- 2925 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines, IA, 50312
- Overall User Rating:
- (13 ratings)
- Breakfast: 7-10:30 a.m; lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 5-10 p.m.; late night 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Preliminary visit — not yet rated.
With new-this-year bike lanes and continued commitment to some serious landscaping, Ingersoll easily rates as this town’s “it” avenue. The new jewel in the crown is Red.
Who/what: Su Nong, owner of Café Su in Valley Junction, opened Red restaurant late last month. Her sister, well-known event planner Saley Nong (who also owns DiVine Flowers by Saley), blissed out the space in her signature dramatic-yet-clean style.
Ambience: Soaring fresh flowers top a row of tables for a joyful welcome to the bustling dining room, where lacquer-black and rouge-red anchor the color scheme. Glass vases of red poppies float atop one wall, while photos of the owner’s current family — looking at once ancestral and up-to-date — line another wall.
And then there’s energetic Ingersoll, framed by the floor-to-ceiling windows. The overall effect is ultra-modern without being superficially slick, otherworldly yet infinitely tapped into Des Moines.
Menu: Find many Chinese classics — kung pao, sweet and sour, Mongolian beef, cashew chicken, pineapple chicken, etc., as well as Southeast Asian-inspired choices (Pad Thai chicken salad, Laos curry chicken, etc.). More than 20 appetizers, such as spring rolls, pot stickers, barbecue pork-filled buns and lettuce wraps, make this a good place for hipster small-plate-style dining (especially with the clever and colorful neo-martinis and house specialty cocktails available from the dashing bar).
Seven French entrées add a Euro angle to the menu; most have Asian fusion touches (e.g.: seared tuna Napoleon with coconut-ginger risotto).
Food — first impressions: A peppery-sweet sauce added a thrilling thwack to the earthy, chewy and crisp pork dumplings. The entrées we sampled — a rich and creamy, headily spiced Laos curried chicken and a flavorful but somewhat timid Szechuan beef — proved fresh, admirable renditions. But at $15 and $17 respectively, I imagine many diners will raise an eyebrow. You can find for about half the price at more humble venues, such as Café Fuzion.
Of course, just as diners flock to Splash (even though you can cheaper seafood at Waterfront) and Dos Rios (though less-expensive Latin specialties can be had all over town), they’re pouring into this place. Sometimes, you simply want a scene. That said, it will be interesting to see if, in coming months, the kitchen ratchets the menu up a few notches to match the ambience.
Service: Opening week jitters were apparent, especially in the dispiritingly slow bar service.
Bottom line: Already a head-turner, though more in the décor than the food. But remember — Centro started out that way, too.