September 25, 2006

Chenery Park [SF]

The caveat is that we only ordered appetizers, so I probably couldn't give an accurate review of the place.

I enjoyed the restaurant more of its ambiance than the quality of food. I love the way the setting sun lights up Chernery Park's dining room in the early afternoon. Ask for the seats window-side at the front of the house.

Our mac&cheese, heirloom tomato plate, and tatsoi didn't blow my mind, but the dishes were very satisfying. I will definitely have to come back for real food, but my verdict is Chenery Park is a neighborhood restaurant at its best--simple food, personable service, and the buzzing of familiar voices and faces.

Chenery Park
683 Chenery St
San Francisco, CA 94131
(415) 337-8537

September 24, 2006

Lovely Hula Hands [Portland]

The restaurant, which seats no more than 25 people, is housed in a pink house off of industrial Mississippi street. The warmly decorated dining room draws on vintage Victorian touches that make your experience here feel like home sweet home.

The night starts with a retro cocktail menu that lets you pretend you're at a kitschy tiki bar from the 70s. From there, you will be met with generous portions, cuisine with tropical influences, and ingredients locally sourced from organic farmers. Our crab cakes were decadent and served alongside a pickled cabbage relish that did well to balance out the heavier notes in the dish.

Our entrees included the ground chuck burger w/Tilamook cheddar and bacon, as well as the pumpkin rice w/coconut curry, lime-chili green beans, fried plantains, and grilled prawns. Both of the dishes were very generously portioned and robustly flavored.

We opted to skip out on desserts since the rest of meal was so filling. That night, they had a molten lava cake, praline creme brulee, and espresso panna cotta.

The restaurant doesn't take reservations and the tables filled up around 6:30 on Sunday night. By 7pm, the first seating started to clear out and there were no more people waiting when we left at 7:30.

Lovely Hula Hands is a restaurant that I would frequent time and again for the homemade touches that extend beyond the food to the service and space. I hear they've since moved to a more spacious location, so my pictures may be out of date.

Lovely Hula Hands
4057 N Mississippi Ave
Portland, OR 97227
(503) 445-9910

Daily Cafe [Portland]

Daily Cafe is located in the trendy Pearl district of Portland, which is one of those revived warehouse areas a la NYC's Meatpacking district. The modern space is painted in vibrant oranges and reds and is a dose of sunshine waiting for you on a Sunday morning. Not too busy or noisy, it is a good place to bring the family on a warm weekend.

Sunday brunch at the Daily Cafe involves a three-course prix fixe at an affordable $12.95. We started with a basket of pastries that included a cranberry scone, banana nut muffin, and cheddar cheese biscuit--all of which were fairly generic and dry.

Our appetizers came after our entrees and weren't memorable interpretations of apple cobbler or granola. The standouts were our entrees of baked Portuguese eggs with choricou and kale and smoked salmon omelette. In both case, our eggs were cooked to perfection and well seasoned.

Daily Cafe in the Pearl
902 NW 13th Ave
Portland OR 97209
(503) 242-1916

September 23, 2006

clarklewis [Portland]

When clarklewis opened a few years ago, it earned critical acclaim for its innovative take on organic Northwestern cuisine. As an out-of-town foodie from the Bay Area, I would agree that it lives up to the best of them in San Francisco.

The clarklewis menu is unconventionally horizontal, listing menu items and descriptions by their ingredients only. This introduces an element of surprise as you anticipate what a crostone with farm egg, frisee, sage roasted chanterelles, duck sugo, and aged balsamic is going to taste like as it awakens your taste buds with the subdued tartness of a sauce that you cant enough of. Or when you start to ponder the chewy texture of cavatelli with strawberry beef cheek bolognese.

All of the dishes on the clarklewis menu can be ordered in small, large, or family-sized portions. Each of our six dishes was unexpected and dazzling.

Make your way over to the retro woodgrain bar (if only to find enough light to read your menu). The entire dining room is flanked by open-air windows on either side, which makes for an enjoyable early autumn dinner when the air is crisp and still warm.

1001 Se Water Ave
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 235-2294

September 22, 2006

Voodoo Doughnut [Portland]

This was probably the most hyped up I got over any eating establishment that we planned to visit in Portland. Voodoo is one of those late-night cult favorites that you make sure to hit after a long night out. It has an underground urban vibe and the dark emo kids sitting outside only help to complete the vibe. It is as much an icon of Portland as is the its greenness and for the novelty alone, you must make a stop here on any trip to the area.

There seems to be an endless selection to choose from and all with whimsical names for your ordering. There are no pretenses here. If you order the "Cock-n-Balls," you're going to get a triple-cream, chocolate covered doughnut that indeed looks a like a cock with a pair of balls. The doughnuts are baked in bulk, which means that when you come in at midnight, the cocoa puffs on your Triple Chocolate Penetration are gonna be stale. The raised donuts aren't as fluffy and light and the cake donuts, a bit dry for my taste. The confections are achingly sweet, so make sure you grab a cup of coffee to dip yours in. I recommend the ODB

The store also holds monthly events, but I wasn't around in the Spring to check out the annual cockfest. " Hey boys!! How many doughnuts can you stack on your dick?? Enter the Annual Cockfest to find out. " Tasty indeed.

Voodoo Doughnut
22 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 241-4704

September 13, 2006

Cafe Hiro [Cypress]

The concept is cute enough and you will definitely see the fusion of cuisines represented in the restaurant's decor, which includes French window sills, Italian checkered table clothes, and Hawaiian surf photos.

We were excited to find curry on the menu, which we imagined would have a fusion-y twist about it. We were disappointed to find out that it was just a cut above House Foods and have found it rather uninspiring on multiple visits.

Although my cod lacked none of the buttery sweetness of a well-seasoned miso preparation, I could tell that the fish itself lacked the distinction of a high-quality black cod that flakes with barely a touch. The Chilean sea bass was dry and overcooked and was seasoned in a lemon-garlic base that could have used more kick. The Uni Spaghetti was more like Spaghetti with Uni Essence and underwhelming--although maybe to its own fame.

At $12-20 and entree, you are also brought soup and salad, which on the night we went included a miso-vinaigrette salad and corn chowder. We love the atmosphere here more than anything else, with the eccentricity of the decor making for a very convivial atmosphere.

Cafe Hiro
10509 Valley View St
Cypress, CA 90630
(714) 527-6090