At 8:45 on a Friday night, the more popular Eat Street restaurants are still abuzz, but the dining room at 1833 Nicollet Ave. S. is empty. The former Soul City Supper Club has been reborn as the Gangchen Bar & Restaurant, with a logo that includes a martini glass tipped at a rakish angle. A string of festive colorful plastic pennants celebrating the Grand Opening are strung outside the door like prayer flags. There are a few staffers and friends huddled in the bar, watching Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt, on the big flat screen TV.
Gangchen Bar & Restaurant, 1833 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-872-8663.
The restaurant’s name sounds vaguely Asian, hard to place, but it means Snow Mountain in Tibetan (or so our waiter tells us). There is also a monastery in Tibet called Gangchen, and a Gangchen lama, now living in exile in Italy. The walls are painted the color of monks robes, and covered with Tibetan art and photos of the Himalayas. The owners, we learn, are Tibetan; one of them previously owned Tibet’s Corner, which closed last year in Uptown.
The menu is an eclectic Mix of everything Asian: Chinese egg rolls, Thai and Vietnamese spring rolls, Japanese teriyaki chicken, pad Thai, Singapore noodles, and even Minnesota-style celery chow mein. We sample a few of these: an appetizer of deep-fried shrimp isn’t really tempura-battered, but more in the style of classic Chinese take-out, complete with sweet red dipping sauce. The shrimp with green “Thai style curry” ($9.99) isn’t very Thai, but it’s very spicy and quite tasty. So is the hot and spicy squid, stir-fried with onions, ($12.99), which seems vaguely Vietnamese.
There are two Tibetan dishes on the menu. On an earlier visit, I tried the thenthu, a hearty and very tasty meal-sized soup with hand-made noodles, cabbage, carrots, and your choice of beef or chicken ($8.99). I would gladly go back and try the momo, steamed dumplings stuffed with seasoned chopped beef ($9.99).
Service is friendly and attentive, prices are reasonable, and there is a full bar with a small but decent selection wines by the glass.
Next door at 1831 Nicollet, the former home of Big E’s Soul Food, and then, briefly, the Lucky Star Chinese Restaurant, a new sign above the door says Provencial, Inc., specializing French cuisine and soul food. A hand-written note attached to the door says it will open soon.