You know how certain places just have that comfortable feel for you? You know it's really right when even if you haven't been there for a year or more, the moment you walk in the door, you know nothing has changed. Caffé Mingo on NW 21st is like that for me. A place I went to regularly for years, lately it has fallen off the radar, as my Portland dining habits have taken a shift to the eastside from the west. w and I hit Mingo a couple of weeks ago, and if anything "hit" was the operative word. From our apps of the Mingo Salad and the Shrimp Skewers (pictured left in crappy photo taken with my iPhone) to their pastas (the Mingo classic penne al sugo for w, the orecchiete with sausage and greens for me) and through to the iconic Mingo dessert of Panna Cotta (right) , everything was spot on. Service and comfort zone included! Maybe it's the fact that I still see some of the same faces working there that I always have, and the food, especially the sugo, has the same warmth and flavor that it had years ago, but I have to only have respect for Mingo's consistency. Time to readjust my radar!
*** *** *** *** ***
A year or so ago I wrote a post that I had seen the future of Thai food in Portland, and it was at Mai Thai on SE Belmont. I still love that place, but last Monday on the strong advice of my friend about PDX cart town JoshuaC, I checked out the Poompui cart on the north park blocks. If Mai Thai was the future of dine-in Thai joints, the Poompui is the present for cheap, incredibly fresh Thai take out. I've only had one thing, the Pad Kee Mao, and already I can't wait to get back. I've read plenty on various blogs and twitter feeds about Poompui, and the cool brothers who are running it. Apparently it's all true. First off, this is the cheeriest, brightly painted cart in town. It feels good just to bask in its neon colored glow. Then there was my dish of rice noodles, perfectly cooked and seasoned with fresh veggies and chicken, a bit of heat and spice coming through on each bite. These guys know their stuff, and for the stupidly cheap five bucks I spent on my lunch, I'm guessing you won't find a better plate of Thai food in town.
w and I are big fans of the Peruvian restaurant Andina on NW 13th and Glisan. We'd both read about the recently opened del INTI over on NE Alberta, and how they were serving some interesting takes on classic Peruvian dishes. So last Saturday evening we drove over, hoping to find an alternative to the drive through NW. We grabbed a table on their shaded patio, which is a great outdoor dining spot. Our somewhat over-gracious waiter (I can't believe I'm saying that "he's too helpful", but it kind of weirded me out, which says more about me than him I'm sure) brought us menus, and I had their delicious gin-ginger cocktail, which I have to say was very refreshing. But the rest of dinner, while good, was unremarkably so. Our apps of Chicharron Mixto, while fried correctly, was somewhat skimpy for $10. The Piqueo (skewer) of chicken with tamarind sauce was pretty to look at (in picture), but bland with an over-sweet sauce. w had the Hangar Steak Saltado, which seemed to be stir fried chunks of steak drenched in soy sauce. Not good. I had the Braised Lamb Shoulder with a cilantro-based canary bean stew. The herb/spice flavor of this was good, the lamb tender, but so salty that by the end your mouth is numb. Which was fine because the food wasn't all that. The upshot is that all this was not cheap. Verdict: go to Andina where for the same money you can eat much fresher, interesting Peruvian.
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: eating spring with Asparagus, Meyer Lemon, and Pancetta Pasta