I would like to focus this post on a bright spot and two good bites.
My Bright Spot
I love Fargo's public library. It's big and it's beautiful. The coffee shop downstairs often emanates the fragrance of freshly baked brownies. The section of new books is expansive and there are two large rooms of computers available for the community to access the internet. The cookbook section is large and always well-stocked with books that would only be available via the wait-list in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Bite I Like #1
501 Main Ave
Have I extolled the virtues Pizza Nico lately?
When Jake and I first tasted Pizza Nico in early November, we experienced a mutual moment of silence in which we exchanged a glance of surprise and satisfaction.
Since, Jake returned for bachelor night pizza while I was in Sacramento and was impressed with the Cheese Sticks. After work one tired, Friday evening, we ordered Cheese Sticks, $5.99, and a large BBQ Chicken Pizza, $14.99, for delivery.
The Cheese Sticks were basically a small cheese pizza sans tomato sauce. The cheese was bubbly and toasty and the dough was spread with what tasted like garlic butter.
Simple in concept, but thoughtfully created. Like the Cheese Sticks, the tomato sauce on the side was well balanced and addictive.
Jake typically does not enjoy barbecue chicken pizza, mentioning they are often made with cloyingly sweet barbecue sauce. I develop a cyclical hankering for barbecue chicken pizza of which any frozen version will do. However, I still feel queasy when I think of the barbecue chicken pizza I ate at the Sacramento Airport's California Pizza Kitchen.
Pizza Nico's version was the best barbecue chicken pizza we have tasted, yet.
I loathe low-quality cheese that doesn't seem to toast and bubble, but Pizza Nico's cheese is always melted well. The barbecue sauce was deliciously balanced and tangy, avoiding the overly-sweet pitfall into which many barbecue sauces fall. This sauce tasted completely unique and must have been scratch-made which would not be surprising, considering that Pizza Nico claims to make most of their sauces and pizza sauce in-house, as well as cooking their own meats.
The rest of the toppings were equally delicious and balanced. The chicken tasted fresh and was the complete opposite of those nasty, grisly, dense cubes of dry chicken breast that are all too ubiquitous. Crispy pieces of bacon added a salty crunch and thin shaves of fresh jalapeno added heat.
Jake and I were inspired to try some of Pizza Nico's more unusual pizzas such as the Bangkok that includes peanut ginger sauce, chicken, and peapods. When the pizza craving hits, we would normally steer clear of unusual pizzas, fearing that while the concept may be solid in theory, the execution would either be really good or really regrettable. After three visits, we have confidence that Pizza Nico creates food with thoughtfulness, tastes every component of their pizzas, and would not serve a low-quality product.
Bite I Like #2
1775 45th Street S.
Fargo, ND 58103
There is a dearth of food bloggers in the Fargo-Moorhead community. Jihye Chang, a professional musician used to live in Fargo-Moorhead, left wonderful documentation of her thoughts of this community's restaurants in her self titled blog. Again and again, I find myself referring to her notes, especially appreciating her frank and concise thoughts on Fargo-Moorhead's Asian cuisine options.
Chang described Samuria as "the best Asian/Japanese restaurant in the FM area," so we had to investigate.
The menu was staggeringly large and included both Japanese and Thai options, two of our favorite cuisines, and we had difficulty making decisions. In addition to the basic Japanese and Thai dishes, Samurai also offered some interesting fusion options.
I began my meal by ordering tea.
The freshly-steeped genmaicha tea was comforting and I always enjoy the toasted rice flavor.
As an appetizer we split an order of Thai Spring Rolls, $4.50.
These spring rolls were delicious. The filling included a mixture of vegetables and mushrooms and was well-seasoned and flavorful. I especially liked the crispy, thin-skinned wrapping that was fried until golden brown and lacked greasiness. The sweet and sour like dipping sauce complimented the spring rolls and was not overly sweet.
Complimentary miso soup was fine, though a tiny bit grainy.
For an entree, I ordered the Panang Curry with assorted proteins for $16.95. What I received was huge bowl overflowing with creamy, red coconut curry, chicken, beef, shrimp, and fresh vegetables.
Though I ordered the curry extra spicy, it's heat level was quite mild, but contained a slight heat that build over time. The curry was light and creamy. Unlike the curries at Bangkok Thai Deli, it lacked the layer of oil that glistens the surface. Regardless of the visible oil as signifying authenticity or technique, it was addicting and we both returned again and again to the mother bowl for more.
Jake believed he did not enjoy curry until we met and I showed him that "curry" is a large category in which there are innumerable varieties and not all versions are created equally. This version was his favorite curry he has tasted so far.
I was very satisfied with the meats and vegetables. The slices of chicken and beef were silky and tender while the shrimp contained some snap. Cubes of tofu had a guilty-pleasure deep fried flavor. All of the vegetables tasted fresh; the bell peppers and onion had some bite while the eggplant and potato were creamy.
"Authenticity" is not a concept I am typically militant about as long as food is created with thoughtfulness. Nothing annoys me more than food cooked with apathy. Fortunately, my curry was created by someone who cared.
Jake ordered the Maki Roll Combination, $15.95 which included a tuna, California, and shrimp tempura roll.
The tuna in the tuna roll was fresh and buttery. I also tried a piece of the shrimp tempura roll. The shrimp tempura was fresh and crispy, but the breading seemed to have been made with panko. I also felt the sauce was overly sweet, but, in general, do not prefer sushi rolls made with lots of ingredients and sauces. Overall, the quality seemed fine and the seafood was fresh, however, I would choose different sushi options on a future visit. When comparing our initial Samurai visit to Wasabi, Samurai seemed to be a bit better.
We would indeed return to Samurai but it will take time to explore Samurai's extensive menu.