Chef Ann Ahmed’s new Minneapolis restaurant, Khâluna, is now open
With her new restaurant Khâluna, which opens today, Ann Ahmed has grown. At least, that’s how she describes the trajectory of her first restaurant, the 17-year-old Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine in Brooklyn Park, to her second effort, Lat 14 in Golden Valley, and now to a jaw-dropping resort. designed by Shea on the corner of 40th Street and Lyndale Avenue S. in Minneapolis which she describes as a “luxury escape”.
“It’s kind of like when we were traveling, we wanted to pack a backpack, and now we’re like, no, we would like a nice hotel,” Ahmed said. “Our backpacking days are over.”
Components of the space include an airy dining room and a wall that opens, in good weather, onto a huge patio that leads to the nearby Khâluna market, where Ahmed has kept Laotian products, including commercial textiles. fair trade, baskets woven by an old man, and a small selection of Asian groceries. The room also serves as a private dining room for a group of 10, and its centerpiece is a pink cotton candy kitchen where Ahmed will be giving cooking lessons. Take-out items will be available here for enjoyment on another more casual patio.
The guideline in all of Ahmed’s menus is Southeast Asian cuisine, especially the Laotian cuisine she grew up with. The shimmering mushroom-filled dumplings with skins made by pressing individual tapioca pearls together are a tribute to his family, who gathered around the table to speed up the painstaking assembly.
For many dishes, Ahmed merges these traditional flavors with his favorite dishes. Umami-filled seafood pasta combines his love of Italian cuisine with Southeast Asian ingredients such as galangal, lemongrass, makrut leaves and Tom Yum sauce. The shrimp rolls combine the crunch of an egg roll with the chewing of a roll of rice paper by putting them into each other, avoiding Ahmed’s pet peeve of “all mushy”.
The menu is divided into small plates and salads ($ 12- $ 21) and entrees ($ 16- $ 28).
For drinks, bar manager Trish Gavin’s selections of spirits and wines follow the journey of European traders to the historic East Indies with ingredients that chart their route. The substantial non-alcoholic offerings are mostly low in sugar and have added benefits, with teas and roots helping to cleanse, awaken, and relax.
If that makes guests feel like they’re lounging in a poolside spa at a remote resort, mission accomplished.
“When people go out they want an escape, they want an experience,” Ahmed said. “I hope it will be something memorable.”
Khâluna is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sun, Wed. and Thurs. and from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. from Friday to Saturday. Make reservations, which go fast, at khaluna.com.