Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Koi Fusion Taco Truck

Koi Fusion by Convention Center

Dan ordering

Koi Fusion

Bulgogi & Short Rib Tacos

We kept our Asian New Year Feast going with a sunny, but cold lunch time stop at Koi Fusion Korean Taco Truck parked by the Convention Center. The tangy and savory bulgogi and short rib tacos, along with the short walk, was exactly what we needed to get us through the week.

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Year Lunch

After a great Vietnamese dinner on Tet's New Year Day Evening, we decided to follow it up with a nice lunch the following day at Ping Restaurant in Portland's Old Town. It was a particularly rainy day and a nice bowl of spicy noodles was what we were craving. From the outside with it's frosty windows and dark frame it almost looked like Ping was closed, but once we stepped inside the warm wood and smells from the open kitchen made us so glad they weren't.

We were on the search for some noodles and ordered a dry noodle dish and a brothy noodle dish. The kuaytiaw khua kai (wide rice noodles stir-fried in rendered pork fat with chicken, cuttlefish, duck egg and green onions, served on chopped lettuce, a bangkok chinatown speciality) was charry, smokey, light and refreshing. A really nice noodle lunch choice.

We decided on the brothy laksa nonya (cocnonut curry rice noodle soup with tofu, chicken, prawns, cockles, boiled egg, house made fish cake, bean sprouts, laksa leaf, shredded cucumber and house made sambal belacan. melaka/singapore version of the famous malaysian noodle dish). In a previous post we lamented about how Portland doesn't have great Thai food and it definitely doesn't have very diverse asian food outside of your typical Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Indian. It was nice to see a Malaysian dish represented on Portland's dining scene. Ping's version was very satisfying with chewy round rice noodles we typically see in Vietnamese's Bun Bo Hue.

Ping was definitely worth the trip downtown for its cozy warming atmosphere and food. The prices were a bit high for what you get. Are duck eggs really that much different and worth a few bucks more? Packaged Thai raman brand Mama gussed up with their own fancy broth was hard to selected for $9. We are undecided, but we will be back to try their other dishes such as the Burmese salad and other SE Asian favorite so hard to find in Portland.

Ping Restaurant

Ping Dining Room

Wide Charred Rice Noodles with squid and chicken


Ping 102 NW 4th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97209 503.229.7464 www.pingpdx.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Year Dinner

Luc Lac Kitchen Mural

We decided our first meal together in the New Year should be Vietnamese food. So we headed downtown for a nice celebratory dinner with friends at Luc Lac Kitchen.

Luc Lac Restaurant

New kid on the block Luc Lac Kitchen actually got its start as a late night Pho restaurant downtown. They expanded the space, updated the decor and added a sleek bar. After taking a quick look at the menu, we realized Anne had worked with the chef at another Vietnamese restaurant Green Papaya before the change of ownership and then eventual closure. So we knew exactly which items we would be trying.

After a confusing minute trying to figure out the system for ordering/seating, we placed a massive order of food at the counter, got our table number and grabbed a table in the back by the kitchen. First to arrive was our cocktails.

Dac Biet Cocktail

Unfortunately due the confusing counter ordering system we doubled ordered a couple of appetizers, which arrived at our table at no particular order including after our entrees. But that was ok by us because everything was terrific.

Papaya Salad and Other Appetizers

We initially ordered what we thought was way too many appetizers, but we ended eating it all. Including the papaya salad, grilled chicken skewers (2x), salad rolls (2x), coconut prawns and mussels in tamarind broth. It was all delicious.

Mussels in Tamarind Broth

For our entrees we ordered a Banh Mi Nem Nuong or Vietnamese Sausage baguette sandwich with a zesty side salad. Everything about this sandwich was likeable - savory, comforting, crunchy, tart and spicy. An around great sandwich.

Nem Nuong Banh Mi

We also ordered the house signature dish, the Bo Luc Lac (beef tenderloin seared with Hennessey, butter, garlic and lots of black pepper), it wasn't as tender as Green Papaya's version with filet mignon instead of tenderloin, but the flavor was spot on. Served with a lightly vinegar salad, tomato rice and peppery lime dipping sauce.

Luc Lac Bo

We thoroughly enjoyed the food and atmosphere of Luc Lac Kitchen. It was definitely a great meal to start the new year with.

Hanging Umbrellas

Luc Lac Kitchen 835 SW 2nd Portland, Oregon 503/222-0047

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon

Banh Tet - resized

A quick pic of Mom's Banh Tet for this year's New Year celebrations! Happy New Year Everyone!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Year Clean-Up

Organized Utility Closet

Right now families across Vietnam and China are preparing their homes for the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. Traditionally this is the time to clean and organize your home, setting the tone for the upcoming year. With this year's Lunar New Year being so close to Western New Year we thought it was a great opportunity to clean up the piles of everything that have accumulated since our wedding 6 months ago! We dedicate a whole weekend to a thorough clean-up and re-organization. First up was our utility closet with miscellanous items left from the wedding, a banker's box full of paper and stuff just shoved in any available space on the bookshelves waiting to topple over. We wish we had thought of taking a picture before, but it was pretty embarrassing, we couldn't even see the floor. With some help from clear bins, boxes and plastic tubs everything now has its place.

Utility Closet Shelves

The wooden and paper boxes were all from Ikea. The plastic bins are from our local supermarket Fred Meyers and the small plastic tubs were from terrific Japanese dollar store Daiso. We couldn't believe all the places where we had paper stored all over the house, now it's all in one place and easy to get to.

Organized Utility Closet Shelf

While packing for our short visit to Seattle it became clear how badly we let things pile up. We finally gathered, purged and put our toiletries in one place, tossing out old out-dated items.

Organized Bathroom Shelf

Close Up Cleaned Bathroom Shelf

Next we tackled the coat closet. We added another shelf above to accommodate new wedding gifts that needed storage space. Being able to see all our coats, jackets, hats, scarves, gloves, bags and sunglasses without digging through items in the wrong place is a dream.

Cleaned Coat Closet

Party favors from the wedding, birthday cards, bills, check stubs, missing buttons, hardware for the windows, gift wrapping ribbons, mementos and trinkets; these items could be found in any room in our house, but we are slowly digging our way out and setting ourselves up to keep the pile-up from happening again.

Happy New Year Everyone.

May the Year of Dragon find us ahead of the curve and not under piles of stuff.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Seattle Weekend Wrap-Up

Those of you who know us, know we love happy hours. That wonderful hour (or two) where cocktails and food are served at reduced prices. So it's no surprise we treated ourselves to a happy hour at cozy local bar Frank's in Seattle's Revenna neighborhood. What makes Frank's so great? It's a local neighborhood oyster house and champagne parlor. Wait...what? Yes, oysters and champagne at happy hour prices! Sorry the dim cozy lighting wasn't suitable for photos of the 3 different varieties of beautifully iced oysters or Frank's fantastic cheddar biscuits with shaved ham, gruyere and apple butter.

Franks Oyster House and Champagne Bar
Frank's Cozy Bar

We had some time to kill before heading downtown for some late night grub, so we occupied our time with some indoor doggie fetch. Her name is Saffy and eventually she did manage to squeeze her square shaped body underneath the record console to get her ball and then couldn't figure out how to get out. Silly. Adorable. Frenchie.

Saffy Wants That Ball

We stayed close to the Ravenna neighborhood at the art deco inspired Hotel Deca. Centrally located close to University Way (strangely known as "The Ave") and I-5, we loved the industrial art deco facade and decor of the hotel.

Hotel Deca Art Deco Entrance
Hotel Deca
Our Hotel Deca Room

After checking into the hotel we headed down to the Ave to get some thai food. After painfully deciding not to eat our thai noodles in the wonderfully smelling restaurant we headed back to the hotel, eventually succumbing to all the yummy looking restaurants. We decided some soup would be good power boost and stopped off for some udon noodles. U:Don (get it udon in the U-district?) is a cafeteria style udon noodle restaurant with a pay by the piece tempura bar. Yum. It was a nice warm pick-me-up.

U Don Sign
Tempura & Udon
Udon with poached egg & grated ginger and croquette

Later that night we cruised down to Tacoma to the Museum of Glass. What a beautiful museum! We were there at night and didn't get a chance to see the museum's outdoor pieces in its full glory.

Museum of Glass Water Sculpture
Glass Water Sculpture

But we did manage to see all the galleries and the Hot Shop domed workspace, which was fascinating. We watched in theater-style seating as a group of people work on huge glass flowers. The surprising part, how quiet and zen it was. The artists moved seamlessly without saying a word to each other, working in unison. Very tranquil.

Hot Shop Dome

We weren't allow to photograph the main exhibit, but we did snap a few photos of the children and art series where glass artist replicated a grade schooler's drawing into glass. Those were hilarious! Kids have crazy imaginations.

Grade Schooler's Drawings Turned Into Glass

There were numerous large glass pieces and an exhibit dedicated to large glass sculptures, but the large glass panels were the most impressive in our opinion.

Museum Main Gallery Huge Glass Wall Panels

We enjoyed a lovely dinner and high tailed it back to Seattle for a sweet late night martini and some dessert at Dilettante Mocha Cafe. The chocolate maker is known for delicious chocolate truffle martinis. Between us we tried the Mint Kiss (Effemere Truffle Sauce and a generous portion of Vodka), Mocha Martini (Ephemere Truffle Sauce, Coffee Liquer and generous portion of Vodka) and a Sea Salt Carmel Martini (Ephemere Truffle Sauce, fresh Cream Caramel Sauce, Vodka & Caramel Bailey's with a Salted Coco Rim). We also shared a Mocha Silk cake (flourless, all chocolate gateau fortified with espresso) and a chocolate moussee. We went to bed that night happy and a bit buzzed.

Salted Carmel Martini
Dilettante's Mocha Silk Cake
Dilettante's Chocolate Mousse

The next morning we trekked across Lake Washington to enjoy some dumplings, but found ourselves unmotivated for the drive home afterwards, so we stopped off for some donuts and coffee at Seattle's famous Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts. We got their famous maple bar, bavarian cream and shots of espresso for the road.

Top Pot Donuts
Top Pot Donut Case

We had such a great time in Seattle, we're already thinking which Seattle neighborhoods are up next for a food tour!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Triple S

Dumpling Character

The first time we were made aware of this little dumpling character was in Singapore. The second time, we sought him out in Sydney, Australia, so it should be no surprise that we found him in another "S" City - Seattle! Ok, technically it was Bellevue, but technically it was also Seattle! So our Triple S tour of Din Tai Fung's Dumpling House was complete, that is until we can get to back to Seoul and Shanghai again!

On our last morning in Seattle we gathered up 8 adventureous diners and braved Hwy 520's floating bridge and new picture tolls to head to one of only 2 Din Tai Fung restaurants in the USA. Man O' Man was it worth it!

520 Floating Bridge

Homes Around Lake Washington

Table for 10

Chili in Hot Oil

We were ready and willing for a long wait, but was told our wait would only be 5-10 minutes because we were a large group. This time having a large party was already paying off. We purposely chose 8 particular people giving us a chance to taste way more food. Unlike dim sum's roving carts, orders are placed on a order sheet (kind of like some sushi bars) and staggered by the staff. First up was the fantastic hot and sour soup - a large bowl for the whole group.

Large Hot & Sour Soup

Din Tai Fung's hot and sour soup is amoung the best we've had and even though some of the group had never had it, everyone agreed it was delicious, so much so we placed a medium order to-go for later. Once the large soup was finished, the bamboo steam trays came at us in a steady flow - nice work Din Tai Fung!

We ordered one of each dumpling available, except for veggie & chicken. There were shrimp & pork dumplings, green vegetable & pork dumpling, fish dumplings, shrimp & pork shui mai, shrimp & pork "beggers' purse" dumplings and pork and shrimp wontons in a oily chili sauce. The hit of the day was the "beggers purse" dumplings with a small shrimp on top and steam pork at the base and the uniquely delicious fish dumplings (we have yet to find these at any other dumpling or dim sum restaurant).


Fish Dumplings

Wonton in chili sauce and fish dumpling

One new item we did try was the delicious pork glutinous rice, the terrific texture and crispy pork with salty sticky rice was a perfect combo. Soy soaked sticky rice and porky goodness. This one was so good, and since it was cut into thirds, 2 more orders were placed immediately.

Pork Sticky Rice

We also ordered two noodles dishes, both vegetarian in order to savor the flavor of the noodles and sauce. The square handcut noodles were addictive. Chewy, not filling and packed full of flavor - slurplicious! The other noodle dish was the Shanghai noodles. A completely different noodle, more like a rice cake cut into slivers, also delicious.

Handcut Noodles

We ordered three vegetable dishes - bok choy, broccoli and green beans. Each simply steamed and tossed in a light garlic oil. Simple & surprisingly delicious.

Green Beans

So, what's for dessert? Well sweet dumplings and buns of course. To satisfy our sweet tooth we ordered taro dumplings and buns. Typically we order sweet red bean buns, but the taro was even better. Sweet creamy purplish hue inbetween steamed white dough was terrific. But the star that stole the show was the gigantic bowl of shaved ice the 10 of us perfectly portioned and shared. There's shaved ice, mochi balls, sweet red beans, mango jelly, creamy sweet taro, a hint of sweet lychee syrup, sweeten condensed milk and a mango pudding. After satisfyingly stuffining ourselves this light, sweet, palate cleansing dessert was the perfect finish.

Shaved Ice

Our epic food tour of Seattle couldn't have ended on a better note! We cruised on down to Portland happily filled and ready for another food tour soon!

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House 700 Bellevue Way NE #280 Bellevue, Washington 425.698.1095