Welcome to Take Five, a new Eat Beat feature that offers up five must-try tips from culinary experts around town. This week, local global foodie Jun Robles, chef at the recently revamped BridgePort Ale House, shares five under-the-radar Asian spots worthy of your attention.
Earlier this year, Hawthorne’s BridgePort Ale House gave Robles free reign to transform the brewpub menu into a playground of Asian-inspired comfort food with big flavors and a lot of wit, inspired by his local upbringing.
"I grew up here," says Robles, "and it wasn't the most diverse place in the world. I was almost the only Filipino kid I went to school with, and finding great Asian food in Portland was hard work. Over time, it has actually gotten harder, with all the new options to wade through. I’ve driven far, been to many a strip mall, ate standing in the rain, spent too much following a not-so-hot trendy lead, and suffered an upset stomach in a few of my quests. But in the end, I ate some great food, and I hope these picks will help you cut through the clutter and head straight for the good stuff."
Downtown: Hotpot City
"When people ask for my favorite restaurant in town, my answer is the same, every time: Hotpot City. No glitz, no glam, but after a few spoonfuls you’ll feel like your mouth is in a Shanghai disco. Broth #3 with medium spice. Load up on the tender tripe, braised pork knuckles, and house dumplings." (1975 Southwest 1st Avenue Suite J; 503-224-6696)
Southeast: Jade Teahouse
"If I owned my own restaurant, it would be a like lot this one. The food is delicious, the service is excellent, the space is beautiful, and it’s in a great neighborhood. Get the pork humbao. The bbq pork is juicy, tender, and cut to a tiny dice. The bread is pillow soft and comes with a bright red edible seal. This dish is perfect and eats as good as it looks." (7912 Southeast 13th Avenue; 503-477-8985)
Mississippi: Mee Sen Thai
"It’s a cool spot in the hippest neighborhood. You may think I would have been sold on the chic happy hour, which includes fried crickets, or the creative – dare I say trendy – cocktail list. But no, it was a soup. The Khao Soi Gai has soulful balance. It’s generations of practice served in a bowl." (3924 North Mississippi Avenue; 503-445-1909)
Southwest: Bamboo Grove
"At Oregon State I picked up a BS in Business, a drinking habit, and an addiction to mac salad. For the best Hawaiian food north of Corvallis go to Bamboo. Trust me. I’ve done my research. I’ve hit every Hawaiian café, even the one in Vancouver, even the one in Forest Grove, and I know what I’m talking about. Start with the spam masubi followed by a shoyu chicken plate. Aloha." (515 Southwest Carolina Street; 503-977-2771)
Beaverton: Jin Wah
"Back in the day this was a tiny 20-seat restaurant. It’s a place where I remember waiting 30 minutes for a seat – a seat usually next to a Vietnamese gangbanger and his grandmother. The pho was, and still is, that good. Then they moved down Canyon Road to a huge space; huge enough to start a dim sum program. This is dim sum that rivals my childhood memories of summers spent in San Francisco. It’s that good." (4021 Southwest 117th Avenue in Beaverton; 503-641-2852)
Crave more global flavors? Give Robles' globe trotting menu at BridgePort a try. The Oko-Lindoo-Yaki, a crispy and savory vegan Japanese pancake with shitake mushrooms and spinach topped with red pepper cashew cream and ponzu, is comfort food at its finest, the Momofuku-inspired Steamed Buns with bulgogi beef and kimchee or pork belly and cucumber are fresh and savory, and the Rice Bowl with char siu pork, seasoned rice, sesame carrots, and jalapenos, topped with a fried egg and plenty of fresh herbs and house pickles will tackle anyone's hunger.
BridgePort Ale House
3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-233-6540