Oregon is home to a lot of restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Portlanders just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food luminaries to share their under-the-radar recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Image of Sambi courtesy Hodad H. via Yelp
East India Co.'s culinary director, Pradeep Chandrana, has a long tradition in the culinary world: In the '70s, he was a student at the institute of Hotel Management, Indian's top culinary school, and throughout the decades, Chandrana has managed Indian restaurants everywhere from Mumbai to Kobe, Japan (at the popular Gaylord Indian Restaurant) to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Portland. In Kobe, Chandrana developed a love of authentic Japanese cuisine — so it's no surprise that when he has a hankering for Japanese, he is looking for something more than just sushi rolls. And, in a little-known hideout, Chandrana just might have found his North American Nori Nirvana.
"I first found out about Sambi from a staff member who works for us. Sambi is a family-run restaurant, so I ventured in once and realized it was exactly what I was looking for. Most Japanese restaurants in the states are hyped-up sushi [bars], but that is not true in Japan. Not all people eat sushi everyday. [A meal] at Sambi's is comfort food for me. Since I lived in Japan for over 15 years, this restaurant reminds me of all the small, family-run restaurants, or what they call 'neighborhood' restaurants in Japan. The Master or 'dad' is the chef and the mama-san is the hostess/server. What I really like about this restaurant is its nonchalant atmosphere. The food is just fabulous. I generally start with sashimi and then have grilled eel or a soba noodle, depending upon the mood of my friends or family with me. Of course, it goes with out saying that my meal does not start without a Kirin Beer. On my days off I like to eat where the food is good, but my wife, Aruna, does not like to eat at a place that is not clean. Sambi has both: it has good food and it's a clean place. Above all they make something special for my wife, who is a vegetarian, usually steamed tofu and vegetable tempura. I like that."