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International Intrigue: The Holy Crab

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I did not eat at The Holy Crab because I already have a Chinese-run Cajun seafood restaurant on my block with a better name (Oceanic Boil), but am mentioning it it is an Indonesian chain serving Cajun seafood in Canada, and that’s all sorts of layers to dissect.

There also appears to be a knock-off in White Plains.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Vancouver BC

wildebeest tartare

Wildebeest I thought horsemeat was more associated with Quebec than British Columbia (I did buy some frozen slices in a Montreal grocery store for “Chinese fondue,” crammed it in my hotel’s fridge and it thawed and bled all over the mini bottles) and as a Pittsburgh restaurant was just causing outrage for serving horse tartare, I couldn’t resist ordering the same off a late night happy hour menu (bolstered by poutine and a beet dish that was better than everything) because I’m a tartare freak. Pretty as can be, though I didn’t care for the chopped, pickled carrots and celery mixed with the meat that had a surprising funk since it added too much sourness. The hay-toasted mayo was appropriate and inappropriate at the same time, and the sous-vide egg yolk put it over the top.

dynasty seafood 6

Dynasty Seafood I don’t usually believe anyone who says they don’t like dim sum. Despite an hour wait (I shrugged off making reservations—don’t be like me), I might have converted a skeptic with those sweet, pastry pork buns that were brought around immediately after we were seated and dying of hunger even though this was a modern ordering-off-the-menu place. There were spring rolls filled with a shrimp mousse that tasted like hotdogs. An order of pea shoots and squiggly hand-made udon with XO sauce appeased the skeptic. I couldn’t finish the wu gok stuffed with duck and chestnuts and wrapped 1.5 pieces a napkin and stuffed it in my purse then forgot about it until I got back to Portland.

joe fortes trio

Joe Fortes Seafood and Chophouse I still don’t know if the last name of this famous local figure (looked at his wikipedia page–and he was a lifeguard from Trinidad?), whom I  saw also has a library named after him, is pronounced fortay, forts, or fortez. Anyway, any establishment that has chop house in its name is total catnip to me and I drank way too many happy hour old fashioneds, especially since $5 was $3.70, and ate a bunch of tiny lobster and shrimp rolls, giant shrimp tempura, and truffle fries (I know) and was too full to try and hit hot Italian-Japanese spot Kissa Tanto to finagle a table when it opened at 5:30pm. I want to be a Kissa Tanto type of woman, au courant and great to look at, but I’m 100% Joe Fortes, dated and brassy.IMG_3294

Maenam This could’ve been the best Thai food in Vancouver, or Canada, but the lack of air conditioning and the subsequent sweat wetting my hair (not from the spice level) was too distracting to enjoy the well-priced (everything was well-priced as the exchange rate equaled 25% off) tasting. I did love one of the servers’, who was not young, subtle mauve-tinged hair since I had just attempted to give myself a plummy ombre effect two days before.

bao down breakfast

Bao Down I would’ve preferred dinner to brunch since it seemed more traditional but we can’t have it all. A longanisa breakfast dish resembled no tselog (the menu didn’t promise a tselog) I had ever seen but something more delicate, pretty, and dare I say, healthier, than I would expect from Filipino food. Nice.

hon's quad

Hon’s This was a nostalgia lunch, for the boyfriend not me, and the cavernous dining room with multiple stations, yet only 10% full seemed bigger on atmosphere than food. Not that any of the things we over-ordered (roast pork and pot stickers were not necessary) were objectively not good, I’m just sure better versions could be had in the city. I was picturing a wonton noodle soup bowl like Noodletown but this portion was gigantic with practically an entire duck chopped into it and likely four recommended daily servings (if any government body dictated these things) of springy egg noodles. I did what I could, left lots of noodles (and appreciated being asked if I wanted them wrapped up since I’m a leftover freak/food hoarder, but declined) and took the fatty pork wedges for later.

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Novo Pizzeria I never made it to any of the cocktail bars near our Airbnb that I’d read about or Kissa Tanto, which I couldn’t get reservations for three weeks out. This wasn’t an ambitious food vacation but a long-distance meetup so I set up a Door Dash (no Seamless in BC, nor Uber and Lyft) account and got a chorizo, honey, and thyme sort of pizza delivered to the apartment, which I realized too late had no intercom. I don’t get to do the lazy Netflix (not saying and chill) thing with a guy usually so it was a novelty. I watched Win-Win (not my pick) and I Don’t Feel Safe in this World Anymore (my pick) though I had seen both already. I did not take a photo, so you will have to enjoy a public library instead.

 

 

Sunday Best: Sushi by Bae

No one cares about every single thing you eat. Even I’ve lost interest in keeping up with or documenting every meal in NYC. That’s kind of what Instagram is for now. I’m just going to pick the one thing at the end of every week (I refuse to believe Sunday starts the week) and say a few words. 

sushi by bae grid

I counted 18 different pieces of sushi (plus an amuse) served by Oona Tempest (formerly of Tanoshi) at her showcase pop-up, Sushi by Bae, which seems like a lot but photos don’t lie. That would make this a very good value $100 omakase to my mind (though I’m not sure that volume is standard or because I was with a regular). Sometimes boo-hoo-ing on social media works since I was essentially thread-jacking  someone else’s Instagram post to voice that I had been burned by this venue’s rigid seats for 2 or 4 only policy (which apparently has been lifted) and it turned out this person had booked a reservation for 4 and one guest had to bow out, leaving a spot for me, a near-stranger.

I already want to go back. My attempt at quickly typing each description in Evernote before too many seconds pass and it seems rude to not pop the piece in my mouth as you’re supposed to immediately tends to result in garbled notes. This is what I ended up with:

Shima aj (aji)
Kisu
Golden eyevampper licorice sea salt. (snapper)
Chu tor (chutoro)
Shari (shari is the rice–don’t know what I meant to say)
Miso cured but refuse (no idea what “but refuse” meant)
Barracuda
Nodoguti black throat sea bass (nodoguro)
RBI ebi with koji (RBI?)
Santa Barbara roe
Santa Barbara uni
Otoro
Truffle

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Memorial Day Weekend in Oregon

jackrabbit trio

Jackrabbit Meals other than dinner aren’t optimal for assessing what a restaurant can do. I took my mom to the new Chris Cosentino restaurant in the Duniway Hotel for a belated Mother’s Day lunch. It was sparsely populated, which could’ve been because it’s new or it’s not the type of place the average Portland person (or tourist–I couldn’t believe the crowds outside clearly from out of town) goes to lunch downtown. My first impression was disappointment since they didn’t have the sal de gusano (I ordered it precisely because that’s a hard to source ingredient) described as the rim for my cocktail, The Crank (mezcal, Pommeau de Normandie. lime, agave, basil). The pig’s ears were good, crunchy bits balanced by gelatinous strips. My mom’s french onion soup looked insane, not just with the blanket of melted cheese but a hunk of marrow bone sticking out. At lunch, sandwiches are the focus so I tried a banh mi with pork belly and big fat fried oysters and wanted to die. I’ll hold off on forming an opinion since I didn’t sample any of the ham or large format curiosities like the pig’s head with “brainaise.” I still haven’t been to Headwaters in the Heathman Hotel either, which I should at least for reference purposes but I’m not terribly excited about hotel dining in Portland.

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Tad’s Chicken ‘n Dumplings a.k.a. Chic Dump per the neon sign and URL, has existed for as long as I remember in Troutdale, one town over from where I grew up, but I’d never been and when I complained to my mom about it on this trip she didn’t seem surprised or to care. This is important business! I’ve also never eaten chicken and dumplings in my life, which seem more Midwestern than Northwestern but Oregon and Washington are lacking in a regional cuisine anyway. It’s on the Sandy River where we went as hormonal teens, inner tubing and sunbathing and fended off gross guys with cut-offs and mustaches. I just listened to a Walkman and read The Boys on the Rock and imagined Simon LeBon was featured in the cover illustration. People said that the chicken and dumplings were not good. They were in my book because I like sinking my teeth into some serious carbs, but the combination of cubed, skinless chicken and wet pillowy whiteness is kind of like nursery food, soft and bland, more salty than anything. The above photo is misleading; that serving presented in a metal raised dish could feed at least three people and I can’t imagine you’d use up all of the extra gravy, especially after the relish tray, salad, and big plate of chicken livers with ketchup, an unnecessary extra I ordered because they were cheap, also a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir since 90% of them ranged from $20-$25.

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13 Virtues Brewing First choice for a meetup with my mom and grandma was Iron Horse, closed on Memorial Day, then moved to SanFelipe Taqueria, also closed. Apparently this place in Sellwood has been serving cheesesteaks since the ’80s (the boyfriend said he went there in high school) though at some point it re-branded to a brew pub because in Oregon everything is brew pubs and changed its name. I forget no one uses Cheez Whiz outside of Philadelphia minus a few purist spots, so I was bummed by my melted provolone.

Crackerjacks This bar/restaurant looks like it has been on the corner of Thurman and 27th forever but I had never been and don’t recall its existence in my day. I liked it enough to return twice, though. Once just for drinks, the other for a cheeseburger. There is also a pizza menu though the pizza oven was broken on Memorial Day. Clearly, you’re not supposed to go to restaurants on Memorial Day. I like to disparage Portland but most everyone is nicer than in NYC. I was complimented on different dresses numerous times and was told I “looked adorable” by a waitress here. I think the last time a stranger said I was cute in NYC, it was a hostess at Mesa Grill in 1999.

bamboo sushi chirashi

Bamboo Sushi Since I have been returning to Portland for close to a year-and-a-half I have avoided this popular place as it seemed like white people sushi, which is rich coming from me since I am pretty callous about the whole cultural appropriation kerfuffle that emerged when I was in town. I don’t care if white people make sushi but this restaurant was exactly what I had pictured: pristine and sustainable fish choices, not quite traditionally presented, a little pricey, and sloppy service. A young woman had a new young man shadowing her and that might not have been the best pairing as I wouldn’t have known she was training him if she hadn’t said so. I couldn’t argue with the sweet crab legs and surf clams in my $27 chirashi (not sure about the microgreens and red onions). I also managed to snap a wooden arm rest off my chair when scooting closer to the table, which has nothing to do with anything, but added to the off-kilter-ness.

old world deli trio

Old World Deli My mother and I met my sister in Corvallis, at her suggestion, despite it in no way being the half-way point between Portland and Eugene. A cousin who works two blocks away alos joined us for lunch. I ordered first–an important point–a reuben sandwich, and then all three family members subsequently ordered the same thing even my sister who I hadn’t seen eat meat since 1990. I’m usually vehemently opposed to anyone in the same party ordering the same dish, but by necessity I’ve become a kinder, gentler human when in Oregon, plus at a random deli that looked like a Veteran’s hall, staffed by teenage boys…who cares? The sandwiches were fine, though the marble rye was too soft and stuck to everyone’s teeth. That’s just one reason why I’m not including any pictures of people.

Chains of Love: The Original Original Pancake House

original pancake house facade

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that the original Original Pancake House originated in Portland, Oregon. I only had a vague sense of this, especially since I grew up on the east side of the city and never had any reason to eat breakfast at a restaurant twenty miles away, on the other side of the Willamette.

pancake house

I almost visited an Original Pancake House in Seoul, since it was a few blocks from my hotel, before even seeing where it all began in Oregon. Even though I was chided for not really eating any Korean food during my two-night stay over Thanksgiving, it didn’t seem right to eat American breakfast in addition to Taco Bell and a mildly esoteric tasting menu.

original pancake house room

I can’t speak for any of the other Original Pancake Houses, but I can’t imagine a quainter place to choose from 15 or so pancakes. With its candy-striped awning, sun room, knotty wood paneling, decorative dishes, and smaller interior than would seem so from the street, the restaurant transmits wholesomeness with a touch of the old world. You would not suspect it was a chain if you didn’t know the name.

original pancake house dutch baby closeup

The glorious Dutch Baby, burnished upturned edges, custardy crater, lightly powdered, is their specialty. Lemon wedges, whipped butter, and more powdered sugar are served on the side. I wanted pecan pancakes but it would be a mistake to shun what made the place famous on my first visit. Many of the diners lolling around after prime breakfast time had plate-spanning versions topped with apple wedges that from a distance looked like they’d been served and entire pan of monkey bread.

original pancake house hash

Sure, there are also omelets and corned beef hash for the know-nothings like my dining companion who said it tasted canned despite the promises of “homemade,”but duh, you’re supposed to order pancakes.

original pancake house james beard

The James Beard American Classic award from 1999 was proudly displayed facing my seat.

old spaghetti factory BC

Bonus: Did you know that the oldest Old Spaghetti Factory is also in Portland? I had the good fortune to stumble upon a branch a few weekends ago in Vancouver, B.C.

The Original Pancake House * 8601 SW 24th Ave., Portland, OR

International Intrigue: Yo! Sushi

yo sushi beltI don’t generally get excited about U.K. imports that interpret Asian cuisine. I still haven’t been to Wagamama, though I do frequent Wasabi at least once a week because it’s a block from my office and they have passable ready-made poke bowls–and just added bizarrely flavored popcorn to their repertoire. (This routine made me recently think about lifestyle creep. When I started my job–jesus, ten years ago–I wouldn’t spend more than $5 on lunch and now don’t blink at $12. I’m still too cheap to spend that daily, though. I only go to the office two to three times per week so it’s justifiable.)

yo sushi menu

But Yo! Sushi? I can stand a little novelty. Conveyor belt sushi has never really thrived in NYC and, sure, it’s not the highest quality or the best value in the city. You could do worse, though, for entertainment while dining, and you’re not restricted to what whizzes past you. You can order both sushi and non-sushi items from the menu.

yo sushi collage

When I first showed up at 6pm, there were only a few plates passing by but by 6:30pm the rotating display was much fuller. Seven plate colors dictate prices: from a $3.50 green to an $8 yellow. I think I spent around $35 with a cup sake and a few beers but I by no means consumed a lot of food. There were some shrimp tempura rolls in there, off-belt scallop nigiri, tuna carpaccio, all shared.

yo sushi fruit salad

 

You could pay $4.50 for fruit salad, if you’re that kind of monster.

Despite this branch being touted as the first US location, that’s completely untrue. Just like Uniqlo when it first came to America, Yo! Sushi originally tested the waters in a few New Jersey malls and then shuttered so quietly no one seemed to notice it coming or going. There are now also locations in Boston, Sarasota, Florida, and at Westbury Commons. 

Yo! Sushi * 23 W. 23rd St., New York, NY

 

International Intrigue: BB.Q Chicken

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It was over a decade ago that BonChon first showed up in NYC and made a splash with the novel concept of Korean fried chicken. With Kyedong (now Kono), Kyochon, Turntable, and Unidentified Flying Chicken, among others, it’s different landscape now.

bbq chicken downstairs

In Manhattan’s Koreatown, Kyochon fizzled a few months ago and a flashy bi-level flagship BB.Q Chicken might be here to reclaim Korean fried chicken’s former glory. (There were two previous incarnations in Manhattan and still one in Flushing, I think.) Despite the unremarkable name (it stands for Best of the Best Quality) the word has traveled fast. Early on a Friday night, a line started forming for the subterranean table service space and wound up the stairs.

bbq chicken

I tried a sampler of the four primary styles. The simplest version, maybe the calling card, is fried in olive oil and supposedly is the product of a two-day marinating and coating process. It’s very good, juicy, super crisp (rice flour is no joke) and just the right batter to meat ratio. A honey glazed version was like candy, which I loved, though people who don’t like monte cristo sandwiches, bisteeya, or just Chinese-American sweet and sour nuggets should steer clear. Gang-jeong was lightly sweet, garlicky, and spicy, and similar to the non-hot style at BonChon.

I was actually impressed with the “cheesling” style (top right) first for cute name and novelty (mascarpone and cheddar?), but then for flavor. It was totally like cheese popcorn, maybe specifically Smartfood, but meaty. I like the modern Korean taste for adding cheese where it doesn’t belong. The first sit-down thing I ate in Seoul were kimchi fries and there are similar snacky dishes on this menu like bulgogi nachos and cheese fries. 

bbq chicken upstairs

Counter service and to-go are on the main floor. (There was a suspicious lack of cheesling on the shelves). There were an impressive range of alcoholic beverages like canned Pampelonne rosé lime wine and a handful of German beers in addition to the OB, Hite, and fruity shoju. 

bbq chicken uni

Chicken University!

BB.Q Chicken * 25 W. 32nd St., New York, NY

 

Chains of Love: Claim Jumper

claim jumper facade

Similar to Cheddar’s or  Souplantation, Claim Jumper has always struck me as a not terribly appetizing name for a restaurant. Prospectors, floppy hats, droopy mustaches, pick axes in hand, don’t make me think of steak or whatever it is that they serve there. And after finally dining at a Claim Jumper, I’m still not sure what to make of it.

claim jumper room

 

I loved it less than I thought I might. (As opposed to the P.F. Chang’s which I’m not blogging about but enjoyed–it will shock you that I don’t post everything here–in the upscale, outdoor shopping center practically across the street.) I assumed it was akin to Cheesecake Factory, something for everyone, kind of bananas decor, but the menu is far smaller in contrast to the enormous dining area that reads like three different ski lodges cobbled together. Nothing on the pricier-than-expected menu (not much under $14.99 and many of the steaks and seafood were over $25) made me excited about ordering.

claim jumper pretzel

Soft pretzels a.k.a pub pretzel, are just a vehicle for cheese sauce. The appetizers were all buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, artichoke dip with no twists at all. It was like they weren’t even trying. TGIFriday’s, just to use one example, adds asiago to its mozzarella sticks, panko-coats its chicken fingers, and makes its soft pretzels seem more special through adjectives. Witness “craft beer cheese dipping sauce” with “crispy applewood-smoked bacon.” Maybe I should appreciate Claim Jumper’s confidence and simplicity.

claim jumper salad

 

Cobb salad might’ve been a vehicle for the only vegetables I ate in my nearly two weeks. I topped it with semi-tough beef tips for an $18.99 salad, which is more than touristy midtown pubs charge (I’m a mild connoisseur of pub steak salads).  I actually took leftovers home despite salads always being gross later, and the tiny house where I was staying did not have a refrigerator yet. I just gnawed on the cold meat the next morning.

Claim Jumper * 18000 SW Lower Boones Ferry Rd., Tualatin, OR

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Two Meals in Astoria (Oregon not Queens)

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Buoy Beer Company Everyone, if they even know what Astoria, Oregon is, says to go to the Goonie house but I don’t really give a shit about Goonies. It’s a weirdly millennial folly despite the movie coming out in 1985. I mean, there was an entire big spread a few summers back in Lucky Peach devoted to Goonies (which doesn’t appear to be online and it’s just as well because my links might be dead sooner rather than later). I was really more impressed by the seal, ship, and rainbow I captured through the window while sitting inside Buoy Beer Company.

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I lucked out because it was stout month and that’s my scene, not the IPAs plaguing the Pacific Northwest. And the food was surprisingly (not sure why I was surprised) good. I had an oyster pot pie, filled with super plump oysters, local, of course, with maybe the best side salad (pickled vegetables, asparagus spears, homemade croutons and dressing, a scattering of seeds) I’ve ever encountered. The Oregon pink shrimp cheesey bread was totally overkill but delicious, nonetheless.

humps

Fort George Brewery Astoria was meant to be a day trip since it’s only an hour-and-a-half up Route 30 from Scappoose where I saw a second branch of Itxtapa, a bar/restaurant called Hump’s, and a long-closed dilapidated near-shack called Myong’s Seoul Food, surprising since I can’t imagine any Koreans living in this part of Oregon, but I got a motel for like $60 and decided to stay overnight.

fort george fish

Dinner was tricky because after dark, in winter, on Monday, the town was ghosty, the only people on the street were shouty doorway-sleepers. I wanted to go to Albatross & Co. (dungeness crab deviled eggs, oyster chowder poutine, craft cocktails, blah blah) but it wasn’t open.  It’s not that weird to eat at two different brewpubs for two meals on the same day in Oregon. I really wanted the steak frites with blue cheese sauce, which my companion ordered, but settled for a smoked fish plate teeming with salmon, trout, pickled herring. Also smoked hazelnuts/filberts (I’m trying to bring back the latter usage). Yes, we could’ve shared.

astoria video store

Astoria, set where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, is hard to pin down. Like most Oregon Coast towns it’s a bit rough and tumble but there are cutesier elements creeping in. There was just not a video store still in business downtown, but also a JCPenney and Sears in 1940s (just guessing the era) storefronts, which I didn’t get to take photos of before the sun set. But also a vintage hardware shop, a hair salon called Hygge, and a modern, faux old-timey butcher, which I have a hard time imaging enough clientele to sustain it. I swear my grandma worked at a Kenny Roger’s Roasters in Astoria in the ’90s, but maybe that was Seaside since I never ever visited her in Astoria, and now that I say that, it seems mildly absurd like something fleeting that occurred in a dream and decades later it seems like a fact. Maybe I’ll ask her about it.

 

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Two Meals in Eugene

mame duo

Mame It took the longest time to realize this restaurant was pronounced mah-may not like mame as in Auntie. Sushi in Eugene is something I never thought I’d care to experience but I told my sister I would take her and her husband out for her birthday and she chose this place, which requires reservations weeks in advance, not typical of this town, because Mame is tiny but also because it has a good reputation.

The sushi was very good, a mix of traditional and creative. I didn’t parse it. We were just drinking a well-priced Honjozo sake and having a good time. (The server animatedly described every single bottle on the menu. This would be weird in NYC–or I suppose, Tokyo–but she was just excited about the list she’d put together.) Omakase starts at a bargain rate $20 so I went wild and asked for $40 per person.  The top photo illustrates what was presented for three. My fear was that Mame wasn’t the best idea for my sister’s vegetarian husband (both former vegans) was unfounded. Duh, it’s Eugene. He was presented with tons of vegetarian sushi, a noodle dish, followed by hand rolls that he couldn’t finish, and we were only charged $30 because the chef (I think the partner of the server) didn’t think the ingredients merited $40. The dinner was capped off with a free red bean cheesecake for the birthday girl.

My sister, with a critical eye, said that none of the diners looked like neighborhood types. I couldn’t tell because I have no idea what passes for upscale in Eugene. I had just seen a man with a hook for a hand in a bar. I guess not living under a bridge? The bathroom isn’t inside the restaurant. It’s outside, around the back. We were joking, after my sister returned, that a homeless guy was camped out in the bathroom and the wildly ebullient server overheard (there’s no private conversations in this space) and apologized. Eugene is very earnest.

The Vintage Probably not my first choice for brunch. The website makes it seem more modern, but it’s kind of fusty. Can you shoehorn a restaurant in a old house (I don’t think this is only an Oregon thing but it’s definitely not an NYC thing) and make it feel otherwise? I don’t really even do brunch but I hadn’t seen my friend from college for at least eight years and this was her pick (everyone in Eugene is more money-conscious than I’m used to in NYC, and I don’t hang out with anyone rich–this friend had been at the same retail job for 15 years, making $2.25 above minimum wage–and I didn’t want to inadvertently choose someplace pricey). There was a 20 minute wait for a table and another 20 minute wait for food. It’s all crepes during the day and fondue at night, in a two-story old house, self-described as “quaint.” Enough said.