08 January 2012

Dinner with friends at Naviya’s in Linden Hills

The Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis is the perfect home for Naviya’s Thai Brasserie. The neighborhood is quiet, relaxed, and unpretentious. It’s a place where neighbors stroll, kids ride bikes, and visitors to nearby Lake Harriett can find an eclectic choice of restaurants to enjoy. Naviya provides the Asian option for neighborhood dining.

My wife and I had some experience with Naviya prior to our Saturday night dinner with friends. My wife had eaten lunch there. We also had take-out when we came to our daughter’s nearby apartment to babysit our grandson. (She and her family have since moved to a house in the Armatage neighborhood several blocks away.) None of the four friends we were dining with had been there before. IMG_5217

We did have a very favorable experience. The food was delicious. The ambiance was friendly and relaxed. Our server was very friendly and helpful. And everything was reasonably priced.

Our dinner did start out with a glitch, however. My wife and I were the first to arrive, and when we checked in, the host said he didn’t have us down for a reservation. The entryway was jammed with people waiting for tables, so I worried that we weren’t going to get in.  But he was very accommodating and within 15 minutes, he had us seated.

We started out with some appetizers. The calamari was particularly noteworthy. It was unusual in that the rings of squid were fried in a tempura batter. They were very tender and tasty. We also had an order of crispy vegetable and shiitake spring rolls, which we enjoyed. Another unusual item on the appetizer menu is ‘shrimp in a blanket.’ The shrimp are wrapped in rice paper and fried. I thought it was a clever spin on ‘pigs-in-a-blanket’ party finger food.

The entrées we ordered all were good and very well prepared. I ordered tofu pad Thai and was very pleased with it. The noodles were firm and flavorful, the vegetables were crisp fried, and the tofu was firm and absorbed the flavors of the sauce. We had a couple orders of broccoli beef. The broccoli was very fresh and crisp. The beef was thinly sliced and very tender. We also had an order of a spicy shrimp dish, which I liked quite a lot.

Now, some of the people at the table, me included, like some spicy items with an Asian dinner. But the shrimp was really the only entrée that had any ‘heat’ to it at all. The menu said the pad Thai was spicy, which is unusual. But as it turned out, it wasn’t really spicy at all.

As we finished our meal, we struck up a conversation with the host. We learned that he is the co-owner with his wife who is the chef. He was very friendly, and as I noted earlier in the review, was very accommodating and eager to please. It turns out that Naviya actually started in Grand Marais, Minnesota. When it moved to the Twin Cities, it’s first location was in Richfield. He said the Richfield location was did not generate very good walk-in business.

But Linden Hills provides the ideal mix for a restaurant like Naviya. It can develop a clientele of neighborhood regulars, and it can be ‘discovered’ by visitors to Lake Harriett. I think that the restaurant has found its niche and based on the steady stream of people still coming in as we left, it should enjoy a successful tenure in the neighborhood.

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