I was pleasantly surprised by my lunchtime visit to Cat-Man-Do, the new Nepali-Tibetan-Indian café at 1659 Grand (just west of Snelling Ave.) in Saint Paul. The menu is pretty limited, compared to most of the local Indian restaurants, with their endless variations on the theme of tandoori, masala, vindaloo and jalfrazee, but Cat-Man-Do does offer some dishes that aren’t often found elsewhere.
These include chat, a traditional Indian street food made from crushed samosas with onions cilantro, garbanzos, tamarind sauce and yogurt ($6.95) and lamb or chicken choyla, a traditional Nepalese dish often prepared with mustard oil and a dry spice rub, as well as a green jackfruit curry and a side dish of potato achaar, a spicy side dish of potatoes pickled with banana blossoms, cucumber, jalapenos and cilantro.
What the $7.95 lunch buffet lacked in variety,it made Cat-Man-Do Plateup for in quality. Everything on the small buffet stand seemed fresher and more flavorful than the usual Indian steam table offerings – a savory eggplant curry, a richly seasoned goat curry, a vegetarian biryani rice, ungreasy deep-fried veggie pakora, served with a tamarind dipping sauce, and roasted spiced potatoes, plus fresh homemade puri.
Speaking of Indian cuisine, the former Willie’s Wine Bar on Harmon will soon be home to Dancing Ganesha, a new upscale restaurant that will combine traditional Indian cuisine with some sophisticated French touches. It’s owned by Bombay Vegan, the same company that operates Nala Pak (the former Udupi Café), a South Indian vegetarian restaurant in Columbia Heights. Vish Nadig, one of the partners, says they are still working out details on the menu, but he promises a “four-star” restaurant, with prices set a little lower than the nearby Temple Restaurant and Bar.