Thursday, February 24, 2011


After successive, yet delicious, New American meals, I was craving something with just a little bit more oomph and flavor.  Perhaps some Asian fare?  But of course, Portland isn't the place to be when you're craving a salty umami rich bowl of ramen or spicy cold Korean noodles.  It was brunch time, and I think I had my fare share of Portland's dim sum.  So what next?  Well, I had yet to try Broder, which is a popular Scandinavian brunch spot.  It really wasn't what I was craving, so I guess I was glad to see that, yet again, the wait was out the door.  Plan B:  Pambiche!  Hooray for Cubans in Portland.  How did they ever find their way here?  I have no clue.

Bistec de Palomilla (Cuban Steak & Eggs) Thin cut top sirloin steaks, creole herbs and spices, pan fried red onions, scrambled eggs, fufú de plátano and Moros & Cristianos
I actually didn't get to try any of Zhu Zhu Hamster's dish because she looked like "death", and I didn't feel like catching "death."  She seemed pretty happy with it though.

Pisto Manchego chorizo sausage, ham, bacon, gulf shrimp, russet potatoes, pimientos and petit pois, peppered egg scramble. Served with pan frito
I'm surprised Dumpling Man actually enjoyed this dish.  It certainly has many components that he dislikes, but his original choice was all out.  That's what happens when you come to brunch right when service is about to end.  In any case, it was a mish mosh of proteins but it was very hearty.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paley's Place

My tour of Portland's fine dining establishments continues with Paley's Place.  It is owned by executive chef Vitaly Paley, who was awarded the 2005 James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest.  It's located in a Victorian style house in the Northwest area of Portland.  Reviews on Yelp complained about the place being small and cramped.  I imagined the place would be quaint and full of "character." Surprisingly, it turned out to be quiet modern and decently spacious inside.

I was peeved that we had to wait an extra 30 minutes for your reservation.  Finally they gave us teeny tiny glasses of some special apple cider to sip on.  Seriously, it didn't taste any different than Treetop Apple Juice with some bubbles, but appreciated their effort to quell my brewing annoyance.

Amuse Bouche tuna salad
I was not so impressed with this little bite.  It was a bit on the fishy side using cooked tuna.  The addition of eggs and olives didn't make the bite any better.

Chilled Oysters on the Half Shell Hog Island (WA), Blue Pool (WA), Hamma Hamma (WA)
In choosing appetizers, Paley's Place has a selection of house made charcuterie and some French classics like steamed mussels, beef tartare, escargots, etc.  While I would have loved to try some of the charcuterie and mussels, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and stray away from all my usual favorites.  I'm pretty sure there would be no surprises to those usual staples.  So instead, I went with the oysters, which I really enjoyed.  Salty, sweet, briny, bright, with just a touch of lemon juice and we had us some good bites.

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Monday, February 21, 2011


Even though Irvine is packed with Chinese people, the Chinese food is still inferior to that in the San Gabriel Valley.  The SGV is more like bleeding Chinese people, so that probably explains the difference.  This was my first time at A&J which is a Taiwanese restaurant, I think.  They serve dumplings, noodles, small cold dishes, fried pork chop, etc.  All the things that those little rascals from the island formerly known as Formosa love to eat.

Cucumber Salad hot garlic sauce
I think I was expecting a more pickled taste, but these were more sweet and spicy than anything else.  Oh, they were also garlicky.

Spicy Wonton with Hot Red Sauce szechuan style
I absolutely love the version of this at Din Tai Fung.  These were actually quite good here too.  There could have been more filling to the wontons, but overall, pretty tasty with just the right amount of heat.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Daikokuya makes up one of the Big 3 ramen joints in LA.  I already posted about Shinsengumi, which probably ties for 2nd place with Daikokuya in my opinion.  While I love their curly ramen noodles, I get more excited about the pork bowl than the ramen.  Also, the wait time is simply atrocious.  I thought I'd bypass a 30 minute to 1 hour wait by hitting up the Monterey Park location.  The place is even more hole-in-the-wall than the Little Tokyo location and just as crowded.  It's ok because I had lots to catch up on with Ho Bag to pass the time.

Ho Bag and I go waay back, back to the days when she actually wasn't a ho bag and to the days when I consumed carbs like a naughty diabetic.  I couldn't think of 2 people who were more different but got along so well.  Nowadays, you can find Ho Bag traipsing around the Big Apple living the "Sex in the City" life.  Let's just say she's definitely NOT Charlotte. 

The salad at Daikokuya is far from refreshing or light.  The dressing, which drenches the shredded cabbage beneath it, tastes heavy, rich, and slightly fishy.  I can only have a few bites before feeling overwhelmed.  I'll give it credit for being one-of-a-kind.

Shredded Pork Rice Bowl 
It is hands down one of the best pork rice bowls I've ever had.  The pork is either extremely tender or extremely fatty because every bite of it just melts in your mouth.  The sauce permeates through ever bite and wraps each rice kernel in a blanket of heavenly sweet umami flavor.  Big winner here!  Because we both ordered a combo of rice + ramen, I barely finished my rice bowl.  I took the leftovers home but left it in my car overnight.  What a waste!

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Beast is a unique dining experience.  It is a restaurant composed of a staff of 5 (2 chefs, 2 servers, 1 busboy) and 2 communal tables (20-30 seats) with a large open air kitchen.  Dinner service is only offered Wednesday through Sunday with two seatings at 6:00pm and 8:45pm.  Brunch is offered only on Sundays at 10am or 12pm.

Being one of Portland's fine dining establishments, it has garnered a reputation for simply and perfectly executed food in an intimate dining experience.  The 6 course menu changes weekly depending on the availability of local seasonal ingredients.

Cream of Celery Soup meyer lemon salsa verde
I am usually not a fan of celery.  I mean I like it in stuffing and chicken salad, but as a soup?  I was really impressed with the simplicity and smooth texture of the soup.  The best part was the meyer lemon salsa verde which added some nice unexpected acidity that rounded out the creamy sweetness of the soup.  There were also some deep friend celery leaves I think? which brought a crispy earthiness.  Very well done.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Waterloo & City

Dine LA used to be an event that inspired excitement.  What delicious new foods would I discover?  What great deals would I get?  After many a Dine LA has come and gone, I have just become very tired of the prix fixe snooze fests.  I'd rather just pay the extra money to have the more interesting dishes of my choosing.  Nonetheless, Dine LA still gets Angelenos all a buzz.  I tried to go with a restaurant I've been meaning to try, but one that also had a little bit more of an interesting menu.  I'm so tired of seeing some roasted chicken, braised short ribs, and broiled salmon as the 3 main entrees to choose from.  Waterloo & City didn't have any of that.  Grumpy Bear, Panda Bear and Little Bear all gathered to see what Waterloo & City had to offer.

Pan Fried Blood Cake fried organic egg, toasted pain poilane
Totally sounds unappetizing huh?  Grumpy Bear and Panda Bear ordered this at the reassurance from our waitress that it would be delicious.  It was in fact pretty tasty.  It was very rich, meaty, and only had the slightest hint of an offal taste.  It seems like slapping a sunny side up egg on anything makes it that much more fancy.  I'm not quite sure it always adds flavor, like in this dish.

Potted Pork & Truffle Parfait toasted brioche, cornichons
I never thought I'd say it, but I think I might be getting tired of pate, terrine, galantines, etc.  Despite that, this was still pretty good.  It was perfectly smooth with more than just a salty livery flavor.  I think the truffle part added something different, something slightly sweet.  I didn't like the thin layer of solidified white fat on the top, and neither did Grumpy Bear who ate a big hunk of it.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Red Medicine

Red Medicine is a Vietnamese fusion restaurant that recently opened a few months ago.  It's probably more known for the drama generated by some controversial actions by the management rather than its food unfortunately.  It's ratings on Yelp are pretty dismal, mostly because of the drama.  I'm usually not a fan of fusion food, but some of bloggers were writing good things along with their appetizing pictures.  So, the H.o.P. made a night of it.

I've had a fair amount of "fancy foods" in my life.  Red Medicine really takes all that to a new level.  They go beyond fancy and border on esoteric.  That being the case, the food is still accessible to the common man's taste buds.  The common man's stomach may not appreciate the smaller portion sizes, which combined with the lighter fare, can make for one hungry hungry hippo. 

**SLR-quality photos courtesy of Running Man**

Brussels Sprouts caramelized shallots, fish sauce, vermouth
Wow, who is now a fan of brussel sprouts?  You can't really see the sprouts in this picture, but its safe to say that the chef made good use of fish sauce for these vegetables.  Salty, sweet, caramelized, crispy.  Everyone loved these little veggies.  Triple T even made a similar version at home from the Momofuku cookbook. 

Banh Mi foie gras, pate de champagne 
These were an elevated version of the flavors found in the typical Vietnamese sandwich.  The pickled veggies, cucumbers, cilantro, and chili were a given.  The foie and pate were luscious and rich additions sandwiched between some light crispy crackers.  One was not enough, but sadly one was all I got to have.  

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Veritable Quandry

When it comes to the food in Portland, I will have to admit, I do have a case of food "beer goggles."  I'm a little more generous on my compliments and generally hold food in a Portland to a lower standard than to food in LA.  Why that is the case? I'm not quite sure. I think I just want Portland to be a better foodie town than it already is.  I want tall, dark and handsome, when what I really have is stocky, bald and average.  Just kidding.  That is a terrible exaggeration of the truth.  Portland is your simple and interestingly attractive boy next door. 

Veritable Quandry is probably my best meal to date in Portland.  Portions were more than generous.  Flavors and execution were spot on.  There were no surprises, no tricks.  I'm beginning to understand and appreciate the Portland style.

House Made Rabbit Pate with Toasted Brioche prune vinaigrette, two mustards, house pickled cranberries
I'm definitely eating a lot more charcuterie than I ever have before.  Maybe that's because I'm eating more French inspired cuisine than I ever have before.  When in LA, it's hard not to gravitate toward Asian food.  In any case, I do LOVE my charcuterie.  I grew up eating that stuff.  "What Asian kid grows up eating that stuff," says Dumpling Man.  These things remind me of the family vacations we took in Europe.  We'd stop by the local charcuterie, pick up a baguette, varying cuts of meat and spreads and hit the road.  My mom with her trusty swiss army knife, which was equally good for cutting fruit as it was for slicing baguettes and spreading pate, would hand out delicious, yet simple sandwiches.  It made a terrible mess in the car, but heck, it was a rental!  The only true Euro part missing was the cheese, but in the end, we're all still Asian, so that means no cheese for us.  Nowadays, I can't help but feel guilty spreading a chunk of pate on a little cracker, but I do LOVE the taste of that salty, fatty, mildly livery delicacy.

Sorry for the digression.  Here the house made rabbit pate had such a strong smokiness of bacon.  I thought it was a bit too overwhelming.  However, taken all together with the differing mustards (dijon and whole grain), pickled sweet cranberries, and tangy cornichons, made for a delicious and sophisticated appetizer.

Poached Egg, Smoked Bacon & Butter Lettuce on Crispy Cornbread pickled onion, buttermilk, chives, white cheddar dressing
Dumpling Man is beginning to really like poached eggs, or really anything with a runny egg yolk.  I like it, but I don't like it.  I love the added richness, but I sort of detest that egg yolk taste.   Sometimes it just works for me, and sometimes it doesn't.  Here, the yolk was not too eggy.  The salad, overall, was too rich.  I like my salads to be more refreshing, but from the yolk, to the bacon, to the cornbread, this was, no doubt, a hearty salad.  The occasional pickled onion managed to cut through some of the richness.  Nonetheless, I'd give the salad 1 1/2 thumbs up.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Some of my dinners in Portland don't end as well as they start off.  Dinner at Tabla was just such a meal.  Strong starters, good wine, weak finishers.  Sometimes its actually easy to forget bad appetizers if the entree and desserts are a smash hit.  Unfortunately its not so easy to forget when its the other way around. 

Salt Roasted Carrot Salad autumn greens and chicories, golden raisins, citrus, pistachio, cantal
So the menu online that night had this same salad, but with beets instead of carrots.  What a shame, because beets would have been lovely.  That's not to say that this version was not tasty in its own right.  Salad is about anything but lettuce these days and I'm loving it.  Bitter, sweet, tangy, salty, juicy, crunchy, toasty, crispy.  It's all in a great salad.   This wasn't the greatest salad, but it was good.

Radicchio Salad belgian endive, apple, sour cream, candied walnuts, bacon powder
This salad was probably not as appealing as the previous salad.  I prefer tangy dressings over creamy ones, but each bite of this salad had the smoky flavor of bacon in every bite.  

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