Last weekend we celebrated birthday princess C’s big day at Ginger Hop. The northeast Minneapolis restaurant took over the old Times space, but they’ve definitely updated the interior. Instead of dark and cavernous, it feels open, warm and a bit exotic.
We were a party of 13 and had reservations far ahead of time so they were expecting us, but I guess they weren’t expecting us to be such party people. Everyone arrived pretty promptly and we got our first drinks quickly. I had their White Cosmo which was a really nice balance of strong and sweet, not too much on either end. K and I ordered the smoked duck potstickers to share as an appetizer and a walleye satay each. The smoked duck potstickers were delicious and, true to their description, were sensuously smoky, chewy and crispy. The walleye satay was beer-battered deep-fried fish on a stick. Good, but it could have been crispier and it was more appropriate for the State Fair than the satay menu I think.
But that’s kind of the point of the Ginger Hop menu — Asian food, some of it turned on its head in a fun and unusual way. The only place this really came through though was in the one order of the “Kimchi” Kulakofsky (the quotes are theirs, not mine). D, prince to the birthday princess, said he couldn’t resist this tweaked out Reuben with kimchi instead of sauerkraut and with a Sriracha mayo. I didn’t try the sandwich, but D said he wasn’t wowed. Good, yes, but he was expecting more bite from the kimchi (maybe because it was “kimchi”??) and wanted the mayo to be spicier.
K ordered the Penang curry with pork which he said was good. I tried a bite. The pork was nice and tender, but I’m not a big fan of coconut and it was too coconutty for my taste, but the spice level seemed good. I got the Thai fried rice with shrimp. It was good, but pretty standard as far as Thai fried rice goes. Everyone seemed to enjoy their food, but no one was raving about it or passing it around insisting that other people try a bite. The consensus? Pretty good.
It was, however, around this point that things started to go downhill a bit. Before the food came, K ordered a caipirinha, which was on their drink menu (though it’s not online, as that menu doesn’t seem to have been updated). A few other people ordered a bottle of wine to share. Everyone but one person got their food at the same time and the person who didn’t had to wait a bit before getting her meal. Not that big a deal, it’s a big party, it happens.
But then the caipirinha didn’t come. And the bottle of wine was nowhere to be seen. K asked about his drink and the server said she’d check. Cricket, cricket. Several other people snagged the server to ask about K’s drink and the bottle of wine. The server had a myriad of reasons the beverages hadn’t shown up yet — it was the downstairs drink menu (it wasn’t), someone had to go downstairs to get the bottle of wine, etc. We did see servers running up and down between the restaurant and its companion club in the basement, Honey. But the bar upstairs appeared to be a full bar and, in fact, larger than the bar downstairs (where we went later) so I’m not really sure what the problem was. We did note that as a server it would suck to have to run up and downstairs all the time to get wine and cocktails. So we tried to give a little leeway.
About halfway through the meal, K finally got a drink. Not the one he’d ordered. Which he pointed out and the server seemed a little annoyed and said that the caipirinha must be on the downstairs menu. A) It was on the drink menu she handed the entire table. Upstairs. B) Moot point. Four people asked about the caipirinha and she brought a campari. Yes, they both start with a “C,” but that doesn’t make them the same beverage.
Finally a seriously annoyed K got his caipirinha and a tepid sort-of apology for the delay. It wasn’t until after they’d finished eating that the others got the bottle of wine they ordered. The server did helpfully split the checks for us, but the table was mostly couples and she didn’t ask who was dining together so there was some confusion and re-splitting necessary.
After dinner we went downstairs to Honey where the drink menu was, indeed, different (not sure why since this seems to cause problems in the restaurant). I very much enjoyed the Lady’s Lady, a St. Germain and champagne-based drink. There was a cover band playing and the place was really packed with a diverse group of people (mostly diverse in age). It was a nice atmosphere, the bartenders were quick and knew their stuff. It was a nice, relaxed end to the evening. Buzzy, but not so crowded that you couldn’t talk or move.
I’ll give Ginger Hop another try, but definitely not with a large group or as a special occasion destination. I’d highly recommend the smoked duck potstickers and I may give one of their sandwiches a go since the more traditional Asian dishes weren’t anything to write home about. I think I’ll wait until the restaurant finds itself though. If it’s a fun, Asian-themed restaurant that turns traditional dishes on their heads they need more items on their menu that reflect that. If it’s NE Mpls alternative to the King & I or Chiang Mai Thai, fine, but they need to fine tune the service then.
And a note to the restaurant: Give your servers a break and figure out a way to make your full bar work so they don’t have to constantly run the stairs to get wine and fill cocktail orders! And a note to servers: If you have a large party and lots of other tables and find yourself in the weeds, ask your coworkers for help or, at the very least, offer a few sincere apologies for delays and mistakes. One, “I’m sorry I got that order wrong, I’ll correct that right away” goes a long way!