Speaking of chicken and Asian food, I've recently been to Mi Sen on Congress Street and Bao Bao on Spring Street. Let's start with Mi Sen: I walk by this place practically every day and have always been too (wait for it...) chicken to go inside. Luckily, I had a helper get my in the door this time. I will say now that I will be returning (I actually almost went back the next night) often! The music is entertaining (think 90's and early 2000's style) and if you sit by the mirrors, you may have a strange urge to check your hair/teeth/lipstick often. But fight it! You're too busy looking lustfully at the menu.
Since its opening in 2013, the menu has been changed from small bowls that allow you to experience multiple things to larger bowls but all is still tasty (so I've been told)! We sat down, perused the menu of choices and settled on chive cakes (crispy on the outside, especially when deep fried! and chewy on the inside) which were made with rice flour and chives. It was good/interesting but I want to try just about every other appetizer too (gyoza, garlic chicken, crab rangoon, edamame, curry chicken..)!
For entrees, I ordered tom yum num sai while my partner-in-dinner ordered the tom kah. My bowl was incredibly tasty and very simple: clear broth, chicken (or whatever protein you want), mild chili, peanuts and cilantro with thin rice noodles. The tom kah was good and coconut milk-y! Just looking at the meal, you wouldn't think I would be satiated but when we left the restaurant, I didn't want dessert...shocker! It also felt great to eat a clean meal (ok, just clean soup as half our order of chive cake was deep fried and half was pan-fried).
So that was two-syllable meal number one: Mi Sen. So good, fresh and surprising.
Meal number two involved Bao Bao and an Allagash take-over event. One of my buddies and I are the perfect going-out pair. He loves beer and I LOVE food. Luckily, most places in Portland serve both so he can get his beer on and I can stuff my face.
Tuesday night, I left work after playing "Go Fish," Legos and more with some of Porltand's most wonderful "inner-city" kids, I walked to Bao Bao to meet D. Allagash paired with Bao Bao that night to have six phenomenal beers with six tasty plates. We got there early and started with pan-fried chicken cashew dumplings. Now the question: are you supposed to eat dumplings with chop sticks? If this is the case, I'm totally screwed. I went for the fingers (which helped me later finish off some celeriac puree too...) and was a mess but oh so happy. When 6 o'clock struck, the Allagash beers were hooked up and ready for us. I ordered a Curant Affair beer, a sour dark beer aged with currants. It was slightly bubbly which made me feel kind of fancy...D got this, Golden Brett and a James Bean over the course of our dinner. The Golden Brett was pretty incredible as well. That one is a mildly-tart, dark golden and perfectly citrus-y. We thought we tasted pineapple too which was pretty exciting to me in a beer.
As for food, we ordered a lot and left very full:
1. The before mentioned chicken cashew dumplings, served with a great dipping sauce
2. Pork and cabbage dumplings were perfect, pan-fried and served with yummy umeboshi mustard,
3. Orange chicken wantons were served in a light broth with watercress and chili,
4. Braised pork belly was served with celeriac puree (the aforementioned finger-licking good stuff),
5. To finish up, we ate the flourless coconut and almond cake which was served with vanilla bean whipped cream and persimmon goodness. No chocolate in sight but it was a very well-done dessert if you love almond paste as I do (if this is truly the case, go to Standard Bakery early in the morning to get the most incredible almond croissant. It will change your taste-buds life).
The atmosphere at Bao Bao is noisy and chilly as the door is constantly being opened but the food is pretty damn great. All told, four beers (one for me!) two plates of dumplings, wantons, two pork belly plates, beef tongue (don't even get me started on why I'm not writing about this) and dessert cost only $60. Not terrible in the grand scheme of things!
Once we left this bustling event, D and I walked to Central Provisions to meet my Pub Run girlfriends. I had skipped out on tonight's run to experience the Allagash event because let's face it: when I have to choice to go to a foodie event and eat or go running when it's damn cold outside, which do you think I choose?
After saying hello to my Prosecco-drinking ladies, we moseyed over to Sonny's, where Buoy Local cards are accepted (AMAZING giftcards: buoylocal.com). Once entrenched in the swanky and beautiful darkness of their bar area, we ordered a Mister Pink cocktail and a beer. My cocktail had the oddest name but was tasty all the same with tequila, Solerno blood orange liqueur, muddled fresh jalapeno, lime and guava. With time (and the odd power of Asian food that "makes" you hungry an hour later), I became hungry again and we were compelled to order dessert. It was a really tough choice between a deep fried apple hand pie with maple bourbon ice cream, sundae with banana ice cream, house made donuts and caramel sauce or the chocolate crema Inglese with vanilla crema and served in a coconut oat lace bowl. We went with the last choice and holy hell it was amazing. The consistency was like really thick pudding but the taste was of very rich chocolate and the shell was crunchy and a great juxtaposition to the pudding texture. It was everything I've ever wanted in a chocolate dessert.