I’m back with one of my favorite things on Bridgetown Bites—First Tastes, where I roundup recent initial tastes at new-to-me places in Portland.
Moroccan Lamb Meatballs | Suzette Creperie. Originally we planned on chowing down on tacos from Tight Tacos, but the truck was closed because of the hot weather. So, we wandered down SE Belmont in search of something tasty, and found ourselves at Suzette Creperie. I couldn’t resist ordering these little lamb meatballs, served with a “spicy tomato sauce” (chunky, yes; spicy, no) and topped with a sunny-side up fried egg. It was served with a small piece of toasted baguette, too.
The meatballs were firm yet tender and had that delicious lamb flavor I love so much. And while the tomato sauce wasn’t spicy, it had great tomato flavor and enough acid to balance out the richness of the lamb. I loved mixing the egg yolk into everything (like you do). Suzette Creperie, 3342 SE Belmont Street, Portland
Da Mango One | Wailua Shave Ice. I attended the #imakealiving event with Freshbooks and at the end of the session they surprised us with a treat of Hawaiian shave ice at nearby Wailua. Presented with many delicious sounding options, I chose Da Mango One that is all about mango (it’s hard to go wrong with mango). They pour mango juice on the ice, then drizzle a decorative ribbon of sweetened condensed milk over it and top it with a spoonful of fresh mango in syrup.
As you can imagine, it was very mango-y, and any tartness was offset by the sweetness in the milk, but it didn’t make it cloyingly sweet, either. The texture of the ice was very light and as it melted it gained a creamier consistency. I look forward to trying other flavors in the future. Wailua Shave Ice, 1022 W Burnside Street, Unit O, Portland
Mr. Ma’s Special | The Dump Truck. At the Alberta Street Fair there was a variety of food options, and one of them was The Dump Truck dumplings truck; as a dumpling lover I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I chose the Mr. Ma’s Special—snack size (four pieces)—filled with pork, green onion and ginger, and topped with a soy and vinegar sauce; I added a little of their house-made sweet chili hot sauce.
I loved the filling because it had a distinctive ginger flavor in with the pork. All the flavors got along – pork, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, vinegar, chiles—they are all born to marry each other, like a dumpling version of Big Love. Dumpling skin was nice, too—not too thin, not too thick. I was grateful for the snack size, too, because I had already eaten a lot at the street fair! The Dump Truck, SW Alder between 10th & 11th, Portland
Chocolate Cream Pie | Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery. So we watched the little community parade go by during the Alberta Street Fair and then we started walking west along Alberta, and encountered Random Order and their pies. Last time we chose to pass but this time we stepped in. We were impressed by the range of pies, and when I saw the chocolate cream pie I nudged my companion, who is a huge chocolate cream pie fan. It was a no brainer to get a slice.
First, the pie crust was nice and flaky. The chocolate cream was smooth and chocolatey, but what was really a standout was the whipped cream. Not too sweet; firm and creamy. I liked that the chocolate cream was neither dense like pot de creme nor jiggly like JELLO pudding. I really want to try their coconut cream pie, which I imagine is very good.
As an aside, do you know how hard it is to find coconut cream pie in NYC? They seem to prefer the far inferior coconut custard pie there, which is basically a boring, lifeless dessert. Long live the west coast love of coconut cream pie! Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery, 1800 NE Alberta Street, Portland
Veggie and Pepperoni Slice | Mississippi Pizza. After we hung out and drank at the Portland Radler Festival, we needed food to absorb all the alcohol. Starch and fat to the rescue in the form of… pizza. We got a Greek veggie slice and a pepperoni slice and both were good—not mind blowing, but very respectable slices. And that crunch I mentioned when I spoke about The Crown’s pizza. It was there on the first bite, just how I like it. And they used smaller pepperoni! Nice. They also served me a really great glass of strawberry lemonade. Mississippi Pizza, 3552 N Mississippi Avenue, Portland
Cumin Beef | Chin’s Kitchen. For a long time, Chin’s Kitchen in the Hollywood District had a reputation for—and I’ll just say it—bad food. However, that has all changed. Sisters Wendy and Cindy Li bought the place, remodeled it (I watched and reopened it last month, and they are now offering excellent food. They are serving a number of dishes from Northeast China, where Wendy and Cindy are originally from (Harbin). IMO, Dongbei cuisine is some of the most delicious in China and I am thrilled this style of food is here in Portland.
The Cumin Beef is made with slices of flavorful beef cooked with onion, red and green peppers, cilantro, and of course, cumin. I liked how the heat level rose almost imperceptibly at first, and by the time I left there was a lovely warmth that consumed my mouth. There’s a slight sweetness to the dish, too, and while I normally consider lamb+cumin to be a winning combination, this works very well, too. I asked if they would consider doing a lamb+cumin dish and was told “everyone does this with lamb and we wanted to be different, so we use beef.” I can see myself ordering this on the regular. Chin’s Kitchen, 4132 NE Broadway Blvd., Portland