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Portland trip report

hubfood | Jun 14, 201808:06 PM

Had a great time in Portland, lots of hiking, beaches, waterfalls, a concert, friends, and all around good fun. But this discussion is about the food, so to keep on topic:

The bad. I was not able to get into Han Oak. A last minute change by a friend I was meeting for dinner, then I wasn't able to get a reservation. So I tried walking in on a Sunday night. Despite the restaurant's web site stating they hold seats at the bar open for walk ins (and even a call confirming this), they had overbooked and only took 2 walk ins for the entire evening. Humpff!

On the opposite end of spectrum, the best two meals of the trip were at Lang Baan and at Coquine. Lang Baan was a multi-course tasting menu inspired by southern Thailand. Highlights included kanom krok, minced scallop in coconut cream in a small rice cup; muek dtom nahm dum, cuttlefish in a pork/ink broth with young coconut and green mango; tumeric rice served with braised goat red curry and lon plaa khem, a minced ground pork and salted mackeral mix. Lots of great flavors and interesting combinations!

Coquine was by contrast is French. For an appetizer, fried Monteray squid with an interestign espalette-cashew sauce and some greens (calcots and rapini). The halibut was cooked beautifully, with uni butter, asparagus, and leeks. Dinner was so good, that I came back the next night, when I couldn't get into Han Oak, and to get the japanese honey cake dessert which they had run out of the first night! (the second dinner, snap peas appetizer and lamb main course was good, but not as great as the squid and halibut)

Also had a good meal at Ava Gene's. The gnocco fritto was like something I had before in Italy: a fried, puffed up piece of bread into which you put procutto and stratachella cheese, and Ava Gene's version also had chili jam for a little kick. A small salad with fresh sugar peas and green strawberries, very seasonal. And ditalia pasta with peas and ham; the pasta was nice and al dente and the peas were sweet and fresh, but the ham was a little sparse.

I had Maya Lovelace's fried chicken at Mae's. Wonderfully tender as she soaks it in buttermilk for a day in preparation. That and the small biscuits with different spreads (sea salt butter, pimento cheese, ham) were the highlights of the meals. The chicken was also much better than Hat Yali, which I had earlier the same day, and found some parts to be a little dry/overcooked.

Ox was also good. Tripe and octopus in a spicy tomato sauce for an appetizer, with well cooked tripe and several small rounds of octopus tentacle made for a good spread on bread. Lamb chops were bone in, with a nice buttery taste and no need for the chimichiri sauce.

I had grilled razor clams at Bell Bouy at the coast in Seaside. Yum! Fried razor clams from Newport Seafood Grill (a chain) were not as good by comparison, with the flavor lost in the lemon-butter breading. I was also able to find some decent fish and chips in southeast Portland, at the Portland Fish Market which offers window service on the side of the building, with a few picnic tables to sit and enjoy at.

A little late night snacking at Headwaters, where I sampled chicken fried morels (ok), herring under a fur coat (more refined than the home-made version I had before), and a rockfish slider (little hard to taste the fish). An unexpected 3% wellness charge was on the bill.

Luc Lac happy hour was probably better for after drinking snacking. The crispy roll was good but hard to get the sweet chili sauce on it. A spring roll was larger (in diameter) than I'm used to, but the difference was mostly due to more noodle. Shrimp skewers were overcooked and not so good. The bo tai (beef cooked by citrus) is probably not a common order, and better left that way.

Lunch at Wild North food cart was interesting. Like fancy food but from a food cart! A small smoked trout chowder in bread bowl was delicious but way too much more bread bowl than chowder. Lamb en creote was decent, but the accompanying peas were cold and carrots only so-so, without much flavor.

Went looking for kouign aman. I love the version from Patisserie Kouign Aman in Montreal, where it is baked like a pie with multiple layers, then cut into slices for service. Versions from St Honore and Little t American bakeries were individually prepared and not as flaky or pastry like for my taste.

I think that's enough.

Han Oak Restaurant,
Ava Gene's,
OX Restaurant,
Hat Yai,
Bell Buoy of Seaside,
Newport Seafood Grill,
Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen,
Wild North,
St. Honoré Bakery NW Thurman,
St. Honoré Bakery SE Division
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