Hem 23: Just a Link in the Chain

After reading Willamette Week and Eater PDX reviews of Hem 23, the MagoGuide team was all excited about trying out this new Vietnamese drinking food venue on 23rd street in NW Portland. We couldn’t have been more disappointed. Everything looked good, but everything about this chain restaurant in disguise was bland, especially the food. If you want real Vietnamese drinking food head for Fish Sauce or Lela’s Bistro in Northwest, Lu Lac in Southwest, or cross the river for Short Round.

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Noraneko: It’s More than just Ramen Under the Bridge

Noraneko, described by owners Kina and Gabe as “a ramen shop/ futuristic post-whatever diner”, is a cultural appropriation success story. Located under the eastern end of the Hawthorne Bridge, this bright and inviting space screams come and get warm in the winter while offering a break from Portland’s hot and crowded east side bar and foodie scene in the summer.

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Langbaan: Be Sure to Sit Up Front In The Back Of The House

Langbaan (which means back of the house in Thai) offers a pre-fixe, eleven-course tasting menu of high-end Thai regional dishes that rotates on a monthly basis in a twenty-seat “pop-up” space that is heavy on wood, low on light, and intimate (as in not quite cheek by jowl but close). In general Langbaan serves a variant of Thai food that I have never had. Compared to what I usually eat at, say Pok Pok or Farmhouse Kitchen, this cuisine was highly refined in terms of flavor, composition, and plating. The ingredients shown through more distinctly, enlarging the palate usually associated with Thai flavors in terms of both novelty and nuance. But the spice profiles, especially the heat, were definitely restrained and in a few cases under seasoned.

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UK Blogger Propels Fake Restaurant to the Top Rated Spot on ‘TripAdvisor’ in London

A writer for Vice in the UK named Oobah Butler decided to see if he could create a real buzz around a restaurant that didn’t exist using the online review site TripAdvisor. This is a long video but it’s pretty interesting. It is a mini-documentary that walks us through the entire journey from the time he was thinking about the concept.

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TarBoush: Ain’t Never Gonna Shawarma Without The Fez On

Owner Pierre Boutros clearly knows his business. At the Tarboush Lebanese restaurant in SE Portland we enjoyed the setting, the staff, and most especially the food. We especially enjoyed the eggplant rolls (pan fried and stuffed with ricotta and feta, parsley, and onions) — the salty/savory interior contrasts nicely with sweet eggplant boosted by balsamic vinegar.

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PDX Sliders: Tasty Culinary Infill On Division Street

We were very impressed with these sliders. PDX sliders are somewhat larger than the canonical dimensions of a bun two inches across covering a 2 oz. patty, but they are still classic one-handers. Any of the beef sliders are exemplary. Our favorite is the Hawthorne; bacon, goat cheese, strawberry preserves, on brioche. The tart goat cheese and sweet strawberry preserves form an unusual and delicious trio with that impeccable patty. But, as we suspected on a recent visit, those wonderful medium rare sliders from the soft opening were in fact “mistakes.” If you want medium rare, don’t forget to ask for it.

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Trinket: A Brunch Bangle

Any place that declares forthrightly that their duck eggs Benedict will always be on the menu, the service is friendly and patient, and the generous but not ridiculous portions are served on carefully mismatched plates… is the place for us. My particulate favorite is the savory waffle with onion, bacon jam, thyme & goat cheese. For three bucks you can add chicken eggs or do the duck for two bucks more (guess which I did). The waffle’s classic grid topography was a perfect platform for the sweet pig candy and the tart herby whipped goat cheese. Even the scallion rounds added crunch and a mild onion flavor to the dish. Now add in the lake of yolk supplied by Daffy delicacies and you have a brunch fit for, uh, Portland.

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