy milk, puree it and put it into an ISI canister, charge it and finish the plate with a tofu foam. It's super light and silky and every time I finish a squid plate I get a slight whiff of the Kimchi Tofu House.
· Kimchi Tofu House Yelp Entry
· Piccolo Official Website
· All Previous Coverage of Piccolo [Eater MPLS]