Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Manao Thai: Restaurant Review

Manao Thai Menu (click to enlarge)
I’m eager to return to Thailand for two of the same reasons why I’ll soon return to Manao Thai Restaurant: great food and endearing, gentle people.

I feel good when I support hardworking young people who pursue their dreams. Ekkachai Sakkayasukkalawong (a.k.a Chef Chew) recently started his new Sellwood Neighborhood restaurant in a city that is crowded with many Thai restaurants, some of which are very good. We struggled with the menu because there were many items we wanted to try. Would the khao soi taste like the khao soi we loved during our visits to Chiang Mai and other places in Thailand? But we wanted som tam and sticky rice. And we wanted the pork dish on the specials menu, and the seared chicken thighs marinated in Thai herbs with the sweet chili sauce. Because nothing on the menu costs more than $11.00 we decided to get three dishes, but not the khao soi. Not this time.

Unlike the chain restaurants, the menu does not rate the hotness or spiciness of the dishes. That’s a good thing, because the food is seasoned to order, so we could wimp out with “mild +.”

So the verdict? The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender, very flavorful, and the sweet chili sauce was more sweet than spicy. The pork and som tam, also, were terrific. And the rice? I love rice. Both the sticky rice and jasmine rice hit the spot.

On the way out, I nodded a “kap-kun-krap,” to the sweet woman who said good bye, and she responded with a huge smile and an enthusiastic “kap-kun-kaaa.”

We wish them well. Better still, we’ll return soon.

Manao Thai on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nicholas Restaurant Reev-Ku

Frigid breeze enters;
Huge steaming pita helps.
Shawarma good.

Swans visit Trout Lake

(Click photo to enlarge)

Creek outruns cold
Iced spider webs sparkle
Tundra swans bask

A few other photos here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

J & M Cafe: Restaurant Review

J&M Cafe has a great logo: A crowned pig head with wings. The interior space is airy, pleasant and orderly, with exposed brick walls up to the second floor, which is supported by huge old-growth beams. The atmosphere is cordial and very relaxed. You serve yourself coffee and water.

Despite the pig logo, one is not required to eat bacon, homemade pork chorizo, or crispy pork-cornmeal sausage glazed with maple syrup. You can deprive yourself and go with the tofu scramble, lox and bagels, or, if you just want to watch everyone else pig out, eat the ten-grain hot cereal. The different scrambles include different cheeses and are delicious. Last Saturday, the room was full, but the wait was very short.

J & M Cafe is a pleasant place to start your day with a friend, a newspaper, cup of coffee and good food that someone else cooks for you. What more can you ask from a breakfast place?

J&M Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Irving Street Kitchen - Review

Irving Street Kitchen (ISK) is the Portland outpost for three men who operate three restaurants in San Francisco. ISK fits the San Francisco and Pearl District mold of urbane and urban, with eye-catching, interior decorator touches that make the cavernous, brick-exposed old loading dock interesting. How about milk bottle chandeliers? Or a few booths with privacy curtains? We had a table for nine sectioned off by low bookcases, giving us a sense of coziness, yet allowing us to see if any fashionable people walk in.

Fried chicken and mashed potatoes highlights the down-to-earth menu options. The charcuterie, which included duck prosciutto and rabbit pâté sits on the other end of the continuum. And that about summarizes it: Southern food, such as ham, collard greens, and jambalaya is the counterpoint to something like butternut squash risotto or salmon. I found the happy middle with a whole trout, cooked just right, wrapped in pancetta (which stuck, inextricably, onto the skin). It was very good, but, perhaps, the chef might have put more seasoning inside of the fish. Don’t forget to ask for ISK’s terrific bread.

My brother asked for an alteration to a dish or something off-menu. “No way,” said the kind waiter, which made me believe that there were no chefs on duty, only cooks. Contrast that with the Stephanie Inn, which asks in advance if anyone has food restrictions and then is willing to do cartwheels to make sure you are happy.

ISK has an interesting wine gimmick, which, no doubt, also increases profit margins: wine right out of the barrel and into a big jar, to be poured into your glass.

ISK is a good restaurant, not a brilliant restaurant. The lowbrow food on the menu is overpriced. ISK can be quite a scene, especially on First Thursday. Now, after my second visit, I’d say that perhaps your best option is to hang out at the bar for the atmosphere, drink a glass of barrel wine, and order a side of cornbread and butter if you’re in bubba-mode or sautéed kale with garlic if your feeling Pearl.

Irving Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon