My Zero to Hero a initiation is just a few days late, well ok almost a week late, now a few weeks late who I am bullshitting?, The holiday hangover and recovery time was much needed for this weary creature of the night Epicurean cabbie food critic on wheels. Much like many late blooming qualities and talents in life I am what I call a PROfessionalCRAstinator and work better under pressure. So I am REposting my original concept of my creature of the night Epicurean cabbie blog I initially wrote last September.
I have crisscrossed Rose City’s restaurant landscape for 18 years, and paid close attention to not just fine dining, but cheap eats, taquerias, food carts, and bar gastropub cuisine as well. I pride myself, and certainly am in several ways a professional transporter as well as consultant at helping people find the ideal place to have a drink, a particular dish, or something custom tailored to there taste preferences. My ideas, and ever evolving themes for this site will start with this week, with places I call the four times over, four star review. I call it this because I have frequented these places at least four times or more, in some cases four dozen times or more, and I typically get four star quality, service, and the value, taste profile, and vibe of the place gets four stars for me, all bias and taste preferences aside, I critique these places more on overall experience I have had in the years eating there.
1. Ate oh Ate. There are times over the last three or four years where I have frequented Ate Oh Ate four times a month or more, and without a doubt always gotten consistent quality teriyaki chicken steak, korean wings, and without a doubt the tastiest, freshest highest quality Hawaiian food in Portland. The savvy savory and simple yet genius culinary minds from both The Laurelhurst Market and Simpatica Dining Hall have bestowed on Portland as my go to consistently excellent lunch and dinner ( Sometimes between lunch and dinner I call this meal LINNER) spot in Laurelhurst area I believe. Menu items to checkout, or that have made my personal greatest hits selection. THE GRILLED TERIYAKI CHICKEN, THE TOMBO POKE SALAD ( happy hour price applies between 4pm-6pm). THE TERIYAKI STEAK, and for a sweet treat dessert that is sinfully dense delightful and the perfect post meal spongey syrupy gluten free cake the MOCHI made in house. The Mochi is not a the ice cream morsels one finds on the dessert menu at Sushi places, but a buttery short break type cake, a traditional Hawaiian dessert it feels like an angel cake on the palette, but packs a much more dense buttery finish and a certainly solidifies in your stomach with a much heavier feel. The staff at Ate oh Ate, Will the Chef, Emily and Nick who work the counter, as well as others are always friendly personable and know my order before I even step up to the counter to place it. I love the buy 12 get one meal free punch card, I am sucker for this frequent flyer punch card gimmick. I have been addicted to going to Stumptown coffee for years, in part because of my ever growing collection of these blue bean cards.
2. Hokusei. A sensational sushi place, where the unparalleled quality in fish, the precision and presentation is superb, and the bartenders, servers and chefs always warmly welcoming, accommodating and take great pride in their product and informing the customer where the fish is sourced, how the nigiri and speciality rolls are prepared and what is in the cocktail one is quaffing. The karage friend chicken is so tender, crispy airy, salted and seasoned ideally and my absolute favorite way to eat fried chicken it can be ordered ahead of time gluten free, it is mostly breaded with a lighter more crispy less greasy textured rice flour. The backstory of this up and coming kickass lyzakaya Sushi house is fascinating to me. The chef originally worked for Nobu in Los Angeles, where celebrities, paparazzi and shameless star fuckers and gawkers go to get a glimpse of Hollywoods latest and greatest celebrity ten miles of train Wreck in progress or what I like to call the A list of movie stars who win the award for the prince and princess of narcism. So this chef and a local family collaborated and opened Hokusei (meaning Northwest in Japanese) over a year ago, and it has since generated quite a following of Portlanders, in fact, it won City Search’s Best new restaurant award last year. The Shinobi Roll, and Tazmanian Trout nigiri get my nomination and have earned the best request from the menu award. I am so fascinated and enthralled with the complex earthy smokey buttery and fresh flavor combinations of these items. One must taste the Tazmanian trout, the fist few times I had the pleasure of popping this sweat meat on my palette I professed it to be the tastiest FISH ON EARTH to my bartender buddy Brian who explained the intense and detail oriented process of how they prepare it to taste so ridiculously rich, smokey and superb, certainly the absolute best nigiri I have found in Portland, Oregon. The handcrafted cocktails designed by bartender Brian are in a class of their own, he has a fifteen plus year career of craft cocktail creation and always delivers a perfect cocktail to complement a dish, sushi, or dessert.
Owner Oswaldo Bibbiano is one of my favorite Restauranteur chefs in Portland, his original place Authentica is exceptional as well. I was introduced to Oswaldo’s cooking when I was at wedding of chef friend of mine five or six summers ago, and Tamales and Mexican foods where served at the reception. Soon afterward I began savoring and tasting the tacos at Authentica, soon I fell in love, and my insatiable hunger for tacaos was appeased every time I dined at his place. I have a fodness for the ceviche, the guacamole, and so many more menu items at Authentica. Mextiza is the next level of varying recipes of regions in Mexico. The pineapple rotisserie chicken is jaw dropping, drool inducing knock out punch for the fan of a sweet spicey savory roasted chicken dish unlike anything else I have discovered in Portland.The caramalized pineapple, green peppers and smokey sweet onions draped over a golden sweet savory juicy half chicken is a feast for one person and possibly capable of feeding two if portion is split with an appetizer. The Oaxaccan cheese or chips and guacamole, both done to perfection would be the starters I would pair with the rotisserie wonder. Any of the house made Oaxaccan chocolate or food on the dessert menu is certainly worth sampling as well, all made in house and all spectacular.
A more casual accessible, less expensive part of the legendary Genoa on SE 29th and Belmont in the laid back but dynamic district of Belmont is a noteworhty weekend brunch spot, without Portlandia style waits, hype, and every out of state and suburban food tourists clamouring at the doors before opening competing for seating. The ever evolving menu has featured some the best gnocchi I have had the pleasure of nibbling, as well the fish, pork, poultry always simple but elegant almost extravagant at a good value. I ate brunch their again this weekend, probably the fourth time in the last six months, and for a fourth time it was wonderful. its essentially similar but the omelette du jour is always evolving, some better than others depending on seasonal change. The truffled patatoe omlette they serve occasionaly is otherwordly in its originality and richness. The lasagna on the happy hour menu at mere $7 from 5pm-6pm is one Garfield the cat would scarf and rate as possibly the best on earth, certainly Portland. I am supporting seasonal and staple menu items at Accanto, I have never had a bad dish there.
These places are four of my absolute favorites, grab a seat plant your ass and feet and get a savory sweet treat at any of these places and find out yourself.