27 August 2014

Pok Pok

Pok Pok is one of the most interesting Thai restaurants in the United States. With locations in Portland and New York City, James Beard Award-winning chef Andy Ricker scours the Thai countryside for explosively flavorful dishes that are deeply authentic.

Ricker has a high profile. Recent media appearances include being a judge on Beat Bobby Flay and a full length documentary from Vice. His passion for the cuisine of Thailand is evident in every plate he serves.

A place with this much publicity obviously can generate a little bit of a wait for diners. Reservations are not accepted for parties smaller than 6. Luckily, the Whiskey Soda Lounge, Ricker's Thai bar food spot, is located across the street. It is a great place to grab a cocktail during the inevitable wait. The reservation systems were connected, and the bartenders are able to tell you when your reservation has been called from across the street. The text message system can also alert you via phone. Try not to fill up on the delicious looking menu at Whiskey Soda Lounge before venturing back for the main attraction.

The atmosphere of the restaurant changes depending on your location. Some areas are vibrant, while others seemed more restrained. Service was excellent. The menu is marked for vegetarians, but staff can make additional recommendations when needed.

If the menu lists an item as spicy, believe it. The heat on the papaya salad (papaya pok pok, the house dish) creeps, going from a subtle wisp of chili to a full blown inferno in a matter of three to five bites. The texture of unripe papaya gives the dish a meaty chew, and the flavors alternate with layers of lime, tamarind and peanuts. 

The het paa nom tok is a forest mushroom salad dressed with soy sauce, lime and chili. The mushrooms were thinly sliced, and the dish showcased the essence of black pepper, cilantro and sweet smoke.

Cocktails were outstanding. The apple gin Rickey was made with the Pok Pok Som apple drinking vinegar, which gave the drink a bright acidity to contrast the herbaceous gin. 

Pok Pok on Urbanspoon

22 August 2014

Tasty N Sons

Tasty N Sons is the cousin of the popular Toro Bravo restaurant. There are two locations, the second being Tasty N Alder. Tasty N Sons is located in the Boise neighborhood.

Almost every restaurant in Portland offers some form of brunch. Brunch is almost its own regional culinary tradition with religious significance. But Tasty N Sons really could be the best brunch in the city.

There are classic breakfast options with local spins. The menu also has Spanish options in the style of Toro Bravo with small plates to match. 

The potatoes bravas were saucier than the most rigid interpretation of the classic dish. Despite the modern spin, it was a different take on a breakfast potato dish that is good enough to fight over if it's being shared.

The sweet biscuits were dusted in powdered sugar and served with Oregon blueberries and marionberries. The buttery biscuit pairs fantastically with fruit and cream.

The fried green tomatoes were thinly sliced and dusted with a flawless panko crust. It was served with a bright remoulade.

The staff easily handled all vegetarian and vegan dining concerns, even offering modified versions of dishes to conform to dietary requirements. Service was friendly, fun and well paced.

Tasty N Sons has a full bar, and there were classic brunch drinks like the bloody Mary and mimosas, as well as other riffs on other classic cocktails. The wine list has some great selections, and it offers a nice range of options.

Tasty n Sons on Urbanspoon

20 August 2014

Rogue Distillery and Public House

Oregon is a brewing wonderland, and Portland may well be at the heart of it all. The city, called Beervana by brew-loving visitors, is home to a number of high-profile breweries. The brewery that put the Beaver State on the map, though, is Rogue. The Newport brewer has a brew pub in Portland, and it is a great spot to sample the off-the-radar offerings that fit the slogan, "Dedicated to the rogue in each of us."

Sure, you can get Rogue ales in almost a reputable liquor store in any state in America. However, there are plenty of barrel-aged and otherwise unavailable brews at the Public House that make it worth seeking out. Rogue was one of the United States' first breweries to make spirits, which can also be sampled here.

The food, for the most part, was run-of-the-mill brew pub fare. Dishes had a nice focus on Pacific Northwest ingredients. An apt description would be forgettable pub grub. 

But why go for the food? Delicious food can be found all over Portland. Go here for the brews.

Four sample size brews cost $6.50. It is a good way to sample the catalog. Interesting choices on my visit included the marionberry braggot, six different pale ales (Juniper pale, 200 Meter IPA, XSIPA, and the cask aged Imperial IPA being most interesting), cask aged Imperial stout and Beard Beer, a wild ale. 

Designated drivers and the little ones in the back seat can enjoy Rogue root beer and sodas, which come in flavors like cucumber citrus.

Rogue Distillery & Public House on Urbanspoon

14 August 2014


Tucked in an unmarked space across the street from Beast, Expatriate is a speakeasy small plates spot in Northeast Portland. Cocktails that riff on the classics are mixed skillfully by Kyle Linden Webster, and they pair with small plates by Mrs. Linden Webster, a.k.a. Naomi Pomeroy of Top Chef Masters/James Beard Award fame. 

The space is dark with a stylish minimalist vibe. The mood can vary based upon the flavor of vinyl that the proprietor spins from his vault.

Every drink has a story. The old school drinks explain their origin, noting the inspiration. The Infante, named after Mexican idol Pedro Infante, mixes Pueblo Viejo tequila blanca, fresh lime juice, fresh orgeat and local honey. It is dusted with fresh grated nutmeg, and the spectacular ice cools the drink beautifully.

The Royal Hawaiian contrasts a spicy gin base accented with bitters and citrus juices. It is named for a hotel opened in the 1920s influenced by the work of Rudolph Valentino.

The food is every bit as interesting as the drinks. While there are only a few vegetarian options on the menu, everything was perfect paired with the cocktails. 

I will crave the James Beard tea sandwich until my dying day. Crustless white egg bread is layered with cold butter, parsley, thinly sliced white onions and crunchy grey sea salt. Imagine the most delicious cucumber sandwich and elevate it. 

The hot and sour Indian curry fries are liberally dusted in a makeshift garam masala, and served with cilantro raita, curry ketchup and sumac ranch. The hints of sweetness temper the spiciness, and the creamy condiments add another layer of richness to the gourmet bar snack.

Epatriate has popped up on the radar in many important places, including being nominated as one of Bon Appetit's 50 Best New Restaurants of 2014. It is a fun experience, less serious than Beast across the street. Neither Beast nor Expatriate should be missed, though Expatriate's menu seems more vegetarian friendly. 

Expatriate on Urbanspoon