Restaurants & Bars

Pacific Northwest Mexican

[PDX] Be Van, Mi Wa, Tiger's Garden, Sabor Mexicana

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[PDX] Be Van, Mi Wa, Tiger's Garden, Sabor Mexicana

extramsg | Jan 8, 2005 03:17 AM

Hit a few new places last couple days.

BE VAN
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Went in to Nam Phuong, a Vietnamese market on Sandy, to see what they had. Pretty weak selection. They did have lots of cheap beef bones, but didn't seem much else. Thanh Thao down the street is much better.

Decided to grab a bite at Be Van next door since I had missed the banh mi crawl (see here: http://www.portlandfood.org/modules.p...). I like bahn mi okay, but not as much as most good American sandwiches. But they're cheap as hell and tasty enough.

Had the number one, pork, ham, and sausage, I think. The bread was nice and crusty and the filling was adequately moist and balanced. I didn't notice the bread being different in style from other banh mi as Jill described and I wonder if they've gone to a new supplier. They have a couple free internet stations for customers, plus lottery. Also a couch.

MI WA
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Next door is Mi Wa, a Vietnamese restaurant I've passed by but never made an effort to eat at because they advertise Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese food. They're actually connected to Be Van and it wouldn't surprise me if they're owned by the same people.

Grabbed a menu. It's dominated by Vietnamese dishes. Lots of typical stuff -- bo kho, pho, bun bo hue, various non-soup noodle dishes, banh xeo, and rice dishes.

The Thai and Chinese dishes are mixed in with Vietnamese names and English descriptions. Most Chinese dishes appear to be straight-forward chicken and beef stir-fries. Also the ubiquitous salt and pepper squid and other seafood. I didn't see much obvious Thai food, except pad thai.

Plenty of vegetarian dishes, too. Prices are typical with nearly everything $7.25 or under.

So, anyone been here? Any good?

TIGER'S GARDEN
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Went to this relatively new Thai & Laotion restaurant in downtown Vancouver. It's set next to Esther Short Park and the new condo developments. Vancouver's really making an effort to clean up downtown, though I don't know if it'll work in the long run. If nothing else, you still have to go across that damned bridge.

It's nice enough inside. Not as nice as the nearby Thai Orchid, but pleasant. There was a live kaffir lime tree next to me and it smelled nice. The napkins suck. They're absolutely horrendous. Every time I wiped my hands, I had torn paper stuck to my fingers.

The menu is pretty typical. Some less common items are: Lao Salad, Jungle Soup, Lao Spicy Mussells, Kuar Mee Lao, and Lao Noodle Soup. Basically the Lao dishes.

We just got some basics for us to check their execution: chicken wings, papaya salad, green curry, pineapple curry.

The chicken wings were just straight-forward deep-fried wings with a sweet chili sauce. Allegedly they were marinated, but I don't think so. I think the sauce came post-cooking, not pre. They were fine, though. I don't know why I chose them, though. Weird choice for me. I just hadn't eaten all day.

I asked if we could get the papaya salad Lao style and they said no. Kind of odd. First Lao place in Portland that hasn't had it Lao style. Unfortunate, too, because to my palate, it needed a big dose of fish sauce. I would have asked for some if I saw the server before the salad was gone. The papaya were mixed with a large portion of shredded carrot. The papaya itself wasn't very crispy, I didn't think. It was served with iceberg and a tiny amount of tomato.

The green curry was mine. I like green curries as a test because freshness matters more with them and even when using a commerical curry paste, with some care, a restaurant can supplement these with lots of fresh ingredients. It was decent, very light on curry, heavy on vegetables, including bamboo shoots, Chinese eggplant, bell peppers, basil, lime leaves, and peas. The eggplant were cooked nicely. I'm not a fan of Chinese eggplant and I wish more places would use Thai eggplants. They're easy enough to get in Portland. But at least they didn't have long chunks of mushy eggplant. Instead, they were slivers cooked very lightly still with some substance. The curry itself was a bit sweet and not very spicy. They didn't ask for heat levels on anything even though they do have a star range on their menu (I now notice). I think they just assumed we wanted everything mild (though the som tum did have too much fire for my wife).

I didn't have too many bites of my wife's curry. It was much more bland and even less spicy than mine. The sauce to "stuff" ratio was similar and my wife barely went through half her rice by the time she was done. Normally, both because of the heat and the amount of curry, she eats much more. (She also usually has about half left-over, but this time had none). She complained about the weak flavor to begin with, but did say it grew on her.

The service was *slow*. The people next to us had to ask after waiting about 10 minutes for their change. We waited a while for our check and no one even came by so we could bug them. They also kept on screwing up orders, delivering dishes to the wrong table several times. Additional warning: the water has a nasty taste to it. Prices are fair, but not a deal, especially with the smaller than average portions. Most items with typical MOYC are $9 for dinner, $8 for lunch. Seafood goes above $10.

It's not a bad place. I might go back if I were in that part of town. It's certainly one of the better options from Delta Park to 4th Plain along I-5. I don't know that it's any better than Thai Orchid, however. And Thai Little Home is only another 5 minutes away. But I didn't try any of the stir fry or noodle dishes (although the fried rice dishes looked a little sad). But with Arawan walking distance from my house, plus 3 other Thai restaurants that I would put in the same class as TG, there's not much reason for me to travel to it.

SABOR MEXICANA
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This little restaurant is next to the Fiesta market on Grand just south of Mill Plain in Vancouver. Tried a couple crappy tacos from them, but may go back because they have the only Mexican buffet I've seen in Portland/Vancouver. (There is one in Woodburn, I know.)

It had been shut down for a couple hours, but not cleaned up yet and was a little scary. It primarily consists of guisados (stews), plus tostadas and dessert items. They change depending on the whim of the chef, but tonight they had chicken en mole (looked like poblano), chicharrones en salsa roja, puerco en salsa verde, nopales in some sort of stew with onions, eggs and chiles in sauce, papas con chorizo, and one or two others.

For $6.50, it might be worth a try, especially close to when the buffet opens at 10 am.

The tienda next door has a decent selection of dried chiles, a variety of Mexican cheeses, basic canned and jarred goods, clothing, panes dulces, and tortillas.

Link: http://www.extramsg.com

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