Khaluna opened at the end of October 2021, and we were lucky enough to score opening week reservations. (Because we’ve just got our finger on the pulse like that… 😎)
So what’s the story on this place? And why are all the food critics jumping out of their seats to sit down and dine?
Well, Khaluna is new to Minneapolis but not necessarily new the Twin Cities. It’s led by Chef Ann Ahmed, who actually runs two other popular restaurants in the Twin Cities Suburbs:
- Lat14: A huge Asian fusion space in Golden Valley that combines food from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Phillipines with an upscale atmosphere.
- Lemongrass: An upscale Thai/Sushi spot in Brooklyn Park.
We’ve visited Lat14 before and can confirm it’s fantastic. So when Khaluna took over the old Harriet Inn space at the intersection of 40th and Lyndale, just east of Lake Harriet, and promised a new fusion of mostly Thai / Laotian cuisine, we knew we had to check it out.
Our Full Review
I’ll admit, I entered this one a little skeptical.
It’s hard to say why, but I think my nerves came from the price point.
In doing my research for the visit (aka… getting myself hyped up, because what else is there to do during the workweek?) I took a peek at the menu and saw appetizers approaching $21 and entrees hitting $36.
And while I’m certainly not averse to paying for some of the best Twin Cities dining experiences (see our nearly $300 trip to P.S. Steak earlier this month or the spendy splurge at Billy Sushi) I do admit I have a weird aversion to upscale version of certain cuisines.
Take the Mexican street taco. In my eyes, it’s already perfection. In most attempts to improve on it, the diner usually just ends up paying a premium for the same flavors with fancy plating.
And as an avid addict of the Twin Cities’ best Thai restaurants, most of which are of the hole-in-the-wall variety, I had the same concerns about Khaluna’s upscale takes on Southeast Asian classics.
So in I went, doing my best to keep and open mind while fighting with that annoying pessimist in my brain.
The Vibe and Atmosphere
Khaluna’s website promises “a resort atmosphere” and even a gift shop, neither of which did any favors to silence my early opinion that this place may be an upcharge for suckers.
But I’ve gotta say, one foot into the restaurant and I was pretty blown away with the space. Khaluna’s design team completely transformed the old Harriet’s Inn space from a dark sportsbar atmosphere to one of the most visually stunning restaurants in town.
It’s bright. It’s airy. And its adorned with the sort of tropical plants and boho/bamboo design that even this Ebenezeer Scrooge had to admit was… dare I say, “resort-like?”
Ah… they’re getting to me already!
We even had a conversation with the waitress about the massive lights hanging throughout the space. They’re about 10 feet wide and totally striking. (As our waitress explained, each one was custom-made and hand-crafted by a local artist.)
A little more research shows that the Khaluna team bought the building for somewhere around $2 million. There’s some deep pockets behind this operation, and it shows. It’s certainly one of the coolest spaces in the entire metro, and we didn’t even explore the brand-new (and totally beautiful) outdoor patio!
Khaluna has plenty of alcohol, but what first caught my eye was the nearly equally long line of non-alcoholic options. After my eye-opening experience with NA drinks at our Martina visit, I ordered myself a Mango Lassi while Lilly grabbed a “Birds of Paradise.”
Both were fantastic.
The Birds of Paradise was just as the name implied – tropical and fruity, while the Mango Lassi was a thick, delicious mix of mango and yogurt… perfectly refreshing while not too sweet. (Unlike like some places,)
We also couldn’t help but order the perfectly Instagrammable (for our instagram page, duh!) Saffron Sutra. It’s basically a gin martini that’s been infused with saffron. It’s served in a wild, fish-bowl-like contraption that just adds to the fun.
Our waitress raved about the small plates, and I had a hard time not ordering every single one.
In the end, she mentioned the Shrimp Rolls had already proven to be their most popular in the restaurants first few days already, so we went with those:
And wow… I ate that shrimp roll and immediately ate all my concerns about this place.
These shrimp rolls were incredible. Whoever had the idea to fry them in an eggroll exterior, then wrap the whole thing in a spring roll wrap is a total genius.
You end up getting both an eggroll and a spring roll in one bite. It even comes with a spoon for drizzling the incredible sauce:
This is one of the many interactive dishes at Khaluna. As instructed by our server, you drizzle the lime juice and then wait for the rice to turn from blue to purple.
This one was like every rice bowl you’ve ever had, on steroids. The colorful concoction mixes together with the cruncy pop of the puffed rice to create a light and refreshing starter.
We definitely enjoyed this one.
Our waitress said this was her favorite entree on the menu, so who are we to say no?
It comes out as a beautiful spread of perfectly cooked duck. The pieces are crispy and charred on the outside yet a perfect medium-rare on the inside.
I immediately grabbed my chopsticks, got to mixing the meat with the Asian slaw and fresh herbs, and could barely stop to speak.
Another fantastic dish.
The second (or third?) interactive dish of the night. The plate comes out as a pile of ingredients, and then you finish it at your table with as much coconut milk or spicy fish sauce as you like.
(In typical fashion, we went with ALL the coconut sauce and ALL the spicy fish sauce.)
This one was another bright, sweet mixture of noodles that led me to taking bite after bite.
Dessert – Spicy Mango Cake
In continuing the theme of the night, this one was a beautiful plate intended to be mixed together to create your own explosion of flavor.
And like the rest of the night, it absolutely did not disappoint.
The verdict? Khaluna is an awesome restaurant that we’re so happy to see in Minneapolis.
Yes, as expected, my concerns were completely unfounded.
Throughout our entire dinner, Khaluna proved itself again and again as one of the most unique and fantastic restaurants in the city.
Yes, it’s pricey. But to my relief, they’re not just taking traditional Southeast Staples and putting them on a new plate with a new price tag. No, they’re totally reinventing the things, and even introducing brand new flavors that this self-professed foodie hasn’t really experienced anywhere else in the Twin Cities.
Food wise, maybe the closest comparison would be the award winning Hai Hai in Northeast, although Khaluna’s atmosphere feels more traditional.
Call it what you want, but we’ll just call it what it is – one of the best new Twin Cities restaurants in a long time, and a DTC certified MUST EAT!
4000 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55409
Free street parking or paid valet
Traditional wait service, with 21% service charge added to the final bill.
Average Plate Cost:
Do you need a reservation?
Yes, for sure. From what we’ve heard, dinner is reservations only. Walk ins are limited to bar seating.