Lucky Strike

There’s a down-side to writing about take-out.

It isn’t a complete reflection of the restaurant from which you’ve purchased the meal, and eating in your own home creates a loss.

Ambience, flavor, heat; these are all things that are robbed from the meal when you aren’t having it fresh and quick at the restaurant.

That said, sometimes take-out is a necessity. For a restaurant blog, the preference is to discuss dine-in. But when you’re at a place like Lucky Strike, that’s easier said than done.

Lucky Strike (12306 SE Powell) serves very good Asian cuisine. This much I knew before going there, as it was given a rave review in a recent issue of Portland Monthly.

A brief digression. “Best of” lists are great and all, but we prefer to figure out what’s best by personal experience, and we’re most likely to check out a place based upon word of mouth. There are times when we’ll go check out the hot new thing, whether its because a publication says so or it is just part of the local zeitgeist (for instance, The Original is high on my list of places I need to get to, based solely on buzz), but word-of-mouth is a better way to go.

Anyhow, my wife saw Lucky Strike in Portland Monthly and was pleased to see a restaurant near our home that was highly-touted. Thus, she demanded it tonight.

Having never gone there before, we drove over expecting to slide in for a nice dinner. We drove by out front to find cars all around the small building and people stacked up against the glass of the door. We pulled behind and I walked in to see if there was a take-out menu available (my suggestion of finding another place to go and dine in having been rebuffed). I found the inside to be tightly packed, with about 7 tables and 2 bar-type seats near the cash register. The biggest thing in the restaurant was the TV, which was playing the Blazers game. All of the seats were full, and no fewer than 6 people were standing in the cramped space available near the door, anxiously awaiting a seat.

I was given one of the plastic table menus and was permitted to take it out to the car for consultatation. I reviewed it with my wife, and we selected a nice array of items: the pineapple fried rice ($8), cold sesame noodles ($5), mano tofu ($9), Guiness pork ribs ($9), and “beans and beans” ($7). I called the number at the bottom of the menu and placed a take-out order. “Forty-five minutes,” I was told.

Frankly, I was a bit taken aback. A phone-in order to Sweet Basil takes 10 minutes. Very few places, frankly, take more than 30. However, this was an important experiment, so I agreed.

After running some errands and taking the wife and kids back home, I returned about 45 minutes later. The place was still quite busy. I checked in with the guy at the counter, who checked and told me that he was sorry to say that it would be another 15 minutes. This wasn’t pleasing, but I went along with it.

I went outside to wait. Twittered a bit, e-mailed a reader who was soliciting food advice, Twittered a bit more, texted my wife regarding my status, checked on the Blazer game through the window. Finally, 15 minutes had gone by and I headed back in.

The guy went back to check on my food. He (wisely, perhaps) decided to just attend to other things. If he’d told me I’d be waiting another 15 minutes, I may have just left. He didn’t, so I stood awkwardly amidst the small space, waiting and watching the Blazers.

So, about an hour and fifteen minutes after ordering, and about half an hour after coming to get my food, it was finally given to me. The guy was apologetic, but not as apologetic as I was thinking he should be (with that wait, comping me something would’ve been a good play), I paid and tipped (more than I probably should have) and off I went.

When I got home, I cracked open everything and took in the variety of odors. The Guiness ribs had a sweet odor with the unmistakeable earthy/chocolately Guiness undertones. The sesame noodles had a vinegar-and-sesame smell. The mano tofu was pungent and spicy, and a bit nutty. The pineapple fried rice smelled exactly as you’d expect. The beans and beans was green beans and hot red peppers, and smelled accordingly. I dished up a plate (used the steamed rice as a base for the tofu, which had a plentiful amount of sauce)and then it was time to dine.

I have to say, the food is good. The pineapple fried rice was supposed to be sweet, but the pineapple used was obviously canned and not impressive; that said, the package was pretty decent, and as I'd ordered it as a non-offensive item for my four year-old, I wasn't expecting much. The sesame noodles were much better than I’d thought they would be, and merited seconds immediately. The tofu was very, very spicy, sending me into a fit of hiccups followed by sneezing. Despite how that may sound, it was awesome. The ribs were less-than-expected; they seemed to taste a bit cardboard-y, which may have been a result of the Guiness or may have had something to do with being boxed; either way, I’d like to try them in the restaurant to give them a fair shake. All together, the food was quite good, but not as good as you could get at Thien Hong, which is a blog favorite.

I came away feeling a bit cheated; being so highly touted may have set me up for a disappointment, so I’ll try not to be unfair about it. And, again, a review suffers if you're eating take-out, so read my comments accordingly.

Lucky Strike: if you’re looking for a place to eat out, this probably isn’t it. If you’re looking for better-than-average take-out, call well in advance and then consider calling again to let them know you’re coming. The inconvenience factor is high, but the food almost makes up for it.


Anonymous said...

I went to Lucky stikes last weekend and was very upset about all the money I sent on water down drinks.

Anonymous said...

why is it all the "regular" PDX folks always find something to complain about constantly? If you had done 5 mins of research, you would have known everything you had an issue with about Lucky Strike is what they do.