La Bamba

Having recently finished a weekend of eating out a lot, generally in celebration of my 7th wedding anniversary but also because I like eating out, I figured this week would involve lots of not-eating-out. So what a pleasant surprise when my friend Dave asked if my wife and I would like to go out todinner tonight.

The decision of where to eat was left to me, and I opted for Mexican food.

A couple of years ago, I mentioned in an old post on the Portland Metroblog that Portland has a serious dearth of good Mexican food. Recently, one of my favorite places, Romo’s, shut down, and I was left in a bit of a learch until my wife heard about La Bamba. Located on SE 49th and Powell, the restaurant appears to be family-owned.

In my two visits, I’ve found two truths. The place is not busy. And the food is some of the best Mexican I’ve ever had.

Last night, I opted for the Burrito Cancun. A combination of shrimp, crab, and chicken stuffed into a flour tortilla, it was absolutely delicious. The beans that came with it were typically delicious black beans. The rice was good, not too dry and well-flavored, which I find to be the exception as opposed to the rule in the world of Mexican rices.

There’s a wide selection of drinks available, though I always lean towards beer with Mexican food. The restaurant has all the usual suspects in bottles (including Corona and Sol, which are the beers I lean towards in these contexts) as well as a variety of local micros and other beers (Dave had a Mirror Pond on tap).

La Bamba has a very diverse menu. See these examples...

I’ve found that although there are all of the usual things that one could jump to in order to have what they’re used to (chimichangas, fish tacos, etc.), I’ve also found that the menu has a lot of exciting stuff that I’ve never seen before, and as such I find La Bamba to be an exciting, and inexpensive, place to challenge my palate and discover something new. I hope to see you there.


For our anniversary dinner, the wife and I headed out to Higgins, which we've been to once previously and like enough for a return visit.

The restaurant, located on Jefferson and Broadway in downtown Portland, is a beautifully-appointed place, ideal for a quiet dinner with someone special. The service is among the best in town, very attentive and quite knowledgeable about the components of the constantly-shifting menu and the over-sized bar selection. And the creations capitalize on local fare, as the place is owned and operated by local institution and super-chef Greg Higgins.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a menu that boasted a variety of starters, mostly focussing on local fresh seafood and seasonal vegetable. My wife opted for the salad of "gathered greens," which has an interesting sound to it (so yuppy), while I had a wonderful potato-broccoli puree soup that was just fabulous.

For dinner, my wife opted for the off-menu special flat-iron steak. It came with potatoes and parsnips, but she had been hoping for polenta, and they were kind enough to make a substitution without any trouble.
I opted for the pasta e fagioli, as I've been shifting away from meaty dishes towards dishes lower in fat and higher in variety. For lack of a more insightful description, it was ridiculously good.

For dessert, my wife had a chocolate something-or-other. I had a warm apple crisp with vanilla bean ice cream.

The dinner was expensive, but also quite good. Higgins is a great event-type restaurant: anniversaries; birthdays; family-in-town. It isn't my favorite place, but I cannot say anything other than it's a great part of our local food scene.


On Saturday, JLowe and I took our wives out for sushi at Masu, on the 400 block of SW 13th.

My wife and I had been one time previously, around Christmas time, and had found it to be worth a quick return. The reasons to go there are numerous.
First, the place is incredibly hip. I've yet to find a sushi place in town that I just can't stand, but with each one you get a different vibe. There's the usually-cramped Koji's type places, which are generally not very big but are bright and clean and spare in appointments. There's Kappaya, on Division, which has okay food but is essentially a dive to sit in. There's Yoko's in SE Portland on Gladstone, which is still one of my favorite places, which is dimly lit but really non-descript, in my opinion, if you're trying to define the style.

Masu is different from them all. The place is just south of the Pearl District, but has all the industrial-hip, low-light and big windows flare of all of my favorite places there.

Of course, the reason to go to these places is never so much the atmosphere, but instead is about the food. And, as sushi goes, Masu is currently 1a on my list (if Yoko's is 1) of the top places in town.

The servings at Masu are generally quite generous. Nigiri, as usual, comes in servings of two pieces per order. Rolls generally come in servings of 6-12 pieces, depending on what kind you get. They aren't inexpensive, but that said, they are worth what you pay. The fish is very good quality, the combinations in the rolls are creative, and there are a variety of interesting sauces that get worked into the rotation which provide some interesting variety you don't get at most places.

And they have a neat nigiri order of quail egg on fish egg, which is good for impressing the ladies.

And then bonus points to any place that has a future-tech hand-warmer in the restroom...

Masu is incredible. I'll be going back to Yoko's to see if a re-ranking is in order. And I'm interested in suggestions for other sushi places in town, so share your thoughts...

No Fish Go Fish

No Fish Go Fish, the food cart, has already been covered on this blog. What we haven’t discussed, however, is No Fish Go Fish, the restaurant (located at 40th and Hawthorne).

I’ve had a few opportunities to go recently. We went on my daughter’s second birthday, knowing that she’d love the “No Fish,” which are specially-prepared, fish-shaped cornmeal pastries containing a variety of fillings, while we enjoyed one of the scratch-made soups.

This weekend, to launch our anniversary eat-a-rama, we changed our minds. We’d been planning Pambiche, but had made the plan thinking that we’d already have left our daughter with her grandmother. Things didn’t work out like planned, however, so we chose a more family-friendly lunch location.

For this visit, my wife enjoyed the “Cowboy Chowder,” a concoction of rice, cheese, and potatoes in some sort of creamy broth. I went for the lentil dal, which is always fantastic and is a mainstay at No Fish Go Fish. For fish, I had a mushroom pate (one of the new line of special No Fish) and the black olive, garlic, and basil No Fish, while my daughter had Apple Cinnamon and a PB&J.

No Fish Go Fish is super-affordable; the average lunch special (soup and two No Fish) is about $5.50, and if you choose a deluxe No Fish the cost goes up by fifty cents each. And the people working there, whether one of the two owners or one of their chums, are always friendly. At the restaurant itself, you can opt for non-soup items, but where the strength of No Fish Go Fish is the soup, there’s no real reason to diverge from the really good stuff.


The Chart House

For New Year's Eve, we went to one of my favorite restaurants...the Chart House. My wife and I were joined by Rusty and his wife.

Our reservations were for 8:30 pm. Alas, we were not seated until about 10 pm. The place was packed, and it was New Year's Eve, so I wasn't too upset. That was the only down-side to the evening.

We started with two appetizers, the crab-stuffed mushrooms and the calamari. Both were delicous, and there was enough for four people (even after the 1 1/2 hour wait).

For dinner, my wife had the Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi (she always has the Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi). I opted for the swordfish, blackened. She loved her selection (that's why she always gets it). And, I must say, my swordfish was the best I have ever had, anywhere. It was blackened to perfection, and the swordfish was moist and tender.

For dessert, each couple ordered the Hot Chocolate Lava Cake. Here's the description from the menu: "Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, molten center, Dreyer's® vanilla ice cream, served with warm chocolate sauce and Heath Bar Crunch>" The shorter description would be "chocolate sin." If you are going to select this for dessert, and you really must order it, please be advised that you must order it when you order your dinner, as it takes 20 minutes, to prepare.

All in all, a wonderful evening and meal...good company, good food and a good view. The Chart House demonstrated once again why it remains in my top ten restaurants in Portland.


New Year's Addendum

JLowe and I both gained a lot of weight this holiday season. He from his father's excellent cooking, me from my penchant for appetizers at my wife's and my various functions.

Anyway, the first half of January we're in detox mode, doing the annual flushing of our systems using the much-reviled but remarkably effective "The Master Cleanse" diet.

So, anyway, don't expect much new in the next two weeks (although JLowe did claim dibs on writing up our foursome's New Year's Eve outing to The Charthouse, which--aside from being seated an hour after our reservation time--was absolutely lovely).

New Year's Resolutions and the Appropriate Canning of the Rules

2007 was a banner year for our little blog here. Over the course of just a few months, we put out 76 posts, almost all with something worthwhile to say about the local food scene, and received 7,021 hits. Not too shabby.

But what is perhaps more remarkable is the amout of content that didn't get put up this year. We have this rule, you see: no writing about a place once a whole day has passed since you ate there. The rule was designed to ensure only the freshest of posts. The rule ended up killing a lot of good material.

Some of the places that didn't get posted last year, despite our gastronomic endeavors at each:

  • The Hunan
  • Gresham Typhoon
  • Masu Sushi
  • Yuki Sushi
  • Buffalo Wildwings
  • The Charthouse
  • Chin Yen
  • Jake's Bar and Grill
  • Gustav's
  • La Bamba

And, certainly, many more I'm just failing to remember.

Seems our "freshness" rule got in the way of sharing quality info. So, our New Year's resolutions:

MORE POSTS, MORE PICTURES, and NO MORE RULES (at least, none that constrain us from offering useful info; if a post will suffer from too much time passing, we'll let it go in favor of another outing).

Also, if you have a place you're interested in and want to know about, let us know. We take suggestions, but chances are also pretty high that, between JLowe and I, we've been there and can offer some advice.

Finally, I hereby declare the death of GastroBoy. He was once a useful member of this blog; now he's just dead weight. Fare thee well, Chuck.