Oct. 5 marked two years since Café 99 settled into 1552 Como Ave., the space formerly occupied by Bascali’s Brick Oven. Owner Hong Chen also ran a restaurant in Chanhassen, but the commute from her Roseville home became too burdensome.
“The people here are more accepting of multicultural food,” she said. “With all the universities around, this is a great spot for us.”
Chen hired Chef Yang, who is one of few chefs in the country to hold a training certificate from the Chinese government.
“Our chef is professionally trained in the various regions of Chinese cuisine,” Chen explained. “Our menu reflects his extensive training.”
Indeed, the vast menu spans the major culinary regions of China, many of which are rarely represented in the Midwest. The menu is also wisely separated into sections based on how adventurous the diners might be. The Chef’s Recommendation section, as well as the More Authentic Favorites section, tout bolder, more unique dishes, while the Classic Favorites section will appease the more cautious eater at the table.
Chen is proud to point out that some of the popular choices come from the sections highlighting cuisine that most Americans are less familiar with. Dishes like Mandarin Beef with Golden Garlic, as well as the beautifully presented Chrysanthemum Sole Fillet are prevalent in China, but are seldom offered in other Chinese restaurants in Minnesota, according to Chen.
Another popular dish is the Sizzling Steak in Black Pepper Sauce served on a hot plate.
“People see the sizzling steak brought to a table nearby and want to order that,” she said. “They tell us our dishes are better here than in their hometowns in China. That makes my day.”
Café 99 is open for dinner seven days a week and serves lunch Wednesday through Friday. The cafe offers an online ordering system that Chen said cuts down on time and mistakes. Patrons can even pay online, making the process of getting that piping hot order of Szechuan Double Cooked Pork in front of your family that much more efficient.
You can find out more about the restaurant at www.cafe99mn.com.