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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rice Paper

Shrimp spring roll with peanut sauce

Crispy chicken dumplings with cranberry ginger dipping sauce

Grilled beef rolls with rice noodles and sesame sauce
The Rice Paper, a Vietnamese restaurant just moved from a cozy, tiny storefront in Linden Hills to a larger restaurant on 3948 West 50th street tucked in behind Damico and Sons. The Rice Paper is owned by An Nguyen, a Viet Nam native with a passion for fresh, light fare. I always enjoyed visiting the Rice Paper in Linden Hills for the small airy atmosphere and fresh bright food. Last night I dined at their new location, leaving me with mixed feelings. Upon arriving, I take a gander at the menu which looks strikingly similar to their old menu. The interior is open with windows lining the entire far wall. The space feels a bit too open, laking privacy and intimacy. They may have wanted to break up the room with beams or curtains so as not to create a cafeteria-style feeling. Half way into our meal, I suddenly realized the lack of music and the increasing clamor of plates, glasses and chatter from diners, which was a bit distracting. Aside from the atmosphere I will now shine some light on the most important part, the food! We decide to order the shrimp spring rolls because of the accompanying peanut sauce I still remember fondly from the Linden Hills post. I also attempt to order steamed dumplings but our server informs us they ran out so we begrudgingly order the fried version instead. Our server highlights the evenings special, a grilled beef skewer marinaded and wrapped in a grape leaf served with rice noodles, lettuce, herbs, lettuce and a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Intrigued, we overlook the astonishing $18.95 price tag order. The spring rolls arrive first. The roll itself is pretty ordinary, consisting of shrimp, lettuce, rice noodles and mint rolled into a tight rice paper roll. Quite unordinary however was the peanut sauce, a smooth buttery sweet concoction topped with a drizzle of chili paste for heat. I could eat the peanut sauce on its own and be happy. Onto the next appetizer, the crispy chicken dumplings. Similarly to the spring rolls, the sauce was the real star of the show. The fried dumplings weren't anything special but the cranberry ginger sauce was delicious with just enough sweet with spicy to make your tongue demand seconds. Our main course arrived beautifully plated and colorful. I start by biting into the beef roll and find the center disappointingly dry and bland. Coating the roll is a finger licking sticky marinade but the beef itself was forgettable. The additional accoutrements eaten together hid the bland tasting beef and in turn was fairly enjoyable but I highly doubt the chefs desire was to have the diner shadow the flavors of the beef with sauce and fillers. In conclusion, I would not rush back to the Rice Paper. The prices are too high the food hit or miss. 

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