Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Portland Restaurant Wrap Up

Way back in November, when I started my adventure into this bloggy world, I had thought that I would mostly write about restaurants and maybe recipes, since I really like cooking and eating. ;-) That soon got to be pretty boring, however, so I moved on. Every once in awhile, however, I go to a restaurant, and I think, "I'd like to write a little review about that." So, while we were in Portland, we ate at several restaurants, and I kind of intended to write about them all. But now I'm thinking I'll just skip the places in Ashland and Eugene, and talk about the most memorable places we went.

Our first night in Portland, we went out walking, looking for a restaurant for dinner. The only place we walked by that looked pretty good was Thai food, I think, and seeing as how I had very recently suffered from food poisoning at PF Chang's, my stomach kind of went flippy floppy at the thought of Asian food of any kind. So we ended up eating at the hotel restaurant, which was a weird restaurant called Shula's. Don Shula was a big shot in the NFL, but since I know nothing about football, I didn't really care about that. Too bad, because the walls were covered with NFL memorabilia, and the menu was written on a football. They brought a football to your table. Kind of strange. Then, when they take your order, they bring out all of the different cuts of raw meat, so you can decide which one you want to eat. Again, strange. (The steaks were hygenically wrapped in plastic wrap, so the waitress could pick them up and show us.) I am a big lover of the tomato, so for my appetizer, I ordered beefsteak tomato and gorgonzola. It was HUGE. Also not so tasty. Bummer. The tomato was kind of watery and didn't have a lot of flavor. I'm also a fan of the Rib Eye, which at Shula's is called the Cowboy Steak, so I ordered that. It was pretty tasty, though maybe not as good as a few others I've had in my day. Really, I get tired of places where you pay $30 for your entree, and you have to pay extra for a baked potato. Not that I WANTED a baked potato, after working on that almost 2 lb steak and a tomato as big as my head, but I still have issues with the concept. Maybe it's my past at Mr. Steak, where the potato that cost the company a nickel didn't cost the customer any extra. Maya didn't eat much, just a few bites of my steak, mostly because when we arrived at the hotel, our room wasn't ready, so when we were finally able to go up, they sent her a huge bowl of ice cream, in addition to the candy bar they gave her while we waited.

My dad and step mom took us out for Lebanese food one night, at Ya Hala restaurant. We ordered the Mezza Combination, which is supposed to be for 4 people, but was plenty of food for all six of us. It included homous, baba ghanouj, tabouli, falafel, dolmas, makaly, labne, fatayer, shankleesh and vegetarian kibbeh, as well as lamb, chicken and kafta kabobs. I copied that from their online menu, so don't ask me what some of the lesser known dishes were, because I don't remember. ;) Everything was yummy, though, and the service was OK. Not great, not bad. But the food was really nice.

I think our best Portland meal was at a place called Jo Bar, on oh so trendy and cool 23rd St. in the NW part of town. Jo Bar is the sister restaurant to Papa Haydn, which is right next door, and also has another restaurant on the SE side of town. Papa Haydn is known for their fabulous desserts, a fact of which we were unaware at the time of our dinner. We just stopped in because I had eaten on 23rd street several times on past trips, and this place looked good. It was. VERY good. I had wild salmon over corn polenta. I know, corn polenta sounds somewhat redundant, but this was polenta with some corn kernels mixed in. Cherry has been trying to convince me for a few years now that polenta is actually quite tasty, but I have thus far been unimpressed. Even at the yummy Zax Tavern, the polenta is disgusting. Why, then, would I order a meal that clearly states it comes with polenta, right there on the menu? I don't know. I think part of me is hoping to find some polenta that I like. And, really, unless I'm starving, restaurants serve too much food, so if I don't like the polenta, it's no big deal, I just don't eat it. More room for dessert that way. ;) Well, the polenta I was served at Jo Bar was truly delicious. Creamy, smooth, not gloppy. Not fried and bitter tasting. Just yummy creamy goodness, with the sweetness and the texture of the corn kernels thrown in. Mmm. Cherry, I'm sorry. I'll never doubt you again. I'll even try your Brussels sprouts, if you want me to. It's been too long now, though, so I don't remember what Ted and Maya had for dinner, or even if we had any dessert. Maybe some sorbet? I don't THINK so. But the salmon was perfect, and the polenta was a revelation.

If you're ever in Portland, I'm going to suggest you check out Jo Bar (save some room for dessert, though) and also try Ya Hala. Mmmm.

Oh, and honorable mention goes to a very yummy deli in Portland, with two locations. It's called Elephants Delicatessen, and they have some very tasty treats. Their soup is killer, and Ted found that you can blend them together if you want. They made a blend for him that I think was 1/3 tomato-orange soup (too rich by itself) and 2/3 Italian veggie. The guy who rang him up said it was the best soup they have. Which made me wonder why they don't just offer it as one of the options? Anyway, it's a yummy secret, so you may want to check that out as well. :)

Enjoy eating Portland!

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