Friday, November 13, 2009

Back to Bamboo

For the past several months I have been having a not so secret affair with Bamboo Sushi. Here's the trick: I mosey up to the bar between 5 and 6:30, when they have happy hour. This allows me to get in on "the standards" for cheap while spicing it up with a few options off of their regular menu. Yesterday, I was pleased to find out that they have now added drinks to their happy hour offerings. This deal includes $3 draft Sapporos and discounted hot sake and wine. I already felt that their happy hour was one of the best hidden gems Portland has to offer in the happy hour department. They offer $2 handrolls of the day, which generally means $2 spicy scallop handrolls. On top of this they offer $3 Cali rolls, $5 nigiri sets (a sampling of 4 types of their nigiri), $4 NW Philly roll (a tempura battered take on the Philly), as well as a few veggie options and half off many of their kitchen items, including a delicious Kobe brisket. These deals mean that you can get a high quality sushi meal at an overly reasonable price.

Yesterday, I went with the intention of a standard happy hour session. Things turned ugly when I found out that they just brought back their crab flights, featuring six types of crab from around the country. I don't know how "sustainable" this approach to sourcing crab is unless they have porters biking the crabs down from Alaska, nonetheless, it does help sustain my addiction to crustaceans. They also had uni (sea urchin) and live scallops. Knowing that they try to use only the best sources for their seafood, I knew the uni was a must. On top of that I had never tried live scallop, so I figured I should give that a whirl as well. The crab were delicious. I was too busy sitting in sushi bliss to take notes or decide which was my favorite of the six. The scallop was an interesting addition to the meal. It was served in its shell and cut up sashimi style. I enjoyed the scallop, but at $10 a pop, did not think it was all that exciting. When you can get delicious, creamy uni nigiri at $8 a pair, its hard to order anything else. This uni was absolutely delicious. I am not gonna act as though I have consumed a large quantity of uni in my life, but this made my spine tingle.

People argue that Hiroshi is the best sushi in the city and other high end sushi joints seem to overshadow Bamboo on the forums and blogger world. I cannot see past the quality, price, and concept of Bamboo. The staff is also friendly and attentive. Whether you want a delicious sushi happy hour at a fair price, or you want to try the delicacies, I suggest you head over to Bamboo.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: HA & VL Sandwiches

HA & VL Sandwiches
2738 SE 82nd Ave
Portland, OR 97266
(503) 772-0103

Why was I going for a Vietnamese noodle soup for breakfast? It was 9:45, surely I was supposed to be eating a banana, muffin, egg sandwich, or even a scramble. But alas, there I was, in my car, driving out to SE 82nd Ave for a bowl of what was rumored to be the best Vietnamese soup in town. I pulled into the strip mall parking lot located next to Fubonn market and had to look around to find HA & VL Sandwiches. My attention was quickly drawn to a group of Vietnamese men standing against the wall of a building, trying to stay dry as they smoked butts and chatted away. I knew I was in the right place.

HA & VL sandwiches serves Baan Mi and a different Vietnamese noodle soup every day of the week. I have not tried the Baan Mi yet, as the reason for going to HA & VL is the soup. They open at 7:30 each morning and often sell out of the daily soup by 11 or 12. It is not unusual for the place to be full at 10 o' clock of people slurping down soup and Vietnamese coffee or tea. While I had driven by the place several times, and proudly exclaimed "look Vietnamese sandwiches!" I had never actually visited or been inside. After reading rave reviews by foodies and bloggers this past week, I had no choice but to make the pilgrimage. And I'm glad that I did, because this place did not disappoint.

I sat down and quickly ordered the special of the day, Bun Rieu Son Tay, and a Vietnamese iced coffee. I was asked if I wanted my coffee strong. Obviously I wanted it strong. But I had trouble slurping the whole thing down in one gulp, per usual, because I was getting quite the caffeine buzz. It tasted good too. My soup quickly arrived with the traditional accompaniments of lettuce, basil, sprouts, and chilies. On my first sip it tasted slightly fishy but delicious. After that, my taste buds opened up and the rich broth exploded with flavor. I could not quite define the characteristics of the broth, but it was delicious. The broth housed all sorts of flavorful bites. Swimming in the broth were noodles, balls of ground shrimp, pork, pillows of fried tofu, tomatoes, chives, and roasted garlic. The bowl was quite large and my first impression was that I would get to take some home with me. As I sat and enjoyed my "brunch," I watched the group of men get up and smoke cigarettes outside and return to their coffee and chatter. The matriarch came out and talked to everyone. I truly felt welcomed by her when she said "I am glad you are here." She joked with other customers and brought me out a menu and explained the daily specials.

I started to feel at home in this foreign environment. I was at a unique Vietnamese noodle house on 82nd, surrounded by refrigerators housing Capri Sun and other beverages. The walls were green and yellow and had Mardi Gras beads hanging. And of course the scene would not be complete without the cheesy Vietnamese entertainer blaring out of the old school television. Somehow as I sat around, my soup bowl diminished. There would be no leftovers that day. I bundled up in my rain gear and paid the check. As I left and returned to the dreary Portland day, I saw the empty table housing a few cigarette butts in an ashtray, still sending off smoke signals. They seemed lonely without the group of chattering men drinking plastic cups of Vietnamese Iced coffee. But I had hope for that ashtray. Just as I knew that I would return to HA & VL Sandwiches for another late morning soup bowl, I knew that this ashtray would once again be surrounded by chattering Vietnamese men, talking about whatever the hell they talk about.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy Hour: Clyde Common

Clyde Common
1014 S.W. Stark Street
Portland, OR 97205

I slid into Clyde Common for happy hour the other day. This was my first time checking out this swanky restaurant connected to Stumptown and The Ace Hotel. Surrounded by suits and upper-echelon hipsters, I ordered a beer and watched bar prodigy, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and his team of bartenders pump out some great looking drinks. He writes an interesting blog, dissecting the world of the bartender. It was relatively quiet when I arrived, and by the time I left all of the bar stools were occupied. I obviously couldn't walk into a swanky happy hour without trying just a little food. I split a burger with blue cheese and bacon and some fries with a buddy of mine. The burger was right up there with perfect. It was cooked slightly more than I would have liked, but not to a point of dissatisfaction. The tomato chutney was nice and tangy, while not overpowering the flavor of the burger. The fries came with a spicy African dipping sauce and some creamy white sauce, perhaps ranch. I'd imagine its something slightly fancier, as that appears to be their style. I also had a Bloody Mary to add some data to my new project. As I expected, it was a delicious Bloody, as all of the cocktails produced at this place are done with great care and consideration. I'll be back to try some more of their cocktails and maybe other food items

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Hour: Davis Street Tavern

Davis Street Tavern
500 NW Davis St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 505-5050

I had been hearing good things about Davis Street Tavern for quite some time. The folks over at rave about it as if they would like to have their last meal there. I heard rumors about a high quality happy hour, so I rounded up a posse and we headed into Old Town to see what we were missing out on. Don’t worry mom, I brought my mace and locked the doors immediately after I returned to my car.

Old Town really is experiencing “urban renewal”. Good upscale eateries like Davis Street Tavern and Ping are coming in and remaking old run down buildings. There are also modern bars, clubs, and boutiques all around. Old Town is still home to several missions and social service organizations. There is no question that Portland is chock full of crazies.(Myself included) It will be interesting to see what happens as more money is poured into Old Town and it gets a makeover. One cannot help wondering if the crazies will get relocated.

The interior d├ęcor of DST is upscale and contemporary, while not being overly stuffy. There is no shortage of exposed brick and wood throughout the building. It has an open layout. We were promptly seated at a table as it was not very crowded at five on a Thursday. They have a good selection of beer, whiskey, and wine. I started with a Walking Man “Hoptoberfest”, which was is a delicious fresh hop beer. I hadn’t tried it before and it was so good that I never moved up to whiskey. I started to get a little lifted after two pints of it.

My main objective was to try out their happy hour grub. I had heard their oysters were the best preparation in town so we started off with two dozen between the three of us. Man, these things did not disappoint. They were little Kumamoto oysters with cucumber, pickled shallot, and rainbow trout row. They made for the perfect little oyster treats. The slippery saltiness of the oysters was chased by little bites of the cool and tangy oysters and shallots. These would be good for an oyster beginner, as they are pretty small and just as the texture begins to get slippery it is chased by the slight crunchiness and tanginess of the toppings. We loved these and ended up getting another dozen just for safe keeping.

My next objective was to try their burger, which has a high reputation. It is marked as a “Strip Loin Burger,” with braised pork belly, sharp Tillamook cheddar, crisp romaine, tomato jam, and pickled vegetable salad. What could go wrong when a burger supplements pork belly for bacon? Well, they could of course overcook it… And overcook it they did. As opposed to the red and juicy center one would expect when a burger is ordered medium rare, it was a solid grey throughout. I split the burger with a buddy of mine and we were too bashful/hungry to send it back. This is an issue for me. As a person so passionate about food, I owe it to myself to send back something that the kitchen messes up, especially at a nice place. The issue is that I don’t like wasting food and I don’t want to sound whiny like some older people that I know. Next time I order a burger, I will be sure to put great emphasis on how I want it cooked, that way if it comes out overcooked, I won’t feel bad about having it fixed. Despite the burger being overcooked, the toppings and everything else attributed to the burger were pretty flavorful. The pork belly was not a large amount and it was hiding under the melted cheddar, so I didn’t get a good view of it. This burger would be pretty damn good if it were cooked properly, but that really put a damper on my whole experience.

Between the three of us we also managed to take down butter lettuce and baby spinach salad with grape tomatoes, Rogue River Blue, and cider-pink peppercorn vinaigrette. This was a solid salad at $4. The dressing as very light, as if it were misted on. This was simple, fresh, and delicious. A Bbq pork sandwich with apple fennel slaw and blue cheese potato salad was good but not great and the fish tacos housed large, think pieces of fried fish in them. I think it was mahi mahi or some sort of Hawaiian fish, but I forget. These were good quality and good value, even at $5 for two.

I would definitely return to Davis Street Tavern. The oysters were all stars and the drink selection is solid. I want to return to try the burger again. That misstep turned an excellent experience into a good experience. This is partially my fault for not stepping up and the issue resolved. Nonetheless, this bruise will last until I go back again and either forget the burger or get one properly cooked. This, however, should in no way stop you from getting down to Davis Street Tavern for a meal. I look forward to trying their dinner menu and having more of those delicious oysters.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hey There, Long Time No See!

Hey buddy!

How ya doin? Ya, I know, it's been a while.

You seem well! I've had a crazy summer, ripe with travel and all sorts of adventure. I traveled in Oaxaca, Mexico and throughout Europe, in Austria, Czech Republic, and Italy. Ya it was a lot of fun. I know I should have been blogging from all these cool places. There was certainly a wealth of different great foods. I managed to eat everything from home cooked meals, to street food, to high quality restaurants. I even managed to pick up a recipe or two while I was there. Fortunately, I took a bunch of pictures. I'm on the hunt for new spots around Portland too. There seems to be no shortage of new restaurants, food carts, and happy hours popping up around the Stump. I hope I didn't let you down by being such a flake. It wasn't you, it was me. I promise! If you would only give me another chance I think we could do some great things together. Anyways, see you soon old friend.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tanuki- Japanese Drinking Food

Before I went to Tanuki, I heard mixed reviews. Most foodies raved about it, while I heard other complaints like “It smells like fish” and “It’s too dark in there.” Well, I’m not afraid of the dark and if the smell of fish means that there is fresh, high quality fish in close vicinity, then I’m there. I went in with high expectations, which generally means I may be walking away disappointed. Fortunately, Tanuki lived up to the hype and I am dying to go back and try more of their offerings.

I went with my buddy Adam and we started by grabbing a good bottle of sake. I don’t know much about sake and didn’t bring a pen, so I won’t try to describe it. Either way, it was a good accompaniment to our $25 Omakase meal. Tanuki is a Izakaya, a Japanese drinking den that serves food accompaniments. It is one of several Izakayas popping up around Portland. Other restaurants of similar style include Ping, Biwa, and Departure. The interesting thing about Tanuki is that it is in a tiny little spot off NW 21st Ave. It’s dimly lit and the owner/chef Janis Martin runs the whole show. She does all the cooking and is constantly on the go trying to please all of her customers. Somehow she manages to get everything out and I imagine most walk away quite pleased.

The menu has several interesting offerings. However, the best approach is to order Omakase style. You have to go in open minded, but if you do, you will be kindly rewarded. Ordering Omakase style allows the chef to customize your dining experience. Now you don’t have to go in completely blinded. The chef is willing to take many things into consideration, including dietary restrictions and food choices. Adam and I had no restrictions so we let the food flow. Janis starts by asking what you are drinking and immediately picks good dishes to accompany your beverage(after all it is a drinking den). As the dishes came out we were asked other probing questions to see what our preferences were, such as “How spicy do you like your food?” and “Are you starting to get full?” or “Are you thinking your next course should be heavy or light?” If you do a $25 Omakase, they likely won’t permit you to leave hungry at all. After some sake infused math I came to a total of roughly 10 courses. THAT’S $2.50 A COURSE. And the food is high quality too. Janis changes the menu daily and revolves it around fresh seasonal produce and fresh seafood from her distributors. I won’t try to recount all of the courses but some of the highlights were fresh Uni (sea urchin), Hamachi toro (yellowtail belly), Oysters with kimchi shaved ice, Kimchi fried rice, and spicy hamachi and maguro hand rolls.

It was amazing to see a place that was able to hold up to the hype. I got the opportunity to talk about Tanuki with Janis for a little bit and to introduce myself. She clearly feels passionate about what she does. She wants food with integrity. She is trying to give all people the opportunity to access great food. She provides customizable meals, using quality ingredients at extremely reasonable prices. Tanuki is a special place. It’s a place to go with friends to get good, interesting food and to catch a buzz. I suggest getting down there and supporting Tanuki. When we left I couldn’t help but hug Janis, and she didn’t even freak out. They are doing a real cool thing at Tanuki and despite all of the great food in Portland, we need more of this love. My only gripe is that its across the river-- this place has East side soul.
Oysters With Kimchi Shave Ice (Amazing)
Yellowtail Belly
Uni (Also rediculous)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Le Pigeon- Awesome Burger

So a few weeks ago Sarah and I had our first meal at Le Pigeon- a great Portland based French restaurant. The meal was amazing. Everything was rich in butter- French cooking style. We sat at the chef’s counter observing the masters at work. While there, something caught my eye-- a beautiful burger. Now, I thought I had a decent grasp on the high quality burgers that Portland had to offer (Slow Bar, Sapphire Hotel, etc.). I would in no way consider myself an expert, but for a while these two were battling for best PDX burger that I had exposure to. When I saw this beautiful mountain of cow butt, bread, lettuce, and other greatness it left me in a trance.

Well, last week Sarah was out of town and I had to drown my lonely sorrows in something. You guessed it, the burger at Le Pigeon. I got there early, about 5:45 or 6. Rumor has it they only serve 5 of these a night, so you have to get in early if you want it. The place is small too, so don’t bring the whole crew for the perfect burger. I would suggest going in ninja style, maybe 3 people max. When I went in it was pretty dead being so early. I immediately sat at the chefs counter. I don’t even know why they brought me a menu as I had tunnel vision. So I order it and at $9 for the burger with potatoes and $11 for the burger with mixed greens it is clearly comparable if not cheaper than any other high quality burger in town. I opted for mixed greens as I was already feeling guilty as I have already fallen off the diet wagon, for the most part. I waited around and chatted for a while with my neighbors and the servers….

…Then it arrived in all its glory. Let me describe this thing as best as I know. From what I gathered this thing is about ½ pound, Strawberry Mountain (Local as hell ) beef. Its hand pattied and cooked to order perfectly. This is a top notch PDX restaurant, so you can’t expect less. It comfortably lounges on a nicely fluffy and chewy ciabatta roll. I watched the chef spread some mustard on the bun and I wouldn’t be shocked if it were not made in house. Next, there are some pickled onions placed gingerly on top of the burger, which also has some sort of quality cheese melted on top of it. Now, heres where it gets interesting. They have some juliened lettuce, that’s tossed in a dressing, that the sous chef carefully places on the burger. He then puts the lid on it and sticks a knife down the center, as this thing HAS to be cut in half. There may be more to this I’m missing-- my bad.

Anyways, this thing is a giant mess of awesome. I was sitting in this intimate French restaurant grubbing tough and spilling burger all over my face. It was great… I don’t think they would offer it if they didn’t know that would go down. It may have been the best burger I’ve ever had. I have heard about some other good ones around town and I will have to test them and report back. In the meantime, if any of you guys want to get a burger, hit me up and we will sneak in ninja style. (Maximum of me and you)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finally an update- Pickling 101

For several years I have been interested in the notion of pickling my own vegetables. I love going to a restaurant that offers varieties of quality pickled vegetables such as Kenny and Zukes. There are many books on the subject and the internet obviously has a wealth of information on pickling. I did some research on the internet and started to look at recipes. Well, a few weeks ago I took the plunge and entered the world of pickling my own vegetables. Lo and behold, it was quite easy and produces a delicious snack. They are great as an addition to a meal, for a bloody mary, or as an hours derves. I have received rave reviews from people that have tried them. Let me explain to you guys the method I have been using.

I had two pickling sessions. For the first session I pickled asparagus, green beans, mini onions, brussells sprouts. All turned out real delicious with the exception of the brussells which were awfully chewy. Being a total newb, I used the same brine for all of the vegetables, which worked out fine. I imagine pickle enthusiasts have different brines for each type of vegetable, but you have to crawl before you can walk. I kept my brine simple. It included an approximate mixture of :
55% water
45% white wine vinegar
¼ cup dill seeds
¼ cup salt
A few full pepper kernels
Some thyme and mustard seeds

When I say approximate, I truly mean it. I basically just put the vinegar and water in and then started pouring the spices in. Then I started heating it in a pot on the stove. While doing this, I put another large pot on the stove in order to sterilize my mason jars. It fit about 3 mason jars at a time. If you have factory fresh mason jars, you really don’t need to sterilize them before pickling, in my opinion. If they were dirty I would sterilize them in your boiling water bath after cleaning them. While all this is happening, you need to prep the vegetables. I put a few smashed cloves garlic in the bottom of each jar as well as a jalapeno pepper cut in half. This makes for additional flavor and also tastes good pickled.

You also need to prepare the vegetables. Prepare them how you like by cutting off nasty parts and ends. Next you want to blanch them-- that is boil them for about two minutes. This will help preserve crunchiness and flavor. Once you take them off the boil, immediately put them in the freezer to cool down for a few minutes. Your next step is to pack the jars. You want to pack these babies as full as possible. This will help distribute the heat and not overcook the vegetables once you poor the brine in, or something like that.(I’m not a scientist) Don’t forget to put your garlic, jalapeno, and a fresh thyme sprig in while packing each jar.

Next step is the fill your jar with the brine, which should be pretty hot at this point. Mix the brine up so you get an even distribution of all the spices in each jar. Grab a ladle and fill the mason jar above your vegetables. Now, grab a sterile paper towel and wipe the top of the jar to prevent anything from breaking the seal. This is one of the biggest problems with pickling-- people don’t seal the jar properly. I haven’t had any problems with this yet, so neither should you. Put on the top and screw it down tightly.

Now, here comes an important part. You need to put these in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to kill any diseases or bacteria that may have snuck into the jar. 10 minutes in boiling water and those suckers are dead and you can store your pickles on your shelves infinitely or until you feel the urge to host a BBQ with the ultimate Bloody Marys…We used this recipe and it resulted in some pretty good Bloodies. Once you are done boiling the pickles, take them out let them cool. Sticking them in the fridge will create a stronger seal during the cool down. If you don’t boil them for 10 minutes they will stay good for a few weeks or maybe longer if you keep them in the fridge. But to be safe, I would suggest boiling them.

Your done! Wasn’t that easy? Actually it’s kind of a pain in the ass. But, for a bored foody such as myself, it was a great project. I look forward to trying out new vegetables and getting deeper into the pickling puddin. My current plan is to try to buy vegetables in bulk from farmers at peak season and pickling 10-20 pounds at a time for winter use. I found some asparagus for 1.35/pound so I bought about 15 pounds of it and pickled it. Unfortunately, I was so excited about the price that I failed to closely examine the product. I had to cut down 50% plus of the asparagus because it just wasn’t that good. I guess you get what you pay for. I would love to hear people’s recipes and trials and tribulations with pickling. I suggest you give it a shot if you are bored and like pickled stuff. And if you see me on the street, holler at me and you can try my pickles. Until later… drop down and getcha pickle on.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on pickling. This information is strictly used as a report on my activities. This blog is not FDA approved. If you plan on pickling, please do some research as doing it improperly can give you some weird diseases. This is in no way a guide and use this information at your own risk.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vancouver, B.C.

Last Friday, Sarah and I were feeling adventurous, so we headed to to Vancouver, B.C. It is crazy that after three years of living in Portland, we have never taken the time to go up to Vancouver. Personally, I had never been there. It is a very cool place. The architecture is amazing. There are all these modern high rise condominiums. They utilize daylight to reduce heating costs, so they are covered in glass windows. It is a very cool looking city and it happens to be home to some of the best Asian food on the West coast. They have very good fish, so the sushi is great and abundant. They also have very good Indian food. My goal was to go to one of the best sushi places and the best Indian food places in Vancouver. I consulted Yelp! and PortlandFood.Org for advice. The two heavy hitters for the weekend would be Tojo's for sushi and Vij's for Indian food.

Friday afternoon we arrived and got our room at the YWCA hotel. The rooms were cheap and clean. The beds were not Temperpedic, but they worked. We ended up paying about $95 Canadian per night. I would stay there again as the price was right and the location was convenient. After we got situated we headed down towards Tojo's. Tojo's is somewhat of an institution in Vancouver. It is the most recognized sushi restaurant. Of course, this has its downside as it means it may be somewhat touristy and overpriced. They supposedly are the originators of the California roll. They also offer Omakase style sushi, where you tell the chef your price range and he just starts sending you stuff. Sarah was not up for Omakase, so we did not do it. I regret not getting Omakase, but the meal was still good. The fish was very high quality. I ordered a whole slew of nigiri. We also had the California (Tojo) Roll, which was made with real crab and a spicy tuna roll. The rolls were nothing special and were overpriced. They also had some rolls that had lobster and other crab which we did not get. I found the nigiri to be reasonably priced and of outstanding quality. We also had some handrolls that were possibly the highlight of the night. They had a nice crunchy outside and a soft inside. Alongside all of this we had plenty of Sake, white wine, and beer. I thought Tojo's was great and the service was outstanding. I would go back for the nigiri, a couple handrolls, and the Omakase, but not before experiencing some other, less trendy, high end sushi spots in Vancouver.

After dinner, although stuffed, we decided it would be in our best interest to grab a few drinks somewhere around town. We headed back towards the downtown area, where out hotel was. We had a hard time finding a place that was not a bumpedy bump club blasting the Untz music. We were actually longing for a Portland style bar. Finally, we came to a place called the Black Frog in Gastown. They were playing some loud alternative music, but at least it had dim lighting and was not crowded. They also had one of those Guinness taps that pours a perfect Guinness. I tried a local amber ale that was fine, then reverted to my old friend Guinness for a few pints. I have been drinking Guinness recently because it is:
A) Delicious
B) Less calories than a Budweiser, therefore good for my diet.
So we had a few rounds before retiring.

The next day we did our coffee/breakfast thing and hit Chinatown. They have a crazy Chinatown in Vancouver. There are tons of little markets that sell everything. There are all these open air stores that have dried shrimp and fish and lots of other nasty smelling stuff. They also have many butchers that usually have duck, chicken, or pig out front roasting on a stick or rotisserie. There are tea shops, herb stores that sell medicines and places that sell all sorts of little nick nacks. We walked around and bought Dim Sum at random places. The Dim Sum was fine, but no better than Wong's Kind Seafood in Portland (8733 SE Division St). I know that they have outstanding Dim Sum in Vancouver, but was a little too lazy to seek it out. Eventually we got bored with Chinatown and returned to the hotel.

For dinner we decided to go to Vij's, a trendy, high end Indian food restaurant. Vij's had good reviews everywhere and the consensus was that it was a must. We got there around seven and there was an hour and a half wait. So we put our names on the list and went to grab a drink. We came back 45 minutes later and grabbed some drinks at Vij's wine/beer bar while we waited. This was great because they pass out appetizers while you wait. They were all standard fried Indian appetizers. We were finally seated and the real fun began.

For appetizers we ordered a dish that was made up of paneer, Brussels sprouts and papaya in cumin, mango powder and sour cream curry served with naan bread. This dish was tasty, but slightly disappointing due to my extreme love for Brussels sprouts. It tasted good but was not amazing.

The second appetizer we got was spicy ground cricket paranta with tomato-cumin, chutney and celeriac salad. This was delicious and exciting, since we were eating crickets. You couldn't tell that they were crickets. They were crushed up into the dough for these little bread triangles. You put the other topics onto this bread and enjoy. We both really liked this dish and found it to be better than the Brussels sprouts.

For the main course I got wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on tumeric spinach potatoes. This is one of their signature dishes and was absolutely amazing. The lamb was cooked to perfection and the sauce was creamy deliciousness. I would go back for this alone. (Although I wouldn't mind trying some of their other meat dishes)

Unfortunately, my dining companion was not feeling the desire for cooked flesh that evening so she got a veggie dish. I can't remember what it was, most likely because it is forgettable. It was good, but not great and next to the lamb tasted like tofu(not really, just boring).

Vij's was a great experience. It was on the expensive side, but made for a great night. Afterwards we went to the Kitsilano neighborhood for a few drinks. We were advised by a bartender that it would be a more mellow bar scene. It was, except for the disco DJ. We had to leave that bar. After a few drinks we grabbed a cab back to the YWCA and called it a night.

Sarah left her credit card at a bar in Kitsilano so we had some time to kill before we left on Sunday, as the bar opened at two. We went to the tourist trap, known as Grainville Island. They have a cool market. We got a great bagel with lox there. Other than that we just kind of walked around. We decided to grab some cheap sushi before we left. We went to Kitsilano Sushi as it was near the bar we had to go to and Yelp! gave it good reviews. What a mess that was. One of the sushi chefs walked out. So an assistant chef and a bunch of waitresses started rolling the sushi. They were getting orders wrong and the sushi was mediocre at best. At least it was cheap. I was definitely ready to get out of there. It was disappointing to end my experience with such bad food and service in a city with such amazing food. We did, however, have an amazing weekend. On the way out of town we drove by a million bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwich) shops. So I definitely have some unfinished business to attend to in Vancouver, BC...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just a few short reviews...

These are reviews I posted on If you are ever curious about a restaurant or want to learn about new places in Portland, I suggest checking it out. They have a ridiculous amount of information and many of their members are extremely knowledgeable. My name on there is HappyHourHero.

Taste of Jakarta:
1239 SW Jefferson street
Portland OR, 97201
Review from 5/5/2009
I got the opportunity to try Taste of Jakarta today for an early lunch. This was my first time eating Indonesian food and I was very satisfied. I ordered the spicy beef(I forgot the name). It came with yellow rice, a small salad of cucumber, carrot, and tomato and some crispy chip like things. The beef was amazing. It was these nice nuggets of beef brisket. The sauce/gravy was sweet and nicely spiced, almost like a mole, but more tangy. I spoke with the owner and he said that they are going for authentic Indonesian food, although they turned down the heat some to cater to American tastes. I found the heat to be at a desirable level and refrained from using chili sauce, but I'm sure you could ask them to kick it up a notch. For 5.95 its a great lunch deal. I will definitely be going back, as the thought of Indonesian fried chicken and jackfruit curry fascinates me.

Lttle T's American Bakery
2600 SE Division
Portland, OR 97202
Review from 5/6/2009
I just grabbed a quick lunch from Little T. This was my second trip there and both times I have left satisfied. Today I had the Italian grinder. They were out of the hogie, so they used their French bread. This sandwich is damn near perfect. The meat and cheese are both delicious and the pepper salad adds the perfect amount of zest and zing. This is what I like to expect out of an Italian sandwich. The French bread was a bit chewy, but still a good bread. I love this spot because I can get a good sandwich for a fair price ($6) and a good espresso. I need to put this into the permanent rotation.

Note: They also changed their turkey sandwich to include cucumber and cilantro pesto. They also had a turkey club with bacon and avocado.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Learning to ROLL your own...

There comes a time in every man's (or woman's) life where they must learn to roll their own. You can't always go around asking other people to roll for you. Along the way your bound to have some spillages and deal with some stickiness. But at some point, you just gotta step up and go for it. So last week I decided it was essential that I attempt to roll my own sushi. This endeavor started with a trip to the Fubonn Super Market on 82nd Ave in SE Portland (2850 SE 82nd Ave). If you live in Portland and have never been to the Fubonn market, I recommend you go. This place has everything you need and tons of stuff that you will probably never need and think are strange. I was in a rush because SOMEBODY was rushing me to take them to yoga, so I was unable to fully embrace Fubonn. It was my first time and I could have frolicked in the pickled vegetable isle or bathed myself in chili sauce, but alas there was no time for those shenanigans. There was enough time to get the supplies I needed for vegetable sushi though. I got nori (the seaweed wrap), short rice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, wasabi powder, pickled ginger, the bamboo roller mechanism, and some other odds and ends depicted here. I will definitely be returning to Fubonn in the near future for another experiment.

So, once I had the proper supplies, the next step was getting in there and getting my hands dirty. The first step was going to be coming up with some delicious sticky rice. I always thought that this was extremely difficult for some reason. Well, I was wrong. It's very easy to make good sticky, sushi rice. I just followed Alton Brown's recipe from the Food Network. If you are a complete noob to the cooking world, The Food Network has an extensive database of recipes online. You can pretty much learn anything there and get any recipes you may need. I constantly check their database for recipes or if I want to try something new. You can also look on Youtube for cooking tips. I actually watched this clip from Alton Brown's show Good Eats about sushi making to get a little more information on what to do. While my rice was cooking I took out a cucumber, avocado, carrots, jalapeno, and asparagus. I sliced everything into very thin strips, except for the asparagus, which I left whole.

Once your rice cools, pull out a piece of nori. Some tips that I got off of the internet suggested cutting the nori in half. We tried that and it made it too difficult to roll the sushi. I'd say until you are an expert, roll with the whole piece of nori. Your sushi will come out much better. I started by using my hands to apply the rice. This ended up being a very sticky proposition. On later rolls, I realized it was better to use a small spoon to apply the rice to the nori. This takes a little while longer but your hands won't be nearly as sticky.

Something I found important was not to put too much rice on. I would recommend being able to see through to the nori in some spots. If you put too much rice on it will be difficult to roll the sushi. You also want space for your insides. I know, when you go to the sushi bar, you see the sushi chef really piling it on there. Well, I wouldn't suggest doing that unless you want to encounter an epic failure.

See how the rice is somewhat thinly applied, yet covers most of the surface of the nori? I found this to be the most successful approach. Once the rice is applied you can put in your vegetables. Once again, I would not overload this until you really get the hang of it or it will look like the death of a sushi roll. This happened on my first roll. I ended up eating it like a broken cigar. Also, I would put the veggies or fish towards the side you plan to start rolling from. That way, the insides will get tucked into the roll at the beginning.

Rolling it is pretty self explanatory. See how when I placed the veggies near one side the rolled up nicely into a pocket before finishing the roll? That's good and will give you success.

Once your roll is done you can slice it up. I did not have a sharp knife. This is recommended. You can use a steak knife, but a sharp sushi knife is likely better. Once you are done plating the sushi, dip it into some soy sauce and enjoy. We also got some wasabi powder and pickled ginger. On this first attempt, I decided to stay away from fish. I did not want to get a nice cut of fish and then waste it if I was unable to make good sushi. Next time I want to try using sashimi grade tuna, shrimp, and maybe even teriyaki chicken. It was a successful experiment. Once you get all of the ingredients you can make a fresh, cheap snack any time you want. It is also pretty healthy, other than the calories from the rice. Well, until next time, go learn to roll your own.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Quick Update

I just got back from a great weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia. There was some excellent dining done on this trip. This week I should be posting about the food in BC, my sushi making experiment (which was a week ago), and my pickling experiment. Be sure to check for these updates! (Your not gonna want to miss out)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kenny & Zukes Sandwich Works: Round 2

Tuesday, Dwayne and I decided to hit KZSW for a quick bite. We got on the streetcar and made our way to NW Thurman and 23rd. Bound to not make the same mistake as last time, we ordered the meatball sub and torta and went halves. I got a little excited and ordered Ken's Chili as well. My final consensus was that the meatball was amazing. It was incredibly rich and the bread was nice and toasty. It gave a nice crunch and flavor to the sandwich. Dwayne thought it was too stiff but, I liked it. I think this blows Bunk's meatball out of the water. I found the meatball at Bunk to be mundane and disappointing. The torta was good. It was a solid sandwich. After eating the meatball first though, it seemed kind of boring. The meatball by far is the standout sandwich and KZSW in my opinion. The torta is on artisan bread and I prefer and pillowy softer bread, like the tortas I've seen around town. This torta seemed almost like a different sandwich. It had good flavor though, as I didn't use the hot sauce I brought to the table. I think I prefer Bunk's torta, as it was richer and more memorable, however, these two sandwiches are difficult to compare. Ken's chili was fine. I immediately regretted getting it though as with my diet I have not been consuming as much food. I was full after the first two sandwiches. I also had a few bites of Dwayne's mac salad which was fine too. All in all it was a good visit. I would suggest getting the meatball sub or their reuben. The torta is good too and I'd like to try the cubano. Get out there and try some good sandwiches!

I only have one bad picture from my phone as I couldn't email the others. It is of the torta and Ken's Chili. Also, my sushi making mission trip report will be coming soon, possibly tonight.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

About to attempt veggie sushi...

I have all the supplies and the rice is on the stove. Stay posted for a full report plus another report on Kenny and Zukes Sandwich Works...

Monday, April 27, 2009


Saturday I got the opportunity to try out a place I had not been to previously. It is an Italian restaurant called Firehouse in NE Portland (711 NE Dekum St). I had heard really good things about it and heard it compared to Nostrana. We got there around 7:30 and were seated almost immediately. They had several good beers and wine on the drink menu. We settled on a Hopworks Belgian Apple beer that was nice and crisp. It was almost like a cider. They also had Double Mountain Hop Lava, which is a quality IPA. Most beers coming out of Hopworks and Double Mountain are extremely solid. When the menu came we were overwhelmed and had a difficult time deciding what to order. Sarah really wanted a Margherita pizza with arugula on it. Since I get my Margherita fix for $5 at Nostrana, I decided to go with the pizza with Lamb sausage. We also ordered an arugula salad. The salad was delicious. It was nice and light and the arugula was crisp and delicious. The taste to the arugula was surprisingly good. I usually am not that fascinated with the arugula, but for some reason this salad was really delicious. My pizza was also very good. It was nice and zesty and the crust tasted delicious. I will confess that I do think Nostrana's pizza is better, though, due to the rich milkiness of their mozzarella cheese. Although, these pizzas were damn good and I think they are comparable if not better than Ken's or Apizza Scholls. I would like to go back and try some of the other items on the menu. We neglected to try the small plates, which looked really good when I saw them brought out. I am a big fan of fried artichoke hearts and should have tried them when I had the opportunity. I also regretted not getting the Halibut or Roasted Chicken. They also had some other salads that looked great. A round of beers, an arugula salad, and two pizzas came to just under $50 after tip. It was worth it and I look forward to going back to try the rest of the menu.

Sorry about the lack of updates. I plan on getting in some more updates this week. If there is anything that you would like me to write about just let me know. Thanks for all the support!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kenny & Zukes Sandwich Works Italian Beef: A Bunk Sandwich?

Many people find different ways to celebrate on this glorious day and some readers likely have no idea what I'm talking about. And that's OK too. Filled with nostalgia over an earlier version of myself, I decided that I would celebrate by going down to Kenny and Zuke's Sandwich Works, their new sandwich shop in NW for a sandwich.

Now just to clarify the title of this blog post to readers out of the loop, Bunk Sandwiches is another high quality sandwich shop in Portland that opened a few months ago. I quickly became obsessed with Bunk due to the amazingly rich, well crafted sandwiches they sell despite the fact that the name may or may not coincide with something I may or may not have bought outside of a Trey Anastasio Band concert in St. Louis in 2000. I was going to Bunk a minimum of once a week (pre-diet) and became very comfortable with their menu and offerings. Therefore, they set the gold standard for me as far as Portland craft sandwiches are concerned. Much to my excitement, (and dismay since I am on a diet) when I got home I heard about Kenny and Zuke's opening a new sandwich shop. Their flagship restaurant is a New York style deli with a Portland edge that serves the best food of its kind from hand cut pastrami and corned beef to omelets to latkes and lox bagels (1038 SW Stark St). I've never had a bad experience there except for this one time when a girl said she was going to take me and my girlfriend out to brunch for staying at our place and then mysteriously lost her wallet. She also mysteriously ordered like three entrees. The food was still satisfying though.

Anyways for the past month I have been fiending Sandwich Works and today was my opportunity to go. When we arrived there were some good signs. It was 1:30, so the rush had passed and we had the place to ourselves. Also, they were playing "Black River Killer"by Blitzen Trapper, so that was an added bonus. When it came time to order I was stuck between the Chicago Style Italian Beef and the Super Torta Puebla, although their menu has several options I am interested in trying. The combination of in-house made hand sliced beef, homemade giardiniera, and fresh bread pushed me over the edge for the Italian Beef, plus it was what I really had in mind when I went there. When it arrived it looked great. But, when I took that first bite... it was OK... It was a good sandwich, but for some reason I had expected so much more. Between the great meals I have had at K&Zs and the bar set by Bunk, I was disappointed. Maybe I was setting myself up for disappointment by thinking it would be so intense. It did not have the richness that I had been anticipating. It was a decent sandwich though. My girlfriend also tried it and thought it was OK and she rarely eats meat. She had the Hood River which was average, but to be expected from a turkey sandwich. She prefer ed the chicken with garlic con fit available for $6 at the new food cart by PSU, The Portland Soup Company (SW 4th and SW Hall), although they are totally different sandwiches. They both were served with a pickle spear made at K&Z's flagship. This was actually my favorite part of the meal. After my meal I walked away shell shocked, wishing I had ordered the Torta.

Now, I realize that this is only one sandwich. I realize that my expectation of feeling high like the hippies I saw on Mt. Tabor today, slightly after quarter after four from an Italian Beef may have been unrealistic. I also realize that every place has an off day and somethings I just will not like. This is not something I can use as a basis for judging K & Z Sandwich Works as a whole. There are several things at Bunk Sandwiches that I find mediocre. I also have been to Bunk ten plus times. There are things there that I dislike that others love. This is likely the case with Sandwich Works. I will definitely be going back, as I have unfinished business there. I will not be able to get as large of a sample size now, as I as my diet just does not have room for the calories that I would like to be consuming. So, eventually, I will get to try more of these sandwiches, with the Torta next on deck. Hopefully I will be able to recruit a partner to go halvsies on two of these calorie bombs. I still have faith in you K&Z's! But, if you are looking for a Chicago Style Italian Beef, I recommend going to Michael's on East Burnside(1111 SE Sandy Blvd). They do up some serious, rich, Italian Beef. Until next time, think of me while you are eating some quality sandwiches. (Below: Italian Beef from Kenny & Zuke's Sandwich Works)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nostrana and Other Musings

Thursday night I got a well deserved break from my diet. I went with a group of people to Nostrana(1401 SE Morrison Ave) for happy hour. To those of you out of the loop, Nostrana is an Italian, Slow Food restaurant. They offer high quality Italian food and just recently introduced a happy hour menu. Their happy hour goes from nine until close every night. They usually seat until 11. The happy hour menu offers the following options:

Pizza Margherita - house-made mozzarella, tomato and basil - $5
Pizza Marinara - tomato, garlic and oregano - $5
Charcuterie - selection of artisanal and house-made meats with accoutrements - $5
Insalata Nostrana - radicchio and Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary and sage croutons in a Caesar style dressing - $5
Olive Plate - $3
Bar Nuts - $3

From the rooster bar:
Moretti pale lager - $3
Hales’ Red Menace amber ale - $3
Campari & soda - $4
White or red wine by the glass - $5

Their Pizza Margerita is the standout option on this happy hour menu. The Pizza Marinara is also good but it does not come with cheese on it. The cheese on the Marg is the most milky, delicious Mozzarella and it is made in house. This is truly an artisan pizza. The fact that it is five bucks is rediculous. It can hold its own against any of the artisan pizzas in town in my opinion. (Apizza Sholls, Ken's Artisan Pizza, Tastebuds) The fact of the matter is at these places with will pay three times as much for the same pizza and the quality is comparable if not inferior. You can hardly walk into Pizzacotto or Pizza Shmeeza without paying five bucks. You may walk out with a slice and a half or two slices of mediocre pizza for that price. When you sit down at Nostrana for happy hour you get whole artisan, wood-oven pizza(approximately 12 inches) for five bucks. The service is also stellar and on two previous visits we were given whole loaves of ciabatta bread as their baker made too much bread and they make it fresh daily. Their regular menu is also amazing and their bar/wine list is not to be forgotten about. I look forward to an opportunity to go to Nostrana off happy hour. Who knows when that will be. I also tried the Insalata Nostrana, which was delicious. The serving was kind of small though and I have been told by others that have ordered it on happy hour that it is usually bigger. Either way it is still worth ordering. I suggest getting down to Nostrana for happy hour sometime soon. I also have heard of another artisan style, Italian joint in NE Portland called, Firehouse(711 NE Dekum St). I have heard people describe it as the Nostrana of NE. They also offer a happy hour that is slightly more expensive. Hopefully I can put up a review for that in the near future.

I forgot my camera, so this is a Margerita Pizza + Pepperoni from Nostrana that I found on the internet.

Besides food, I have been getting excited about The Dead going on tour. I was concerned that this may be a novely act due to the fact that Jerry Garcia is no longer part of the band and they are hella old. But I was driving in my car listening to the Grateful Dead channel on Sirius and there was a live feed of a show from Worcester, MA and they sounded really good. We have tickets for the show at the Gorge where they will be playing along side The Allman Brothers Band and it seems like it is shaping up to be a real good time. I have been listening to lots of Grateful Dead shows recently and I really cannot get enough of them at the moment. I found a really hot version of Cassidy that I keep playing. You can listen to a streaming version of it here. Its really an amazing song. Also, I have been rereading a great book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. It talks about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. They were major protagonists in the pschodelic era and pioneers of the hippy movement. They are just a very interesting group of people from an interesting time. They were also intrumental in the creation and promotion of the Grateful Dead. A member of the Merry Pranksters and a huge beat personality was Neal Cassady. He was also the protagonist, Dean Moriarty, of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, another great book. If you have not read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or On the Road you should go to the library or Barnes and Noble right now because its quite possible that you suck. So, I was wondeirng if the song Cassidy was about Neal Cassady as he was an instrumental part of the Grateful Dead's maturation process and a major part of that "scene." Cassady died in 1968 and the song debuted in The Dead's lineup in the early 70's so it would make sense. Well, I consulted Uncle Google and what I found out was that it was in fact about the passing of Cassady and the birth of Cassidy Law, the daughter of a prominent member of that scene, among other things. I read about it on a piece callled "Cassidy's Tale," (click for the link) by John Perry Barlow, who co-wrote the song with Bob Weir, guitarist of the Grateful Dead. It is a well written piece and I found it interesting and entertaining. Take a listen to Cassidy and read "Cassidy's Tale," if you have a free moment.

On a final note, I'd like to thank the people that are reading my blog. I like that people are actually reading what I put out (all six of you and my mother). If there are one or two more of you out there I would like to encourage you to register and follow my blog so I know who you are. Also, if there is any restaurant information you personally want or reviews you want me to write ,I encourage you to contact me or write in the comments section your question/request. I will also try to update my blog more frequently, but I am extremely lazy. Until next time have a veggie taco on me. (This was actually my dinner tonight and it was delicious and healthy)