Category Archives: Des Moines

Another Nepalese restaurant in DSM — A tale of two onion bhajis

Onion Bhajis At Kathmandu

Oddly, there is a second Nepalese/Indian restaurant now in Des Moines and this one is on the same street as the first — a workaday stretch of Southeast 14th Street. Everest looks spiffier than Kathmandu, a few blocks up the road. But the minute I saw the alleged onion bhajis at Everest, I thought “Nope.”  Those are onion rings, not bhajis, which are more like fritters.  Anyway, I know the real deal when I see it and Everest’s wasn’t it. The rest of the meal was passable but we will definitely be sticking with Kathmandu, which has better, more interesting, flavorful and authentic food, plus more endearing and competent service, even if it is a less spiffy place.

Onion bhajis (really onion rings) at Everest


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Hubbard Street Dance at the Civic Center – DSM

Great to have Hubbard Street back at the Civic Center last night — saves me a trip to Chicago (much as I enjoy those trips). The diverse program was designed to mark the Chicago-based company’s 40th anniversary, starting with the most au courant choreography and ending with the old stuff by founder, Lou Conte. I enjoyed everything danced by the young, athletic and versatile dancers but must admit the old stuff was the most enjoyable. After the first two pieces (danced to what I’d call “sounds” or “noise”), my husband rightly said he missed hearing real music. That arrived in the form of pieces danced to Bach, Spanish folk songs,  Willie Nelson’s soulful version of “Georgia on my mind” (with a gorgeous dance duet) and boppy jazz for Hubbard’s classic “The 40’s” piece, which was a lot of fun.

This was apparently Hubbard Street’s fourth time in Des Moines — I’ve seen them here before but I thought only once or twice. Glad to see a good crowd attending and hope this bodes well for bringing more major contemporary dance companies to perform here!

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Heavenly Asian/revisiting The Hall – West Des Moines

There were six of us to try out dinner at Heavenly Asian Cuisine and Lounge – the new Chinese restaurant in West Des Moines’ Valley Junction so we got to try many different appetizers and entrees. The experience was a mixed bag.  The space is welcoming – with cool Asian murals and big paintings that look a bit like they were painted by Matisse. The service was confused. The servers seemed overwhelmed even though the restaurant was about half-capacity on a Friday night. We ate some typical Chinese fare (potstickers, scallion pancakes) and not typical (Heavenly Grilled Fish with Spicy Sauce — head-intact fish served, oddly, in the large rectangular metal pan it was cooked in and placed on a portable stove where it bubbled away). When we found the fish meat, among the soupy broth and bones, it was delicious. But more work than may be worth to eat. A favorite was the Stir-friend lamb with cumin. My main impression was that the food was very spicy (not necessarily a bad thing; and this is  Sichuan fare as well as Gansu, which I’m not familiar with) and I’m still not convinced that the meat in one of the “chicken” dishes was actually chicken.  I won’t be rushing back but it’s worth another try.

The Hall was livelier on a Friday night than the Sunday morning we last visited — although not as lively as we expected. It was still a fun place to get a beer and/or other drinks (a friend liked his cocktail) and bump into old friends. We’ll be back.

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Not sure about the Flix Brewhouse concept

We finally used a gift certificate we received almost two years ago to go to a movie at Flix Brewhouse in Des Moines. It was an interesting experience but not sure I’d do again – or if the concept makes sense. It’s also more expensive than going to a regular theater.

For those not yet in the know, this is a movie-plus-drinking-and-dining experience. You can eat and drink from a table at your seat while watching the movie. The theater looks sort of familiar and not — there are the same rows of comfy, well-upholstered, reclining seats you’d find in a modern cineplex but in front of each row of seats is a row of slide-to-your-tummy tables, each with a menu and a button to push to call for a server.

We weren’t that keen on eating while watching a movie — I don’t even like to eat popcorn in a theater when the movie comes on – but thought we should try so we ordered a beer and a cider from the good selection of alcoholic drinks and carne asada tacos with guacamole and chips to share. The food came promptly, before the film, and was reasonably good. But once the movie started, I lost interest and when I tried to eat, it was too dark to really locate components of our entree (especially the little tub of guac). And I didn’t want to finish my cider for fear I’d have to run out mid-movie to pee.  The experience felt a bit like eating while watching a movie on a plane — but with more elbow room and better fare yet no option to pause the movie for a bathroom break.

No wonder that as I was leaving the theater, a nice young server read the desperation on my face and said “You looking for the restrooms?” There was a line out the door of the women’s room but fortunately it moved swiftly.

Two tickets – reserved in advance, which seemed necessary for the opening of a big movie (“The Post”) on a wintery weekend – cost $11.50 each, as I recall. Our favorite theater, the Fleur, costs $9 per ticket (although maybe it costs more to reserve?). With the drinks and one shared entree we spent three dollars shy of our $50 gift card. Not sure it would be worth doing if we were actually paying….but it was an interesting experience…

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Coming in from the cold – blues at the DSM Botanical Center, avocado fries at The Republic

Botanical blues

As we were driving toward the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center last Sunday, we started realizing that the road leading there was chock-a-block with parked cars. Sure enough, we weren’t the only people with cabin fever, eager to get out of the house albeit not into the bitter cold tundra that is Iowa right now.

The Botanical Center is smartly offering blues concerts every Sunday from Jan. 7 through March 25 and I heartily recommend. The music – by local favorite Bob Pace, who I’m told plays regularly at The Gas Lamp downtown, although not to as huge a crowd as provided last Sunday at the Botanical Center – was good, as was the people watching and the very welcome green and leafy tropical hothouse setting. What a joy to see growing and flowering plants, especially at this time of year. The sun poured through the center’s glass dome, reminding us what it felt to actually feel almost hot. It felt great.

Avocado fries and a view at The Republic

Afterwards, we stopped at The Republic on Grand, the very stylish but welcoming bar at the top of the six-story  AC Hotel  in Des Moines’ East Village  that I’d yet to visit, mainly because I don’t go to bars much. This one has great views of the city and was quiet and welcoming. We had some outstanding avocado fries (avocado slices dipped in what looked like chickpea batter and fried) — delicious!

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A little bit of Brooklyn in Des Moines – St. Kilda Bakery and Cafe

The new St. Kilda Bakery & Cafe, tucked away in an emerging downtown neighborhood of old brick warehouses converted into lofts and newly constructed apartment buildings, grabbed my attention initially because its owner is London-born and Australian-raised and promised an “Australian-style cafe.” That’s new for Des Moines.  Then I learned from a friend – a Des Moines native who lives in Brooklyn’s stylish Prospect Heights neighborhood – that St. Kilda’s owner previously ran a bar/restaurant in her NYC neighborhood. (Apparently he’s married to a Des Moines native, hence the move here…)

Anyway, St. Kilda (named after the owner’s hometown near Melbourne) has an urban contemporary  vibe and “modern, healthy-style”  food, based on my first lunch there last month.  Located in the attractively renovated warehouse now known as the Harbach Lofts, south of MLKing Parway downtown (a few blocks northwest of Principal Park, home of Des Moines’ minor league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs), St. Kilda  is a small but  airy tan-grey-white space with pale hard wood, concrete and redbrick. My friend Denise and I shared the avocado toast (an entree that appears to be all the rage today) and a steak salad with a poached egg on top. Both were attractively presented with  clever ingredients (beyond smashed avocado, the toast included charred corn, feta, tomato salsa; the surprisingly light steak salad included figs, pears and a bacon vinaigrette) — so not as ordinary or easily-made-at-home as you might think.   I look forward to trying dinner there sometime soon. (Here’s DSM Mag’s take)

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Do not miss the “tape show” at the Des Moines Art Center

It is way cooler than it sounds, this show with giant site specific installations by artists who,use tape as their medium. Check out the photos here for proof. Our long overdue visit happened to coincide with an open house for kids and families from Findley Elementary School who worked with one of the artists on a installation of colorful bouquets taped  onto the gleaming white exterior of the Richard Meier wing. How cool is that? The kids seemed so excited to be the belles of the ball at the art center which threw a reception for the kids complete with servers with trays of delicious looking kid-friendly appetizers including grilled cheese sandwiches. And in the I.M. Pei wing long tunnels made of very strong tape were strung across the galleries, strong enough for kids and even their parents to crawl through. I love that the art center was willing to do that! Continue reading

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