Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Yataimura Maru by Shigezo

3812 NE Division Street
Happy Hour: Weekdays from 4 - 6 and 9 - 10 (11 on Friday),
Weekends from 11:30 - 6 and 9 - 10 (11 on Saturday)

The menu is long, the hours are extended, and the discount is more than decent during happy hour at Yataimura Maru on SE Division. This place was recommended to me by a coworker on Saturday afternoon and--after learning of all they have to offer--I was there before the sun set. I'm so glad that I added it to my must-go-there-now list. It is definitely the kind of place that is worth a second visit. And a third. And a fourth. It will be so easy to make this a meal...as long as I remember to avoid that small window of time when the discounts don't apply.

We sat at the far end of the sushi bar, giving us the opportunity to watch some of the cooking and prep work take place. I love knowing what's going on in the kitchen and often feel a bit mesmerized by it all. Thankfully, most recognize my love of cooking, eating, and all things food and do not take offense when I spend the majority of my meal occupied by the "show" that is the kitchen.

After much internal debate, I ordered the Ginger Yuzu Drop. There were so many ME drinks on the menu, it made it hard to pick the right one. This one is made with Ketel One Citroen, Ginger liqueur and Yuzu juice. After a little research, I now know that Yuzu juice is just a citrus fruit juice and nothing to be alarmed about.

Although I could have ordered so much more, I narrowed my final selection down to just three items. The Zucchini Skewers ($1.50), Veggie Sushi Cut Rolls ($3.50), and the Hot Fried Tofu ($3) were delivered to the table as they were ready. That, of course, meant that everything was fresh and delicious but also a teensy bit dangerous for those of us too impatient to wait as things cool.

Simple as they may have been, the Zucchini Skewers were my favorite item. I even pondered the idea of ordering a second plate as I waited for a friend to finish the steaming bowl of Tokyo Ramen. I will definitely continue my way down the list of vegetable skewers available next time I am there. And--depending on who I am with--will recommend that they do the same with the meat and seafood options.

Fried Tofu is always fried and always tofu, but never seems to be the same wherever I order it. The consistency of the tofu differs, as does the sauce. At Maru, the tofu is a large cut and is served in a warmed broth. Despite how difficult these were to eat--and the fact that my impatience led me to burn the tip of my tongue--I loved every bite.

The Veggie Rolls were not the last to the table, but were saved--or, at least one was--for the last bite. For years, I limited my sushi intake to only the basics. Cucumber, avocado, maybe asparagus. I still only eat vegetables, but I'm less hesitant to try new combinations. This veggie roll wasn't over-the-top fancy, but the mix of veggies was impressive.

Attempting to order take out food off a happy hour menu is frowned upon in almost every establishment I've visited, but at Maru they do give you the option to take home some of their delicious house-made ramen noodles. They are priced to sell and apparently freeze well. Pictured above are those house-made noodles in the Tokyo Ramen--a dish made with Chashu Pork, mushrooms, and green onions and served in a veggie and chicken broth with seasoned soy sauce.

I do my best to try new places when I'm out during typical happy hour times, but with the extended hours at Maru it's going to be easy to return very soon. Maybe for lunch. Maybe next weekend.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds


Yataimura Maru by Shigezo on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Famous Dave's BBQ

9911 NE Cascades Parkway
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM & 9 - close

I usually try to avoid homogenized restaurants. I call them homogenized. Maybe you refer to them as chains? They're so prominent when you aren't right in the middle of Portland. Cascade Station is most definitely NOT right in the middle of Portland. (An IKEA would never fit in the middle of a city.) And there seems to be a serious lack of quality restaurants to choose from out there. But I still need to shop, and sometimes that means stopping for a quick bite to eat.

Famous Dave's BBQ is everywhere. There have got to be hundreds. Currently in Oregon, there are just three. I have a feeling that number is going to continue to grow.

At Famous Dave's, you can enjoy happy hour in the bar from 3 to 6 and again from 9 to close. They've got discounts on drinks--just the basics--but offer daily drink specials, too. The food menu contains a number of meaty options and plenty of fried varieties. They also have a short list of sides that aren't specific to happy hour but are priced to match.

We were there on a Sunday. Bloody Mary Sunday. The mix is made with Devil's Spit--one of their spiciest barbeque sauces--which caused me to be a bit more cautious with each sip. It was good, but it took me a long time to finish it.

Since I wasn't interested in ordering a basket of BBQ Buddies, a plate of Chicken Tenders, or their Famous Chili Cheese Fries, I was left to choose from a long list of fried foods. To balance things out, I also ordered the chopped salad off of the regular menu. I liked the salad the most.

The Fried Pickles were definitely more fried than pickle. The batter was too heavy and left each finished pickle chip disguised. I like fried foods, but I would prefer more food with my fried next time.

When in the mood, BBQ chips are my go to. Usually they are straight from a bag. A bag that sits on the shelf--potentially for months. BBQ chips at a BBQ establishment should be ten times as good, right? Apparently not. At least not this time. Maybe it's not always the case. They seemed dry and bit hard, and were a little too thick without being crunchy. These chips did, however, serve as a great vehicle for transporting tastes of all the different BBQ sauces. I had such a hard time deciding that I worked my way through the set of six at least three times.

I wasn't exactly impressed with Famous Dave's. I am a vegetarian, so it makes sense. I probably should have avoided it in the first place. It would be a great place for a meat eater. Especially a meat eater who wants to watch the game (whatever game) on one of the many screens in the bar. I am not really that person. So I will probably not return. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Food: Nearly Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


Famous Dave's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Holiday Ale Festival

2013 Holiday Ale Festival, December 4-8th

Disclaimer: We received a complimentary blogger pass to this festival, but all of our opinions are our own.

I almost decide not to go to the holiday ale festival. You see, the ale festival happened to be the exact same week that I had to return to work from my maternity leave. I figured I would be a mess, but at the same time, I didn't want to pass up the free media pass. As it turned out after a long, hard first week away from my baby, I was more than ready to relax and unwind. My husband, who is now a stay at home daddy, was also ready to relax! This was one of the few times we have been away from our baby together, so it was especially nice for us. Grandma was happy to watch her, too!

Held in Pioneer Square, the festival was very...festive! When we first arrived, my husband commented that it was a bit like arriving late to party to find that everyone is already super drunk. It was also pretty crowded, so at first we felt a little overwhelmed.

My husband, being a very serious beer drinker, had made a list of must tries on his Untapped phone app. Nerd alert, right? This list served him well, though, because the only thing I had to go off of was the titles of the beers and the way they looked in the pitchers. One thing that might be nice for next year would be a short description of the beers next to the title for those of us that are less organized. So what was his favorite beer from his list of must-tries? Hawaiian Christmas by Columbia Brewing Company.

I did not do a good job of taking pictures at the festival, which is a good indication of the amount of fun I was having! We each got ten taster tickets with our package, and you could buy more tickets for $1 each. My favorite beer ended up being the Lompoc Revelry Red that I had had at the preview event. My least favorite shall not be named (not because I am protecting the brewery, but because I've forgotten the name!) This beer tasted exactly like summer sausage. A beer that tastes like coffee or chocolate? Ok...sausage, no thanks! My husband actually kind of liked it, but I blame it on him being a Brit.

My favorite part of the festival was that they also had an upstairs section. There was a perfect view of the gorgeous Christmas tree from the stairs, which made me get really into the holiday spirit.

One of the highlights for me was finally trying The Waffle Window. I have a friend on Facebook who always posts about this place, so I was really excited they would have a booth at the festival. Unfortunately, I didn't order wisely. I decided to go with a savory one, thinking I could talk my husband into ordering a sweet one later. I got a pulled pork one, which was very good, but my husband had no interest in waffles so I never got to try the strawberry cheesecake or Nutella banana ones. I almost went back to order one, but my husband reminded me we had dinner plans afterward. Boo!

Overall, we ended up having a great time. While the $30 price tag isn't cheap, I think the festive experience (and the fact that it helps raise money for charity) made it worth it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hawthorne Hophouse

4111 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Happy Hour: daily from 3 - 6 and 9 - close, all day starting at 2 on Sundays

Poutine. What an interesting food. Honestly, it's a fairly interesting word too. I had been waiting SO long to try it--really try it--and got so excited when I learned that the Hawthorne Hophouse had earned the title of BEST vegetarian poutine in all of Portland. Apparently, poutine is something that only those who haven't established food texture issues can consume. (Consume, as in eat every bite...not just the first few fries on top.) My guess is that poutine is best for either A) those who love salt and will eat whatever just to get some, or B) those who need some serious alcohol-soaking calories, stat.

The poutine might not have been as impressive as I had hoped, but that doesn't mean that the Hophouse wasn't. Parking's not great, but the service makes up for it. The happy hour menu is long, long, long. And they have a sampler tray that includes ALL twenty-four beers. Twenty-four!

We opted for the six-pour sampler tray, to share. I'm not a beer drinker, but they have three ciders on tap. And I liked one enough--the cherry cider--that I opted for a full glass instead of something more my norm (the traditional--gin and tonic, extra lime). Loved it. I even liked the sip I had of the "black cherry" made with a mix of that same cherry cider and a stout.

Although I had a hard time getting past the texture of the poutine, I kept at it until the plate was nearly half empty. I thought maybe I needed to experiment with the cheese curd-to-gravy ratio. I also explored the uber-melty versus still squeaky cheese curd combinations, just in case. In the end, I was more a fan of the sweet potato fries than anything else. They were crisp on the outside but perfectly cooked in the middle.

I don't regret trying the poutine. I needed to experience the plate of cheese curd and gravy covered fries. I just don't think I'll become a regular. The wasabi deviled eggs didn't do it for me, either. But that's because I'm a wimp. There was some serious horseradish backing those little green hard boiled halves.

I might not have made the best food choices this time, but I will be back again soon. I spotted what looked like the most delicious beet and chevre stacked salad while we were on our way out. It looked amazing. So pretty. And I'm sure so tasty. (And this, coming from the girl who used to hate beets.)

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


Hawthorne Hophouse on Urbanspoon


2600 NE Sandy Blvd
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM

It's Sunday. Did you go to Church? I'm honestly not sure how many "plays" on the name of this bar can be made without crossing the line. I love the concept. I think that they can do it up just a bit more--maybe teeny-tiny cups of wine and communion wafers in lieu of bar nuts--but not to the point that is becomes offensive. They do have a confession booth/photo booth, after all. But no pews. And I was expecting pews.

Happy Hour at Church is offered from 4 to 7. They've got got a few discounts on drinks--including the punch of the day--and plenty of food. We were sharing that night, so we ordered the hush puppies, a plate of mac and cheese, and the goat cheese spread and bread.

The hush puppies tasted like the county fair. That might not make sense to everyone...but, if you can imagine the combination of funnel cakes and fry bread AND elephant ears, you'll be more likely to understand. They weren't like any other hush puppies I've ever had. They were definitely more doughy than corn-like, that's for sure. These were made of a blue cornmeal and a little fresh corn AND were served with Voodoo Sauce. The Voodoo Sauce...that's something that they do oh SO WELL.

The Mac and Cheese was a bit smokey and, like always, made me question the ingredients. (Every brown bit becomes bacon when the smokiness is present...or so I think.) There were just enough breadcrumbs on top to make the texture just right.

The goat cheese spread was warm and delicious. There were caramelized onions hidden in the mix and grapes. I love grapes. And I love cheese. And I loved every bite of this dip. I would definitely eat it again and again.

The food outweighed the drinks, in my opinion. But--since the punch is a new creation daily--that might not always be the case. The rest of the menu is quite intriguing. I suppose we will have to make a return visit to try all that remains on the menu.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Nearly Meets
Service: Meets (order at the bar)
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


Church on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Sok Sab Bai

2625 SE 21st Ave
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM, Tuesday through Friday
All Night Happy Hour: Mondays

In early November, we were invited to attend Chowzter's North American Tastiest Fast Feasts Awards Ceremony in San Francisco. It was a great experience that allowed us to meet food bloggers from major cities across the continent, eat all sorts of deliciousness available in and around San Francisco, AND accept the award--on behalf of the city of Portland--for this year's Foodiest City. Chowzter, along with so many of the other food bloggers, were most impressed with Portland's Food Carts. It was all they could talk about. Food carts, food carts, food carts.

I love the food cart concept. But I love happy hour more. And so many food carts don't offer happy hour. Thankfully, the best of the best become brick and mortars. And when they do, the best of the best become better by offering discounts on food and drink daily (or at least on weekdays). Sok Sab Bai did just that. They offer discounts on a long list of food items and a few drinks, weekdays between three and six.

According to their website, the only discounted drinks during happy hour are beer($4) and wine($5). I could have easily settled on a glass of house red, but when we learned that they had recently upgraded their liquor license and had an official cocktail special we both ordered one without hesitation. Special for that day was something like a whiskey sour but made with tamarind. It was good, but I would replace the maraschino cherry with something a bit more classy.

With plans for a second happy hour, we tried our best to not go overboard when ordering food. That was not easy. The food menu is SO very long and deciding on just a few items was nearly impossible. We chose one item to share--the house pickles($2)--and each ordered two things for ourselves. I went with the vegetarian version of the banana blossom salad ($5) and the caramelized tofu ($4).

The banana blossom salad was fresh and delicious and probably one of the healthiest foods I have ever found on a happy hour menu. There were so many vegetables and they all complemented one another so well. The salad is a mix of banana blossom, bell peppers, bean sprouts, radishes, onion, mint, and shallots. Although it is usually served with chicken, mine was made with tofu.

No where near as healthy as the salad, the caramelized tofu was another vegetarian option available at a discount during happy hour. I've had fried tofu at many locations, but never before with a palm sugar glaze. There was a bit of the glaze drizzled over the friend tofu skewers for presentation and plenty more for dipping in the accompanying bowl. I loved every bite and would definitely order these as an appetizer when back for lunch or dinner. It's a great finger food and something that I could easily see help sway some of those who might not yet recognize just how versatile tofu can be.

Although the caramelized tofu was served with a small garnish of the same house pickles, I was thankful for the small plate that we had ordered. There was a variety of vegetables loaded up on that plate and every one of them good enough to make me want more.

Happy Hour is also offered ALL night at Sok Sab Bai every Monday as a part of their daily promotions. On Tuesdays, they have discounts for students and the service industry. Wednesday is "check in" day and on Thursdays they have discounted prices on all food items as a part of "Throwback Thursday." And then on Sunday, you can cure a hangover with a soup so special it's only available one day a week.

I'm excited to return to Sok Sab Bai in the near future, no matter the day of the week.

Food: Meets
Drink: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds


Sok Sab Bai on Urbanspoon