In the past year, I bore witness to the opening of some terrific new restaurants and revisited older ones that have evolved. I also encountered many surprises along the way. Here are my top five, in no particular order.

Krewe is worth a special journey from Minneapolis.

I often stay within city limits when it comes to food because I don't drive frequently. But when I do visit suburbs and nearby cities, food comes first to mind. Last year, my grail discovery was Duluth's New Scenic Café; this year, it's Krewe in St. Joseph.

In late spring, on a cold Sunday, I drove 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis and found a low-rise building with architecture that would not seem out of place in the heart of New Orleans. Inside, a jazz trio played music so loudly that my dining companions and I stopped talking. We just ate. More tellingly, a pitch-perfect trinity of Creole, Cajun and soul food: a deeply flavored, nose-throttling gumbo ($20), the best you'll find in Minnesota; the vibrant shrimp and tomato-forward jambalaya ($21); and the chicken and waffles, stupendously moist flesh, airy batter and all.

The chef and co-owner, Mateo Mackbee, left Minneapolis five years ago to build Krewe alongside his partner, Erin Lucas, a pastry chef by training. She runs Flour & Flower next door, vending breads and sweets, like Key lime pie, to remember. I had it at the restaurant first and marveled at how tall it was, the cloudy richness of the curd, and the way it ate more floral than tangy. It was — and still is — the one to rule them all.

Krewe, 24 College Av. N., St. Joseph,; Flour & Flower, 24 College Av. N., St. Joseph,

The Princess fried rice at Sidewalk Kitchen deserves your attention.

The best Chinese restaurants in the Twin Cities excel at many things. Fried rice, simple and austere by comparison, is not one of them.

Where others tend to sodden with protein and soy sauce, the one at Sidewalk Kitchen ($21.41), aptly named for royalty, reins it in. It follows a tried-but-true meld of diced shrimp, dried scallop, and wispy strands of egg white. You can tell that day-old rice has been used: Each granule is not clumpy, but gently chewy. It is what it's supposed to be — the kind of rice that wouldn't be out of place in any good Hong Kong restaurant.

There are plenty of other dishes at Sidewalk Kitchen that deserve your attention, too. During repeat visits, I returned for golden, crisp fried sole, beef tripe suspended in a clear but intense broth and beef brisket noodles.

817 Washington Av. SE., Mpls.,

Baaska's sushi at Cobble Social House is the worst-kept secret for top-flight nigiri.

Billy Sushi remains a North Loop institution for sushi and pompous asides — the rolls are dependable but not the only draw — and the way Kado No Mise hones its craft makes it my favorite omakase in town.

But there's a new player in the mix: Baaska Tegshbileg. Formally the nephew of Billy Sushi's Billy Tserenbat and formerly a counter chef at his namesake restaurant, Tegshbileg left the restaurant to strike out on his own. His talents deserved his own outlet, and it's evident in the nigiri characterized by pristine cuts of whatever can be delivered in short notice, domestically or abroad. During a recent dinner at Cobble, I enjoyed golden-eye snapper, barracuda and striped jack dabbed with real wasabi, a slick of soy and occasionally an accoutrement or two (a tongue of sea urchin from Hokkaido, or caviar).

A speakeasy bar may seem a little out of place for Tegshbileg's talents, but that's why menu items are all priced reasonably. (Rolls start at $10.) Do check beforehand — Baaska is there most, but not all, weekends; Instagram DM is the easiest way (@realwasabi_). Bonus: Tegshbileg does home catering, too.

Cobble Social House, 213 3rd Av. N., Mpls.,

Seafood and cheese in pasta? It can work.

Until recently, I would turn my nose up at servers who offered to spoon Parmesan cheese over any pasta that had a trace of seafood. In my mind, the flavor profiles of hard cheeses and crustaceans cannot be farther apart. There are exceptions, though, and not just with lobster thermidor or lox.

The pasta I had recently at two Minneapolis restaurants changed the mind of this stubborn critic. First, at Broders' Pasta Bar, was spinach fettuccine littered with chickpeas, kale, red onion and shrimp — underneath crumbled feta ($25). The feta's creamy and mildly sour nature added both richness to the pasta while cutting through the olive oil. Second, at the North Loop eatery Sanjusan, pecorino added nuance to a briny seafood Bolognese that coated squid-ink pappardelle ($28). In both cases, the cheese added, rather than subtracted, from already complex dishes.

I still have my reservations about the less successful combinations I've had, but someone must break through at some point. These two are a start.

Broders' Pasta Bar, 5000 Penn Av. S., Mpls.,; Sanjusan, 33 1st Av. N., Mpls.,

All Saints is hitting its stride.

When I reviewed All Saints a year ago, I praised its ability to nail New American classics in its own way. It was vegetable-forward then, and while there were dishes (salt and pepper mushrooms, grilled shrimp, etc.) then that captivated me, a few others also came up wanting.

Over time, I found myself returning to Kim Tong and Dennis Leaf-Smith's E. Hennepin restaurant with greater regularity. Yes, those staples continue to thrill — but now more than ever, All Saints has leaned into its "vegetable-forward" ethos confidently, validated by several terrific new dishes. The grilled pea salad was one. Now there's a cauliflower sformato ($13), a delicious old-school custard; sweet green tomato and plum salad ($15) over chèvre and pistachio butter; and peak season, smoky summer squash ($15) paired with a cool and smooth pea soubise. That a bitter, expertly dressed radicchio nearly upstaged a faultless duck confit should tell you all you need to know about the kitchen's attention to detail. That I am already plotting my next visit upgrades All Saints squarely to a three-star restaurant. Well deserved.

222 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls.,