Photo of Sen Yai courtesy Avila/EPDX
The Mercury's Chris Onstad has a madeleine moment at Andy Ricker's four-month-old Division noodle house Sen Yai, where a "succulent" phat sii ew triggered a childhood memory: "As the plate was set down, the intense aroma of slowly stewed pork crept — bled into, even thickened — the air around it. It was almost a funk, almost too much, as it grew in intensity. It was pure and strong enough to jog a 30-year-old memory of my nana's poverty cooking."
That intense theme carries throughout the review, as Onstad consistently finds "full-flavored" dishes on the Sen Yai menu, from an "intensely fragrant" Khao phat naem to boat noodles served in a "spicy, deeply herbed dark broth." Only one dish doesn't hit the mark — avoid the luuk chin thawt meatballs — and Onstad admits "I can see how the relatively high prices at Sen Yai will have some people grousing." But ultimately: "in terms of quality of meat, intensity and cleanliness of flavor, and originality is worth it." [Mercury]
Two months into its new incarnation as a seafood restaurant, WWeek checks in on Trent Pierce's Block + Tackle, which transformed Pierce's ramen spot Wafu into a "four-eye butterflyfish. That is to say, it's hard to tell where its head is." Matthew Korfhage writes that B+T straddles two lines — a "mild-mannered River Queen fishhouse" versus a "solidly Portland-modern affair" — preferring the more "excursionary" dishes of the latter incarnation.
Familiar dishes like fish-and-chips and a cod sandwich are solid, though higher praise is reserved for the creative dishes, even those that fall flat. Both a mackerel and watermelon dish and fried cauliflower (with currant, olive, and pecorino) are dubbed "delightful"; grilled octopus salad "puts a similar dish at East Burnside Street's Levant to shame." Less-successful dishes like cuttlefish and some charcuterie items still "occupy the happy territory between whimsy and courage." Ultimately, "the kitchen's most inventive dishes consistently bring intense flavors and textures into brave oppositions." [WW]
Meanwhile, the Oregonian's David Sarasohn heads on a road trip, filing unofficial reviews (with no grades) of the Cascade Dining Room at Timberline and the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room. The Timberline's Cascade Dining Room fares better: although "it's not all stunning" (especially the prices), dishes "can sometimes rise to Timberline's level" (if salmon stew is on the menu, order it). The dishes at Crater Lake, unfortunately, "don't always have much snap to them" and "the same themes tend to appear frequently, such as a pervasive rice pilaf and a chili-citrus flavor combination." Ultimately, both spots' dining rooms offer picturesque places to eat — even if the food doesn't always match the view. [OregonLive]