Oregon is home to a lot of restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Portlanders aren’t unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we’ve enlisted some of our city’s many food players to share their recommendations for a recurring feature we call Dining Confidential.
Before Revelry’s chef de cuisine Diane Lam heads to work at the Southeast hotspot, slinging seaweed noodles and tweaking seafood rice bowls, she’s looking for lunch. On days off, she loves to entertain and cook for friends, but those pre-work hours require consistently delicious and inexpensive meals to fuel her through the evening shift.
She’s often spotted at Hot Pot City, a mom-and-pop Taiwanese soup staple that allows total customization with a varying broth menu and a buffet-style offering of rotating proteins and vegetables. “It’s not for everyone, but they have these ham hocks braised in red soy and vinegar,” said Lam, who calls ahead to make sure she can grab a counter seat. “You add it to your hot pot and it cooks down, congeals, and makes your soup gelatinous. It’s so good every single time.” She’s also partial to the sliced triple-braised beef that pops up on occasion. All meals are just $10.75 for lunch.
Lam also visits downtown conveyor-belt sushi spot Sensei Sushi Bar & Grill multiple times a week, snagging plates of Hokkaido scallops, hamachi, and any salmon rolls that fly by. During happy hour — 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. all week and all day on the weekend — all plates ring up at $2.10 or less. Lam goes often enough that she gets a ‘regular’ perk: happy hour prices whenever she comes in. “I’ve tried ever conveyor belt sushi option in Portland and this is by far the best one with the best quality,” she said.
Lam’s overall favorite restaurant is Hat Yai’s Northeast Portland location where she fell in love with chef Earl Ninsom’s oxtail soup. “The oxtails are always so tender. It reminds me of my childhood and the way my grandma used to make it,” she said. “And even though he’s Thai and I’m Cambodian, the dish transfers over pretty well. He’ll use Chinese celery which adds this herbaceous, astringent quality to it. I love eating it with rice.”
A sucker for Italian sandwiches, Lam also devours a layered sub from Southeast food cart Demarco’s Sandwiches on occasion, indulging in a guilty pleasure of hers — using a ton of processed Italian dressing.
When Lam is down for a drive, she’ll take a trip down to Yoshi’s Sushi, a food cart in Multnomah Village’s French Quarter. “The craftsmanship creates a new standard for food carts. It’s really next level,” she said. “And it’s great because, being it that neighborhood, you know it’s definitely a cart for the community, for neighbors in that area.”
• Revelry [Official]
• Previous Revelry coverage [EPDX]
• Previous Hot Pot City coverage [EPDX]
• More on Sensei Sushi [EPDX]
• Previous Hat Yai coverage [EPDX]
• More on Demarco’s Sandwiches [EPDX]
• Previous Yoshi’s Sushi coverage [EPDX]
• More Dining Confidential [EPDX]