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The Best Things the Eater Portland Team Ate This Week

Bar King’s friends-and-family wonders and a downtown standby’s underrated hit

Three mussels sit on a white plate. Inside each mussel, a pilaf of wheat berries overflows. A small fork sits to the side.
Mussels at Maurice
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

Welcome to The Best Dishes the Eater Portland Team Ate This Week. Every Friday, Eater Portland’s editor and contributors share one Portland-area dish each of us ate this week that we can’t stop thinking about. Want to share your own favorites? Join our Facebook group, or sound off in the comments.

March 6, 2020

“For onion ring aficionados, I highly recommend holding a place for the golden rings at the not-yet-open Bar King. During the restaurant’s friends and family, the onion rings arrived piping hot and lightly drenched in batter, making for crunchy, flaky rings. The bacon ranch dipping sauce challenged traditional accompaniments like tartar or aioli — Not only was Bar King’s sauce topped with a generous mound of smoked trout roe, its base was koji, a fermented soybean. In this application, the sauce was not only abundant, it was reminiscent of micro-tapioca beads that one might find in bubble tea but savory. It provided unexpected texture and tang.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

I, too, ate some truly exceptional stuff at the Bar King friends and family this week, but I’ll let Joy’s endorsement of chef Shaun King’s onion rings speak for itself. Considering the fact I was sick this week (it’s not coronavirus... probably), I ate exceptionally well. Before the hammer of illness fell down on my tender head, I had the pleasure of revisiting an old favorite: Kristen Murray’s Maurice. Now, most of the people who visit Maurice go for the pastry chef’s exceptional desserts, like her black pepper cheesecake, or perhaps for some of her creative smorrebrod or super-fluffy quiche. But if I’m going to Maurice, I know to order the shellfish, which is always perfectly cooked, wicked fresh, and gorgeously presented. An order of three mussels was somehow filling enough for lunch, with little pearls of pilaf tucked inside each little shell. The mussels themselves, though, were sweet with the most subtle touch of seawater, in a lovely, tender package. Murray always has something charming up her sleeve.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

Three tacos sit on a plate with thinly sliced radishes, cilantro, red onion, salsa, and vegan crema at Mestizo
Banana flower tacos at Mestizo
Waz Wu / EPDX

February 28, 2020

“This week, I finally visited Mestizo, the Latin American restaurant that opened on Division a couple months ago. I happily sipped on a frothy aquafaba pisco sour and nibbled my way through Mestizo’s vegan selection (that tender coconut meat ceviche!), but the banana flower tacos were the real showstopper. Fellow Eater contributor Daniel Barnett had the best reaction to the impressive plate of tacos dressed with slaw, orange habanero sauce, and coconut crema: “Wow, you can’t tell where one taco ends and the next one begins.” It is — dare I say — bananas how much the lightly battered, soft, but fibrous banana blossoms reminded me of a flaky fish. It doesn’t hurt that each taco is big enough for you to sink your teeth in for a satisfying mouthful.” —Waz Wu, Eater Portland’s vegan correspondent

“If you have a day job, it’s easy to overlook one of Portland’s greatest culinary contributions to the world: really amazing happy hours. As someone whose 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot recently became freed up, I’ve been enjoying discounted food specials around town. I originally stopped into the bar at St. Jack for the $5 tablier de sapeur a.k.a. fried tripe with capers and red onion mayonnaise (and the baguette and butter all for myself), but was drawn in by the slightly more pricey (though still a bargain at $15) mussels mouclade, a meal in a bowl. The plump mussels and frites came in a creamy, golden broth made from creme fraiche and saffron, and the crowning glory was the briny trout roe scattered on top, plus a green harissa aioli, a perfect foil for those fries.” -Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

Although I’d been an enthusiastic diner at several of chef Carlo Lamagna’s test-drive, pop-up events, I sheepishly admit I had yet to visit Magna Kusina. This week, I course-corrected by attending a dinner in support of the Portland non-profit, Classic Wine Auctions. The Magna team created several dishes that harmoniously paired with Jackalope Wine Cellars selections. But the starter was a standout. Chef Lamagna paid homage to The Philippines and the Oregon Coast with his riff on the classic Filipino dish, pancit molo. Floating on top of the creamy crab fat broth? A plump crab dumpling the size of my palm. Adding additional depth and texture, the bowl was finished with springtime’s shredded lettuces.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

It’s so rare that I’m near SE Division, so I decided to hit two of my favorites while I was in the neighborhood yesterday: Pinolo Gelato and Oui Wine Bar. I still cannot fathom how Pinolo gets its sorbettos so dang silky, but I’m just obsessed; I would be in serious trouble if a Pinolo opened in North Portland. Afterward, I walked down to Oui for its happy hour. I’m always just floored by what chef Althea Grey Potter can do with a couple of vegetables: Her $6 cabbage salad knocked me over with its punchy cilantro dressing, with huge corn nuts tossed in cumin and some smoked pickled onions. Plus, it’s cabbage, the most underrated vegetable (though that could be changing). Quick poll: If I wrote a cabbage map, would anyone read it?” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

A hand holds a sandwich filled with provolone, pickled peppers, and Italian cured meats in one hand over a wooden floor. Her bare feet are visible behind it.
Italian cured meat sandwich from Bunk
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

February 21, 2020

“My favorite sandwich, of all the sandwiches in the universe (that I’ve tried), is an Italian sub stuffed with cured meats. Gimme some capicola, any salami, even a pepperoni, and I’m golden. Throw some of that disintegrating lettuce bits in there? I love it. Is it drenched in oil and vinegar? Totally amped. But it must have some salty, fatty cured meat, a pickled sort of pepper, and, ideally, provolone. Bunk makes a version that I just love: ham, capicola, provolone, and salami line a hoagie roll, with a layer of marinated peppers, red onions, and lettuce. Sure, the hoagie could be crustier, but I’ll take what I can get. It’s particularly good with a side of its potato salad, one of my favorites in town.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“In Portland, what better way to show your patriotic side than by eating fried chicken from Texan-turned-Top Chef-alum Doug Adams? On Presidents Day, I had the good fortune to do just that. In a city were chicken continues to hold court, Doug Adams reigns king. While incubating recipes for the spring opening of restaurant Holler, the chef previewed spicy chicken wings at Bullard’s Monday night service. Chef Adams used a buttermilk brine and then heartily dredged every single nook and cranny in all-purpose flour, rice flour, and potato starch. This extreme coverage allowed the skin to fall away in one crackling swath, something I dare to hope for yet rarely encounter. The chef revealed that the spice rub roared with flavor, in part, due to chili flakes, paprika, and cayenne with saltiness provided by soy sauce. The interior was plump, juicy, and tender.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

The counter at Masia has a neon sign that reads “hot xurros,” under which a cold case filled with sandwiches and churros sits.
The churro counter at Masia
Dina Avila / EPDX

February 14, 2020

“When I was sixteen, I lived in San Sebastian, Spain on a Rotary exchange. One rainy day, during the Jazz Festival, my host sister and I ran through Old Town past little jazz trios and quartets to seek shelter in a small cafe with churros and chocolate. We were absolutely freezing, dunking the fresh fried, sugar-dusted dough into rich, silken drinking chocolate. I ate a lot of great food while I was in Spain — I still think about the neighborhood heladeria and the tortilla-stuffed bocadillos we took to the beach — but nothing beat those churros, piping hot, crunchy, and sweet. After eating freshly fried churros and chocolate at a friends-and-family meal at the brand-new Masia, that memory came back to me; I had yet to taste something as close to those churros until then. The restaurant’s open tonight, y’all — just saying.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“This week started off on a culinary high note with pork noodles and dumplings from Keith Morris, chef at Coopers Hall. Part of it was the fact that they were being devoured by a crowd for a good cause at a fundraising party for Conner Slevin, a bartender who was seriously injured in a swimming accident the other week. The other part was that they were just dang good, especially the rich and silky noodles with pork.” —Alex Frane, Eater Portland guest editor and contributor

“It’s been a knock-down, drag-out week for me. Luckily, I had the opportunity to grab lunch with a fun crew of colleagues at Life of Pie Pizza. With seven hours (!) of happy hour pricing from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., we splurged on several wood-fired pies. This pizza joint consistently slings beautifully balanced Neapolitan-esque crusts with just the right amount of chew and crackle. But, for my tastebuds, one of Life of Pie’s classics continues to reign supreme. The sausage and pepper pizza delivers punchy, bright, bold flavors. Bound together by homemade mozzarella, the herbaceousness of the chunky fennel sausage is complemented by the sweet heat of large pepper slices from the highly regarded, Portland-based company, Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers. Don’t skimp on the house-made chili oil infused with garlic, chili flakes, and herbs. Reach for a bottle and add generous glugs to your slices. It provides the ideal finishing touch.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

“Pardon while I take a lowbrow detour. I did not grow up with Del Taco (there are only three Portland-area locations), so I wasn’t sure what one was supposed to order at this fast food chain. Whereas the offerings at Taco Bell, the closest competitor, can often feel like snacks, with prices to match, I didn’t realize until I got my drive-through order home that Del Taco’s portions are much more meal-like. The Epic Chicken Queso Burrito, ordered on a whim because it also contained crinkle-cut fries (who can argue with fried potatoes and melted cheese?), was downright hefty, and — dare I say — epic? The sliced, grilled chicken may have been typical fast food fare but the creamy, queso blanco plus grated cheddar cheese and hit of pico de gallo added up to more than the sum of its parts.” —Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

Two paper plates sit on a red picnic table with yellow tortillas, all loaded with shredded beef. On top of the two open-faced tortillas are a pile of onions and cilantro.
Birria at Birrieria La Plaza
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

February 7, 2020

“I’m still thinking about this next-level risotto I had at Campana earlier this week. For those who don’t know, Woodlawn’s Grand Army Tavern turned the front room of the restaurant into this tiny Italian mini-restaurant thing... can you call it a pop-up if it’s permanent and a part of the same restaurant? Point is, there’s this risotto on the menu that is unlike any risotto I’ve had: It starts with Acquerello carnaroli rice, this family-owned rice company in Piedmont that ages the rice in this certain way that strengthens its texture and heightens the flavor. Then, it cooks down in this unreal brodo, with quail, chicken legs, tomato, and tomato paste — it’s a massive umami bomb, with super luscious texture. The whole thing ends with a snowpile of 30-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s absurdly flavorful, and for $18, it’s really quite spectacular — I could see some restaurants in town charging at least $25 for it.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“Toward the very fringes of Portland sits a fire-engine-red food cart called Birrieria La Plaza. The kitchen in this small food cart sends out some of the best birria de res I’ve ever eaten. A long cook time and layer after layer of fresh, savory spices equate to food so delicious, my eyes watered within my first few bites. They offer several vehicles for the birria, all of them delicious and worth ordering; If you’re like me, you’ll eat one meal and then order two more to-go.” —Daniel Barnett, Eater Portland contributor

“I’m gaga for comfort food anytime of year but when the temperatures deep dive like they did earlier this week, I crave the embrace of satisfying, starchy carbs. Central Eastside’s Normandie serves the coziest of comfort foods: a melty raclette and fingerling potato plate. Delivered on a wooden board, a glorious heap of perfectly boiled potatoes arrives blanketed in gooey, molten raclette (an Alpine cow’s milk cheese). Sliced cornichons and pickled onion slices are tucked alongside adding a welcome punch of tangy complexity. I’m always on the lookout for freshly-made chips and this satisfies with a generous sprinkle of handcrafted fingerling potato chips providing a pleasing, textural crunch. Finished with a dusting of salt and a hit of chives, this dish is the electric-blanket-antidote to dreary, cold days.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

A massive, softball-sized uni shell is full of white congee with bright pops of orange from cara-caras and and trout roe, plus little splatters of green from chives
Uni congee at Quaintrelle
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

January 31, 2020

Quaintrelle is in my neighborhood, but I don’t go nearly enough. About a year ago, I had a next-level congee there, topped with a hazelnut consomme and super-fresh Dungeness crab. I was absolutely obsessed. Last night, I had another seafood congee at that restaurant that may have topped last year’s. Chef Ryley Eckersley fills a softball-sized, Pacific Northwestern urchin shell with absurdly buttery congee, with full-blown slabs of uni on top. Despite its gargantuan size, the uni was really lovely and delicate, served alongside segments of Cara Cara and pops of trout roe. A touch of miso butter helped tie together the sweetness of the uni and orange. I may go back and get it this weekend.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“I hadn’t tried any new Chinese spots since I updated the Chinese restaurant map back in September, but thanks to the loveliest of dining companions, Szechuan Garden in Beaverton was put on my radar. The place was well lit, not too crowded and at the time was playing Kobe’s last game on multiple screens — perhaps one could eat Sichuan food and watch the Super Bowl there this weekend. The menu is massive, but we skipped items like soup dumplings and went straight for Chong Qing chicken, eggplant with hot garlic sauce, and of course, mapo tofu. Despite the chili warnings, nothing we ate there killed us with its spice level. Still, the fragrant, sour, numbing flavors of mala were there with both the ultra comforting mapo, and the salty, crispy, tender chunks of lightly battered chicken. It was so good, I’m almost certain I’m going back today.” —Nick Woo, Eater Portland contributor

You don’t always have to go with a restaurant’s namesake dish to be delighted. I was torn between Sayler’s and Clyde’s Prime Rib for a dating anniversary dinner while doing reconnaissance for Portland’s old-school dining map, but you have to be in a certain mood for prime rib (it’s usually too soft for my taste). I ended up opting for Clyde’s and instead ordered the 10-ounce ribeye, which turned out to be appropriately old-school—in presentation and price—with a big pat of herb butter melting across the char-grill marks, seasonal vegetables like roasted parsnips and baby Brussels sprouts, plus a loaded baked potato on the side, all for $38 — a relative bargain in 2020. I wouldn’t mind going back for the $5 happy hour prime rib coldcut with chimmichuri mayonnaise in the lounge.” —Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

“This week, I was lucky enough to grab the green tea leaf salad at Burmese Delight. Situated within the Hawthorne Asylum, this tiny-yet-mighty cart is pushing the limits with its Myanmar specialties, and I can testify that the food is ultra-fresh and the hospitality is intensely sincere. In their signature green tea leaf salad bowl, the pickled green tea leaves are tossed with shredded cabbage and lime dressing, creating robust, habit-forming flavors. The fried beans and toasted sesame seeds more than garnish this dish; they make the plate crackle with salty, earthy crunchiness.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

A photo of vegan tantanmen at Kayo’s Ramen Bar
Tan Tan ramen at Kayo’s Ramen Bar
Waz Wu/EPDX

January 24, 2020

“Malka, the restaurant from the team behind Carte Blanche, has been trying to open for years, but it finally started opening a handful of reservations to followers. I was lucky enough to grab one and ate through the entire menu, which included these hardcore ribs. They come with this bark of Golden Mountain, tamarind, and coriander, which peels off to reveal this super tender, aromatic meat. You basically scoop the fall-apart rib bits onto a Hawaiian roll with this super fruity orange hot sauce, add some coconut cream and avocado-citrus salad, and it becomes this absolutely ridiculous slider. I’m truly obsessed. Plus, I hear they’re making matzo ball khao soi now? Absolutely bonkers.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

With Yen Ha’s closure, it’s a good time to pay a visit to the other Sandy Boulevard Viet-Chinese stalwarts while you can. Nothing about Zien Hong—décor or menu (minus the prices)—appears to have changed in decades. That means the restaurant’s signature pepper-salted squid is as good as it ever was. There’s a reason why plates of golden tentacles and sliced curls are continuously ferried from kitchen to table. The rice flour batter is crisp, light and is simply seasoned with generous hits of salt, pepper, with a sweet-savory undertone, likely MSG (which is perfectly fine, by the way), that’s reminiscent of heavily seasoned potato chips. If you live close enough for delivery, the pepper-salted squid will arrive in a compostable container with vents cut out, a thoughtful touch ensuring long-lasting crispness.” —Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

I decided to kick off my research for the Eater Portland vegan noodle soup map by revisiting a favorite: the tan tan ramen at Kayo’s Ramen Bar. This is one of the most decadent vegan broths in town, where creamy sesame paste and mouth-numbing spice (I got medium because I’m a wimp) come together for an addictive umami experience topped with hearty tofu slices. This bowl wows me more and more with each visit.” —Waz Wu, Eater Portland’s vegan correspondent

“La Moule is best known for its steamy bowls of mussels with garlicky broth and warming spices but their new brunch menu is an all-around hit. One menu item, in particular, made me swoon. The complexity of Chef Matt Wickstrom’s fennel coffee cake with pickled huckleberries and Aquavit cream cheese frosting pops with flavor. The crumb is moist but still flaky while the taste is a bit like cornbread-meets-poundcake. A generous sprinkle of pickled huckleberries and a decadent slather of sweet yet herbaceous icing (made with the licorice-y Nordic spirit called Aquavit) takes this coffee cake from unassuming to exceptional.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

A hand holds up an orange-looking cookie with a lattice of royal icing, with one bite taken out of the top. It’s held up in front of the sign for Seastar Bakery
Molasses cookie from Seastar
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

January 17, 2020

“Groundworks Organics farms buttery, earthy Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes), and the quality shines through in G-Love’s sunchoke gratin. This decadent square comes in the form of thinly sliced sunchokes bound by melty gruyere and parmesan and topped with chards of frico (cheese crisps) and a smattering of chives. I highly recommend making it ‘Oregon extra’ with the addition of shaved Oregon white truffles.” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

I’m cat-sitting for a friend who is out of town, and her place just happens to be a few blocks away from Coquine. This means it’s a constant challenge to not eat those pastries every single morning (or grabbing a daily chocolate chip cookie); still, I’ve given in not once, but twice this week, and taken some back home with the excuse that it would take too long to make breakfast. The biscuits are a special treat — just slightly sweet, robust country-style biscuits with thyme-butter and some jam. They’re a perfect morning treat with a cup of black tea served beside them. The cat thinks so too, so the other challenge is to keep him from eating it.” —Alex Frane, Eater Portland contributor and guest editor

“I was finishing up an update to the Eater Portland bakery map this week, which gave me an excuse to go visit Seastar Bakery on Killingsworth. I love Seastar for its use of Pacific Northwestern grain, which you can really taste in the pastry, but there’s also always just a touch of some spice I can’t quite identify in everything I try from there — it’s both maddening and thrilling. They make my current favorite chewy molasses cookie, which comes in this lovely golden color as opposed to the traditional molasses brown (perhaps a shake of turmeric is the culprit?). The texture is almost gooey on the inside with just enough rise, so it doesn’t get tacky on your teeth as you chew. The savory onion danish is pretty great, too.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

A close-up picture of long-roasted pork with mac salad and kimchi over rice at Smokin Fire Fish
Hawaiian plate lunch at Smokin Fire Fish
Brooke Jackson-Glidden / EPDX

January 10, 2020

“I’ve had pizza on my mind this week because I’m working on our vegan pizza map; then again, I always have pizza on my mind. On a recent trek to St. Johns, I ended up at Gracie’s Apizza, where my usual is a custom “extra vegan” pie. This week, I finally tried something from the regular menu. Craig recommended the spicy red, which is a dressed-to-party version of a tomato pie. The Mama Lil’s peppers and sumac onions are especially tasty with the sauce, and I always love a perfectly charred and chewy wood-fired crust. The leftovers were just as good for breakfast the next day.” —Waz Wu, Eater Portland’s vegan correspondent

Salad in winter? It’s not the first thing that comes to my mind this time of year. However, Chef Althea Grey Potter (at Oui Wine Bar +Restaurant at SE Wine Collective) knocked me sideways with her shaved cabbages. This textural winter salad is an umami mix of cabbage, sweet apple, and pickled tamari onions, all tossed in an addictive yuzu ranch dressing and topped with crunchy furikake (dried Japanese seasoning). I had it twice in one week. (Gasp!)” —Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor

As far as I know (correct me, if I’m wrong) there aren’t any exclusively Indian-Chinese restaurants in Portland, i.e. places that serve Chinese food geared toward Indian palates. Siri, the Indian restaurant on 23rd Avenue you’d walk by without noticing, happens to serve better-than-expected food. But the real surprise were a few Indo-Chinese classics lurking on the menu like chili chicken, fried rice, and “Munchuryan” style cauliflower, potatoes, and paneer, which means battered and fried and served in a bright red sauce that looks — and tastes — similar to sweet-and-sour with a spicy kick. Paneer is practically made to be lightly battered, fried, and sauced. This vibrant version turned out to be a crowd-pleaser (even with the unadventurous teens in my party). All that’s missing from the menu is kung pao potatoes, which would be a vegan smash hit if anyone in town offered it.” —Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

“I was pretty sure I wanted to add Smokin Fire Fish to the Eater 38 this week, but I decided to revisit the restaurant one last time to make sure I was right. Long story short, I was. The oven-smoked kalua pork is one of my favorite choices for the lunchtime Hawaiian plate lunch, which comes with the traditional two scoops of rice and mac salad. The pork is so tender and just lightly smoked, so the meat doesn’t toughen and the proteins don’t break down. My favorite part, however, is the roasted cabbage hidden underneath the pork — I’m a huge, huge fan of roasted cabbage, and I firmly believe 2020 should be the Year of the Cabbage (I’m not alone). A little pile of funky kimchi on the corner of the plate is a welcome addition, too.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

A bowl of yuzu ratan ramen arrives with a slab of chashu pork, bamboo shoots, a soft-boiled egg, and greens at Afuri
Yuzu ratan ramen at Afuri
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

January 3, 2020

“I started 2020 out with my health goals in mind, which is why I chose my very first meal of the year to be Jojo’s fried chicken melt and a pile of crispy jojos. Honestly, it was desperately needed and perfect after too much Champagne the night before, and is blessedly close to me. Thanks for being open, guys!” —Alex Frane, Eater Portland guest editor and contributor

“I really haven’t been eating out as much during the holidays — lots of Christmas cioppino and salmon with family, half a babka mailed from friends in New York, cabbage and pork on New Year’s Eve like a true descendant of Ohio Germans. But I did make sure to eat one of my favorite comfort foods this week: the yuzu ratan ramen at Afuri. I love the way the yuzu brightens up the broth, so it doesn’t feel quite as heavy as the usual bowls of tonkotsu I inhale. Plus, I’m a sucker for spice, and Afuri makes sure that the yuzu ratan arrives that satisfying derby brown that comes from spicy soy tare and chili oil. Full disclosure: I ordered this ramen for delivery (Afuri is weirdly thorough with its delivery ramen, which I appreciate — no soggy noodles here), so the photo in the picture is from a previous visit. I go there a lot.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

A picture of a swirl of lime green matcha soft serve, with balls of shiratama mochi. A spoon reveals matcha chiffon cake hidden underneath
Matcha parfait at Cafe Maiko
Seiji Nanbu/EPDX

December 20, 2019

“I think the most memorable item I had this week was a matcha parfait at the new Matcha Cafe Maiko. I’ve been patiently waiting for Maiko to open since I came across the construction off Powell and 39th, and it finally happened last week. It’s so hard to come across a place that serves actually good matcha desserts, but the soft serve at Maiko is on par with what one would find in Japan. I ordered the Maiko special matcha parfait, Maiko’s signature dessert. The parfait came topped with a very deep green matcha soft serve and filled with treasures like sweet red beans, corn flakes, and a heavenly green tea cake.” —Seiji Nanbu, Eater Portland contributor

Between holiday events, it was lovely to make time for Sunday brunch at Folklore. The comforting grits with maitakes were my go-to, but I discovered a new favorite this week: smoky and nutty Fermenter tempeh with Abenaki cornbread, black garlic barbecue glaze, sunflower yogurt cheese, squash gravy, and fermented chili. I’ve followed the Folklore journey for the past year, and I’m thrilled to see chef Sean Sigmon’s purposely vegan pop-up land a permanent and fitting home at Farm Spirit.” —Waz Wu, Eater Portland vegan correspondent

“On Monday, Eem celebrated the end of 2019 early with a party featuring New Orleans’ Turkey and the Wolf. The whole thing was a blast and there were no misses on the menu (the fried bologna sandwich with potato chips and sweet mustard was a star), but the best item had to have been the smoked pork belly with shredded cabbage slaw. The rich pork belly paired perfectly with the bright and zesty salad for an overall awesome dish.” —Alex Frane, Eater Portland guest editor

“Well, it looks like Alex stole mine (rude), but considering this week was his birthday, I’ll let it slide; I ate very well this week, so it’s not the end of the world. Frane and I actually went to that Eem pop-up together, and afterward we decided to bid Olympia Oyster Bar farewell at its Mississippi digs. I had to go in for my favorite dish there: A super bright and green ceviche, with hunks of super-fresh fish, fish sauce, bonito flakes, and cukes. It comes the way I ate it throughout Mexico and Central America, with a side of chips for scoopin’. The real move, however, is to get it with a shot of tequila, and use the remaining broth as a chaser. I’m sad to see OOB leave the neighborhood, but I’m waiting patiently to see where chef Maylin Chavez ends up in 2020.” —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

A picture of chopsticks holding up wide rice noodles in a broth with greens and fake chicken
Ichiza noodle soup
Waz Wu/EPDX

December 13, 2019

After reading my friend and fellow contributor Daniel Barnett’s write-up of chili oil wontons a couple weeks ago, I’ve been craving Ichiza Kitchen’s vegan rendition. That’s where I treated myself to a solo birthday lunch. The wontons were delicious as always, but the Ichiza noodle soup stole the show with its delicate, slippery rice noodles, juicy house-made “chicken,” and crunchy yu choy in a soothing, aromatic broth with just a hint of heat. It’s the kind of meal that warms the soul. —Waz Wu, Eater Portland vegan correspondent

This week, a few of my favorite food cart owners — Justin Hintze, Richard Le, and Sophia Le — took over the kitchen at the SE Grand cocktail bar Lulu. Hintze is the man behind Jojo; that cart likely has the best jojos in town, possibly has the best American fried chicken in town, and certainly has the best social media in town. The Les, on the other hand, run Eater Portland’s Food Cart of the Year, Matta, which creates truly memorable Vietnamese dishes that rotate day to day, all out of Richard’s family playbook. The team will permanently serve banh mi, jojos, and other snacks out of the bar, but I had to roll in right when they started this week. The sandwiches are great, and the jojos almost took dish of the week for their Top-Ramen-ish seasoning blend. Still, that Saigon hot chicken is really where it’s at: A crunchy, cornflake-yellow crust traps in the juices of a tender boneless chicken thigh, all served with a little chili oil, killer pickles I wish I kept in my fridge, and a few springs of cilantro. One note: Kick up the heat on that bird, y’all. We can handle it. —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

A picture of chicken and rice at Nong’s Khao Man Gai. The dish comes with poached chicken over rice, cucumbers, cilantro, a cup of stock, and a side of its popular ginger sauce
Nong’s khao man gai
Alex Frane/EPDX

December 6, 2019

This funny little restaurant called Nong’s that’s super under the radar was my favorite meal of the week. Jokes — there’s a good reason for its enduring popularity, especially with the namesake khao man gai. The perfectly tender chicken, the aromatic rice, the ginger sauce which I always pour entirely on the chicken — sometimes it’s the best to revisit old favorites. —Alex Frane, Eater Portland contributor and guest editor

Funnily enough, I also had Nong’s this week, but a different style of poultry was my absolute highlight of the week. After contributor and friend Nick Woo called the “whole ducking experience” at Departure his best meal of 2018, I felt like I really needed to check it out for myself. For those who don’t know, Departure chef Gregory Gourdet serves Peking-style duck each December, a seasonal special that comes with four courses. We went as a group of four on Monday, snug in a corner booth with a view of the city — really, not a bad way to get things started. The meal begins with a duck bone broth, using the carcasses of the ducks the day before, which is infused with a touch of chile oil. The duck itself, served next, is gorgeous, the color of burnt orange with touches of caramelization throughout. It’s served with slivers of kumquat — genius, almost like a play on duck l’orange — which we rolled in pancakes and tucked in lettuce, perhaps slathered with some house-made XO that added a whiff of satisfying funk. It’s really a stellar bite, deeply savory and reminiscent of Chinese dinners I had as a college student in the bristling cold of Boston. Next: A super-gingery duck fried rice, which almost felt superfluous but was too good to ignore. The finish almost makes the meal: duck fat ice cream, with a black sesame tuille and Marionberry syrup. The whole shebang is $119; split four ways, that’s about $30 per person for four courses, which felt more than reasonable. It’s becoming an annual tradition — it sounds like Nick might even go back for a second round before the year ends. —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

A picture of broken squash with Rio Rojo red beans and cranberry sauce at Farm Spirit
Squash at Farm Spirit
Waz Wu/EPDX

November 22, 2019

A visit to Farm Spirit is a must for any vegan or vegetable enthusiast, and this was my first in the new space on Belmont since Scott Winegard stepped into the kitchen. From start to finish, the Cascadian tasting menu was a delight, but there were two standouts: Broken squash with Rio Rojo red beans and cranberry sauce atop Abenaki corn bread, followed by earthy fire-roasted maitakes and charred Brussels sprouts with silky mashed potatoes and herbed gravy. Between bites, I realized that every holiday dinner this year would be a letdown after this meal, while my non-vegan dinner companion declared both plates best of the night. —Waz Wu, Eater Portland vegan correspondent

It’s no secret that the city of Portland has a love affair with chili oil wontons. I, too, feel hot and steamy when thinking about said dish. While restaurants across town serve many great renditions, one of best I’ve had was served to me this week at Vietnamese spot Bamboo House. Silky wontons, bursting with bouncy shrimp and juicy minced pork, swim in a chili oil that is much more savory and seasoned than it is spicy. Crispy shallots and spring onion complete the dish and give an already delicious bowl of dumplings a fresh and crunchy finish. I had a hard time not ordering a second bowl. -Daniel Barnett, Eater Portland breakfast correspondent

Diane Lam of Revelry and David Sigal of dinner and cocktail series Mian came together for their own adorable noodle pop-up at Holdfast. Sunshine Noodles was cozy and fun, with meaty bowls of noodles and flavored shots. A crunchy cabbage-and-potato-chip salad almost stole the show, but the rich pork-and-shrimp noodle bowl was hard to beat. —Alex Frane, Eater Portland contributor and guest editor

I just got back from Peru last weekend, so I knew I had to hit Dóttir (previously named Vivian) at the brand-new Kex hotel as soon as possible — ya girl had to catch up. My favorite bite of the night was easily a super-fresh bay scallop served in a thick horseradish milk, with tiny hunks of celeriac. It felt like a Scandinavian bisque, and during this time of year, I love any excuse to eat celeriac. Still, the star of the dish was the base, which we were sad to see leave the table once all the shellfish and roots were eaten. —Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

Holler

7119 Southeast Milwaukie Avenue, , OR 97202 (971) 200-1391 Visit Website

Bunk Bar

1028 SE Water Avenue, Portland, OR 97124 503 894 9708

Campana

901 Northeast Oneonta Street, , OR 97211 (503) 841-6195 Visit Website

Departure

525 SE Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon 97214 Visit Website

Nong's Khao Man Gai

417 Southwest 13th Avenue, , OR 97205 (503) 208-2402 Visit Website

KEX Portland

100 Northeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, , OR 97232 (971) 346-2992 Visit Website

Lulu

1019 Camelia Street, , CA 94710 (510) 529-4300 Visit Website

Magna

2525 Southeast Clinton Street, Portland, OR Visit Website

Oui Wine Bar + Restaurant at SE Wine Collective

2425 Southeast 35th Place, , OR 97214 (503) 208-2061 Visit Website

Pinolo Gelato

3707 Southeast Division Street, , OR 97202 (503) 719-8686 Visit Website

Bamboo House

4005 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR Visit Website

Farm Spirit

1403 Southeast Belmont Street, , OR 97214 Visit Website

Ichiza Kitchen

5411 Northeast 30th Avenue, , OR 97211 (503) 702-8374 Visit Website

Mestizo

2910 Southeast Division Street, , OR 97202 (503) 384-2273 Visit Website

St. Jack

1610 Northwest 23rd Avenue, , OR 97210 (503) 360-1281 Visit Website

NORMANDIE

1005 Southeast Ankeny Street, , OR 97214 (503) 233-4129 Visit Website

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