Visit the Jungle

New Asian fare makes cultural splash in Chanhassen.

While takeout dining is always an option, dining in enhances the experience at Jungle Kitchen. Look at the walls—the decorations have cultural meaning. The large, framed embroidery of running horses with a Chinese inscription conveys a message—Never stop until you reach your destination or reach your goals. Dare to dream a little over these newfound Asian delights. Sharing their culture brings the Jungle Kitchen owners, Seyla Khoem and May Houth, “closer to their customers.”

The small family-owned restaurant is tucked away in a strip mall along the curves of Chanhassen’s Lake Drive. Even as a new restaurant, the word is out, and the reviews are reliably favorable. A lighter presentation brings out fresh flavors yet remains wholly flavorful in the Cambodian style, along with other Asian influences.

Settle into one of the 10 tables. Peruse the lengthy menu of Asian dishes, and try something different. It’s easy to find new favorites among the rice platters, pho, salads and noodles.

With a broth-infused rice, the labor-intensive Singapore chicken rice platter takes three to four hours to prepare, according to Khoem,. The hand-decorated garnishes of carrots and cucumber slices are a testimony to the lovingly constructed dish. Don’t be shy; a side of hot chicken broth is meant to slurp.

The Pad Thai (chicken, shrimp, beef, vegetable or tofu) has a refreshing lightness with no pronounced fish sauce taste. Jungle’s special sauce accents the rice noodle and egg stir fry with a balance of salty and sweet. Thinly sliced cabbage is a welcome addition to the traditional rice noodle Thai dish.

To heat things up, pass over standard Sriracha hot sauce for the housemade chili paste. The fiery concoction is so deliciously powerful, customers ask to purchase it separately and take it home.

Main dishes are Cambodian or Thai, with some Chinese influence.  There’s “a little Vietnamese—a hodgepodge of everything because we are so diverse,” Khoem says.
For dessert, be bold and go for the coconut leaf and palm sugar-based green jelly. The dish is an Asian delicacy and “so hard to make. You stir and stir for hours,” Houth says.

Khoem’s work epitomizes the American dream of hard work through family ties. His wife, May Houth, also immigrated to the United States “In 2001, all 30 of my family came over [from Cambodia]. It’s been a tough transition, but we made it work,” she says.

Jungle Kitchen is part of their livelihood. The business, 1 1/2 years in the making, grew from a catering business Khoem’s mother had at nearby Emerson Process Management. Today, her recipes are showcased at Jungle Kitchen “We want to cook and stand by the food like back home,” Houth says. “Everyone said, ‘You have to open a restaurant.’” Last November, Jungle Kitchen became a reality. Many Emerson employees frequent the new restaurant. (Khoem still works there as a software engineer.)

Family pride and tradition is an integral part of Jungle Kitchen’s dynamic. Relatives run every facet of the business. “That’s my cousin at the counter,” Houth notes.  She and Khoem are married with a 14-month old son. Work-life balance is a challenge. They both have day jobs plus duties at Jungle Kitchen.  Regardless, at every point, customer satisfaction is the primary goal. The dedication to quality and service is apparent at Jungle Kitchen.   

Celebrating 20 Years of Italian Dining in Eden Prairie

A 20-year-old restaurant is a rarity, but D’Amico and Partners’ Campiello Ristorante & Bar makes the grade with award-winning accolades in Eden Prairie. The authentic Italian cuisine has stood the test of time.
Quality presentation and old fashioned hospitality are the recipe for success. “The reputation the D’Amico has is a lot of what people remember,” says Matt Bolles, general manager.

The staff makes an effort to acknowledge regulars. “Everyone likes to eat at the same time, so you get to know your customers,” chef Ben Perhai says.

Campiello’s Bolognese is a long-time favorite. Ribbons of wide, tagliatelle noodles fold into spicy lamb tomato sauce. Everything is house-made and hand-done, right down to the pasta.

The rolled-pasta is one of many handcrafted, habit-forming foods. Rolling pasta is “not a long process, but it’s a difficult process,” says Perhai. “You really have to know the dough. Once you do that, you have a blank canvas.”  While the pasta ingredients are simple—eggs, flour, salt and oil—they create a plethora of dishes.

Thinking spaghetti and meatballs? Forget meatballs. Enjoy Campiello’s take on the classic with  balsamic-glazed short ribs and spaghetti. Hardwood fire grilling heightens flavor and tenderness.

The menu showcases local ingredients whenever possible and changes with the seasons. During spring, prime contenders are asparagus and other vegetables at their peak. The menu’s variety is compounded by various specials and events.

Brunch is served twice a year—Easter and Mother’s Day. Reservations are recommended.  “Easter and Mother’s Day are like the Super Bowl around here,” Bolles says. Brunch is offered  family style with generous plates of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and much more meant to be shared.

Monthly regional specials present different styles of Italian cooking in an approachable way. Look for peppery pizza and other Sicilian features during May. Enjoy the wonderments of Sicily to their fullest, and dine out on the vine-clad patio. Patio season usually starts mid-May, weather permitting. “It’s one of the most beautiful patios in the Twin Cities,” Bolles says.

Campiello has a date night on Sundays. Two guests can savor three courses of artfully executed Italian dishes. Thirsty? From 2–6 p.m. weekdays, patrons can get half off any bottle of wine regularly priced below $100.

Weekly lunch specials feature an irresistibly priced soup, pasta, entrée or pizza, making it easy to eat à la carte on a budget. The ever-changing assortment of dishes is tempting: smoked tomato basil soup, rigatoni with asparagus puree and portabella mushrooms and prosciutto pizza with gorgonzola and fig are just a few.