Dar Salam Lazurdi – Iraqi Kitchen in Portland Downtown

Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown

Located in the heart of Portland downtown and very close to the waterfront park, Dar Salam Lazurdi is an authentic Iraqi restaurant that serves 100% halal dishes to all their customers. There is another Dar Salam location somewhere in Portland but I have dined in this downtown location couple times now and I loved it all the way. Just come prepared, you may have to park in the hourly garage or by the street

Inside Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown
Inside Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown

I have come here during weekday lunch time with my colleagues and weekend dinner with my family. Both of the times, the place was somewhat packed. It’s a beautiful restaurant with elegant decors and exquisite interior war mural and paintings that depicts Iraqi culture and landscape. And that’s why I think this is a perfect place to celebrate an occasion or bring someone special for a fine dining. Dar Salam also has a small sitting arrangement outside but most of the time that doesn’t help much with our rainy weather.

Now, let’s come to food. First time I was here with my co-workers was during lunch time. You can order from the menu but we went for the buffet. That was a good option for me since I wanted to try different dishes. The buffet gives you option of fish, meat, wide variety of vegetables, rice, dips, and soup. Every single item on that buffet was very tasty and flavorful…no doubt.

Lamb shank in Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown
Lamb shank in Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown

For the second time, I was there on a Saturday evening with my kids and uncle. This time we ordered from the menu (don’t think they have buffet for dinner) and honestly, we were all satisfied with all of our plates. Our lamb shank, chicken kababs, and beef kababs with rice and salad.

Beef and chicken kababs in Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown
Beef and chicken kababs in Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown

For desserts…um, I’ve had better tasting baklavas than Dar Salam. Other sweets that we ordered were either too sweet or not what we expected. But I’d love to bring my friends or out of state guests to enjoy their food again. This is a perfect place especially for those who are on strict halal/kosher diet.

Desserts in Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown
Desserts in Dar Salam Lazurdi in Portland Downtown

Two Brothers Cafe & Grill – Balkan food in Portland

I have been to Two Brothers Cafe and Grill few times now and this place never disappoints me. It’s a small Balkan restaurant and serves Bosnian cuisine specifically. I do have a soft corner for Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially after visiting that country few years ago. They probably have the best breads, kabobs, and burgers in the whole Balkan region. It kind of became a tradition with my daughters to go there after visiting the historic Peacock Lane of Portland to see the Christmas lights/decoration couple blocks from the restaurant.

Inside Two Brothers Cafe and Grill in Portland, OR
Inside Two Brothers Cafe and Grill in Portland, OR

Two Brothers Cafe and Grill is not that fancy of a place. It is a simple and cozy restaurant where you can get some best cooked meat and freshly baked bread in the neighborhood. I think by now, I’ve almost tried most of the dishes in Two Brothers Cafe and Grill. And some of my favorites are “chevapi” (small beef kabobs/meatballs), beef sausage that comes with bread “Sudzuka” and Greek salad, chicken kababs, and the combo platter. Ask for their Bosnian “Burek” bread which is not on their menu…they will occasionally have it every few months and if you are lucky, you will get to taste this warm and soft homemade bread right out of the oven. I still haven’t tried their Bosnian burger because every time I go there, I always end up ordering their beef kabobs “chevapi”. If you are a fan of bean stew, try the fasuli too.

My favorite dish in Two Brothers Cafe and Grill - combo platter with Chevapi (beef kababs) and beef sausages
My favorite dish in Two Brothers Cafe and Grill – combo platter with Chevapi (beef kababs) and beef sausages

Honestly speaking, I am not a big fan of their dessert menu. I have tried the baklava…it’s too dense and sweeter than other ones I’v tried. But I do like to have their Turkish coffee after my dinner, which is served in beautiful traditional Turkish pots and trays.

Bosnian Burek bread in Two Brothers Cafe and Grill in Portland, OR
Bosnian Burek bread in Two Brothers Cafe and Grill in Portland, OR

I don’t go back to Two Brothers Cafe and Grill couple times a year just because this is the only Balkan restaurant I know in town, but also because they serve some of the best kababs in Portland and their service is great.

Two Brothers Cafe and Grill in Portland, OR
Two Brothers Cafe and Grill in Portland, OR

 

What to Eat In Singapore: The Best Local Dishes and Our Recommended Spots to Try Them

Singapore is a marvelous place thanks to its rich culture, which is a result of people from different nations converging there. The blending of several cultures has brought about amazing architectural designs, heritage buildings, and most important of all, irresistible dishes.

The following are some must-try dishes that you cannot afford not to have on your menu while in the island state:

Nasi lemak

Nasi lemak, meaning “rich rice,” is a versatile dish that you can take for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The main component of this dish is the aromatic coconut rice that goes with different sides as per your preference. You can opt to take your rice with fried prawns, crunchy fried chicken, a fried egg and green beans, or ladyfingers so that you have a well balanced meal, but the choice is all yours when it comes to the sides. So where should you sample this mouth-watering dish? You can have nasi lemak at Hawkers Stall at a significantly low price per plate, or you can pop into the posh Coconut Club, where you will part with more cash, of course for a more luxurious treatment.

Beef Rendang

This wonderful beefy dish is a product of a lot of dedication, since it takes several hours of slow-cooking to end up with the thick, dry gravy. Should you attend any Malay family event, you can hardly miss a pot of beef rendang as the main meal. However, you can eat it any time you wish—not only during Malay celebrations—by checking yourself into Rumah Makan Minang Indonesian Restaurant. If you are not in Singapore, plan to tour the city-state and try out the beef rendang and other great dishes, and maybe even learn how to make them so you can do it back in your home country. As you plan your trip, you should work with a reliable agent to process your visa and for other travel needs, and you can easily find one at https://www.one-visa.com.

Traditional charcoal porridge

Are you wondering since when porridge became a food? Well, unlike the notion that porridge is food for the sick, you will be surprised to discover that it is great food for the soul. Porridge is meticulously cooked over a charcoal stove, resulting in a tasty meal with an unmatched smoothness. You can count on the traditional charcoal porridge on a rainy day and when fighting a hangover to do the magic. For this great meal, just head to Ah Chiang’s Porridge, which is situated in the historic Tiong Bahru district.

Laksa

You cannot miss a good helping of thick rice noodles with a delicious spicy broth and a sizable share of prawns and cockles. This dish has so many versions, but the Singaporean rendition is just amazing, as it takes into account those who cannot use chopsticks by cutting the noddles into small pieces, which can thus be eaten with a spoon. For the best of laksa, head to 363 Katong Laksa, whose location is 29 Lorong Liput, Singapore 277740.

Pandan Cake

Although tea time is not a big affair in Singapore, they have some good treats like pandan cake to accompany your tea. Also, it perfectly blends with a steaming cup of Milo. You can have this awesome cake at any Bengawan Solo outlet.

 

Karima of Morocco – Cooking Classes & Catering

I know Khala Karima (Khala means aunty) for couple of years now. She is one of the sweetest and the most welcoming ladies I know in Portland. She is a very caring and a hardworking woman with tremendous passion for healthy cuisine. Being from Morocco, her specialty is preparing authentic Moroccan style home-cooked meals for small to large group of people.

Couscous with Lamb
Couscous with Lamb

Khala Karima offers cooking classes both at her place or on-site and offers catering services for any size of gatherings or special events (including delivery). She has also done stalls/booths at different community events selling her finger-foods, snacks, or Middle-Eastern desserts. The best part is that she offers evening and weekend classes…just contact her early enough, because she does get booked very quickly.

Preparing food for a large party
Preparing food for a large party

I’ve personally taken one of her cooking classes with few of my friends couple years ago. We picked lamb with rice to prepare and learn. The amount of love and attention go into her dishes are inspiring. All of her ingredients are fresh, high quality and without any artificial flavors or colors. She will show you step by step and plus some secret tips and alternatives for a great meal.  She told us some short cuts and some other ways of cooking a same dish. You can ask her as many questions as you want and she will happily answer you with great details. After the cooking demonstration, we all sat down for the dinner, served in traditional Moroccan dishes. And to finish it off, she served us hot Moroccan mint tea with few different kinds of date cookies and almond biscottis.

Karima's Cooking Class
Karima’s Cooking Class

For catering, she has done it for hundreds of people on many occasions. She has her own professional kitchen to serve any amount of people. The best part is, her dishes does not taste like the ones you get in restaurants. They are all pure Moroccan home-cooked meals, exactly the way you would get in Morocco. I have ordered cookies and biscottis from her before for my kids and friends. They are very reasonably priced and were packed in such a professional way that I could serve them right away.

Desserts by Karima of Morocco, in Portland, Oregon
Desserts by Karima of Morocco, in Portland, Oregon

I can’t say enough about Khala Karima’s food. They are healthy, delicious, simple yet has so much flavors. Above all, the way she will treat you, you will feel like you know her your whole life.

Another dish by Karima - chicken with lentil
Another dish by Karima – chicken with lentil

Follow her on instagram: karimaofmorocco

Follow her on Facebook: Karima Elatchi

Q Restaurant & Bar

I used to eye this restaurant after I started working in the downtown area. It looked so modern inside and out and I used to just wish having a meal there someday with my people.

Inside Q Restaurant and Bar in Portland Downtown
Inside Q Restaurant and Bar in Portland Downtown

First time I stepped inside  Q Restaurant and Bar was with a friend for dinner. We both had seafood dishes…seafood stew and pasta with seafood (I think). Both were fantastic and made to perfection. We got some freshly baked warm bread and butter to accompany the dishes. Finally to finish off we had a pomegranate dessert and home-made Turkish coffee ice-cream.

Seafood pasta in Q Restaurant and Bar
Seafood pasta in Q Restaurant and Bar

Next time I was in Q Restaurant and Bar was with my uncle and kids for a late Saturday brunch. Their brunch is open until 3pm on weekends. Although the menu is short and may seem like doesn’t have much options, you can create your own breakfast from their side orders. While one of my daughters was up for seafood stew for her breakfast, rest of us had vege benedict which came with potato cake, sauted vegetables and 2 eggs.

Vege benedict in Q Restaurant and Bar
Vege benedict in Q Restaurant and Bar

Their menu covers from soup and salads to variety of main entrees. Small plates are available under appetizers. Their main entrees change almost every night…but whatever you order, I can almost assure you that you won’t regret it.

Our desserts in Q Restaurant and Bar

My first impression of this restaurant is WOW. They have the best customer service with very friendly waiters/waitresses and a perfect location in downtown near the water front. Park your car inside the World Trade Center underground parking or by the street. This is a fantastic place to celebrate a special occasion or take someone for a date night or just for a cozy brunch with family on weekends.

The Tao of Tea – Inside Lan Su Garden

We are in the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland downtown this past week, taking one of my uncles to see the local Chinese members celebrating the year of the pig. We were there in the late afternoon, mainly to see the International Lion Dance. After the lion dance, we walked around this small but beautiful garden that is located in Old Town Chinatown, which is the official Chinatown of the Northwest section of Portland.

Inside The Tao of Tea in Lan Su Chinese Garden Portland
Inside The Tao of Tea in Lan Su Chinese Garden Portland

The Tao of Tea is int he middle of Lan Su Chinese Garden inside the Tower of Cosmic. You do have to buy ticket to the garden to go inside the tea-house. This is a very calm and peaceful place to enjoy hot traditional Chinese tea and snacks. With two levels of sitting area, this has a plenty of space to accommodate enough guests. I loved their heavily wooden interior decorated with tons of teapots and cups.

Decoration Inside The Tao of Tea
Decoration Inside The Tao of Tea

We ordered both spicy and roasted peanuts and two plates of vegetable dumplings for snacks.  For our tea, we had golden monkey (black tea), Eight Treasure (mixed of different herbs), and bamboo leaf tea. The teas were served individually in tiny teapots and cups with some rock sugars. The presentation was beautiful and the tea tasted perfect.

My spicy peanuts and Eight Treasures tea in The Tao of Tea
My spicy peanuts and Eight Treasures tea in The Tao of Tea

This is a unique place to enjoy hot beverage and will ask you at least to try this place once if you are inside the garden. If you don’t have time to sit-in for tea, buy some of their signature flavored teas and enjoy them at home.

Vegetable dumplings in The Tao of Tea
Vegetable dumplings in The Tao of Tea

Pix Patisserie

Pix Patisserie is one of the most elegant and beautiful coffee shops I’ve ever been to in Portland. There should another one of this near my house…but no wait, I don’t want it close to me, otherwise I’d spend all my money and time buying their oh-so delicious goodies.

Inside Pix Patisserie
Inside Pix Patisserie

Pix Patisserie is a little slice of Champs-Élysées, Paris on the Burnside St. of Portland. With it’s trendy interior and wide variety of dessert menu, this is a perfect late night hang out place where you can indulge in macaroons, gourmet chocolates, artisan cakes, French pastries, and hot beverages. If you are looking for after-dinner snacks and something before desserts, try their tapas.

Inside Pix Patisserie in Portland
Inside Pix Patisserie in Portland

I clearly don’t remember what I or my friend ordered when we were there (pictures should give you a nice idea). But whatever they were…each of them was incredibly good. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but even then…I felt like a kid in a candy shop.

Desserts in Pix Patisserie
Desserts in Pix Patisserie

Finding a parking here can be a bit tricky if you hate parallel parking. But for all the trouble you are going to get thru to come  here will be all better once you step your foot into Pix Patisserie. If you have enough time, walk around and have your meal somewhere in this neighborhood before your dessert…the whole street is packed with lots of ethnic restaurants at every corner.

Desserts and tea in Pix Patisserie
Desserts and tea in Pix Patisserie

I will take every chance I get to come to this place again. I bought some fruity gum drops for my kids which they loved. Now planning to bring them for some macaroons and other pastries.

Kachka – Russian Style Dining

When was the last time you went to a restaurant that is perfect in every aspect? If you haven’t experienced that recently, then you should check out Kachka in Portland. Kachka is a very popular Russian/Ukranian restaurant or maybe the only one of its kind here worth trying out.

Inside Kachka in Portland
Inside Kachka in Portland

Last week we had our annual company kick-off. Thursday was the team-dinner with all of our on-site and remote colleagues. We all met up at Kachka after work in the evening and for me, this was the first time there.

From outside, Kachka may not look all that fancy. But it does have a modern office-type brick and glass exterior. Once I was inside, it looked very opposite from it’s outer look. Interior was fancier with more colors, had loud music, closely arranged tables, and cheerful customers. The waitress who was serving us was very friendly, polite, answered my questions very patiently, and even suggested some items to try.

Cheese stuffed dough (top) and Uzbek bread with sheep cheese (bottom) at Kachka in Portland
Cheese stuffed dough (top) and Uzbek bread with sheep cheese (bottom) at Kachka in Portland

We were eight of us and if I am not mistaking, we ordered about 7 or 8 different types of appetizers to start with. The best part was that we all tried and shared little bit from each plate. And I am not lying a bit, every single appetizer that I’ve tried was made to perfection. Some appetizers you must try here are the herring “under a fur coat”, imerulian khachapuri (smoked cheese wrapped in a crunchy dough), variety of dumplings…especially the sour cherry dumplings, assorted pickled vegetables, and Uzbek-style brindza bread with sheep cheese spread.

Herring "under a fur coat" at Kachka in Portland
Herring “under a fur coat” at Kachka in Portland

For the main course, I had chicken skewer. And again…another tasty kebab dish that came with shredded carrot salad. The dish doesn’t come with any carbs which may seem small for some people. But for me, since I had the opportunity to taste multiple kinds of appetizers…the size was perfect for me.

My chicken skewer with yummy shredded carrot salad at Kachka in Portland
My chicken skewer with yummy shredded carrot salad at Kachka in Portland

I’ve been telling all my friends in Portland to try Kachka. I loved their food, customer service, atmosphere, decoration, and everything. I still crave their pickled vegetables and sour cherry dumplings…sooo good. This is a place where I would bring someone near and dear to my heart to treat them in a special place…this is how much I loved this place.

Antoni’s Restaurant – Beaverton

I officially have a teenager at home now. I say officially because, all this time she was pretending to be a teenager (pre-teen). This is an exciting phase for me…don’t really know what to expect other than what I experienced myself as a teen and what teenagers from this generation face.

To celebrate her 13th birthday, she wanted to keep it simple (compare to her last few birthdays) and wanted to take her few friends to a restaurant. We had total 17 people with her friends and families. After contacting few places from Italian to Middle-Eastern, we finally settled on Antoni’s (and not the Italian place in Portland, called Antonio’s). I’ve dined here before and I loved their food and atmosphere.

Cheese on flame in Antoni's
Cheese on flame in Antoni’s

Antoni’s is a Greek/Mediterranean place in Beaverton area on Canyon Road. It was love at first sight for me with this restaurant. I loved their food and interior when my friend took me there last year. This is a great place to celebrate an occasion or just go for soul Greek food or just love having breakfast/brunch outside of your house once in a while. Their menu pretty much covers wide variety of breakfast items, appetizers, all types of mouth-watering Greek salads, more than 10 different types of burgers, gyros, souvlaki, mousaka, seafood, kid-friendly menu, and other traditional Greek dishes.

Lamb and chicken skewers at Antoni's
Lamb and chicken skewers at Antoni’s

First time I was at Antoni’s, I had gyro, which I absolutely loved. This time we decided to go for Family Style Dinner for a big crowd. There 2 kinds of dinner platter that you can choose…Greek Dinner and Grilled Family Dinner. We ordered few of both platters. Both are slightly different and included cheese, salad, mousaka, dolmas, spanakopita, rice, mashed potatoes, lamb and chicken skewers, grilled shrimps, and veges. They were all great and all the kids loved the meat items as well as the salad and rice.

While everything on the dinner platter was great, I wouldn’t recommend wasting your money here on desserts. The birthday girl received a free sundae ice-cream which was great. But most of the other kids who got ice-cream or lava-cake or cheesecake…they all complained the desserts weren’t that yummy. But most of all those desserts weren’t really traditional Greek or Mediterranean sweets.

Dolmas, spanakopitas, and mousaka at Antoni's
Dolmas, spanakopitas, and mousaka at Antoni’s

But other than that Antoni’s’ had a perfect customer service and dealt with this big group very professionally and patiently. The kids especially loved when our waitress flamed a block of cheese on fire in front of them and gave the younger kids some birthday goodies.

Antoni’s is in my list of favorite restaurants for Greek food in Portland. Check it out and do let me know if you come across any other good Greek restaurants in town. I like any kind of Mediterranean dishes any days of the week.

 

Verde Cocina

Last Sunday night was the girls’ night out (only dinner though) and one of our friends was determined about going to Verde Cocina. Unlike many of the Mexican restaurants, this place is a gluten-free and vegan friendly place with more of healthier choices in the menu. I guess what I mean by that is that they use more locally grown ingredients, have less dishes with refried beans and sour cream and some dishes with EVOO.

Verde Cocina in Sylvan Highlands
Verde Cocina in Sylvan Highlands

Verde Cocina has multiple locations around Portland and as far I know, all of those locations have option to dine outside and are well known for their brunch selections. But what I loved during my first visit there, was their interior decoration and coziness of this place. It has a casual family-friendly atmosphere and service is awesome too.

Inside Verde Cocina in Sylvan Highlands

I ordered guacamole and tortilla chips, crab soup (was their soup of the day), and shrimp ceviche. Another friend ordered Pollo Con Papas. Yes, the guacamole had the option to add jalapeno (which we forgot to add), but I thought it tasted slightly flat…nothing that stood out for me. The tortilla chips were very good and fresh. I loved my soup of the day thoroughly and another friend who ordered that loved it too. It was creamy and very well balanced. The ceviche had only shrimp option and it came with garden salad. I liked it, but again I’ve had way better ceviche with lot of kicks of flavors. My friend’s Pollo Con Papas was really good. The chicken was grilled perfectly and tasted amazing. The dish came with boiled potatoes and fresh garden salad. I din’t try anything else other than the chicken from her plate. And that was one good slice of chicken.

Soup, shrimp ceviche, guacamole, and Pollo con Papas in Verde Cocina
Soup, shrimp ceviche, guacamole, and Pollo con Papas in Verde Cocina

If I ever go back to Verde Cocina, it would be for brunch next time. I am all for big brunch yums and love places where they offer brunch until late afternoon. Overall, I thought this restaurant has a very nutritious menu with traditional Mexican items and use better ingredients to cook their dishes. I am not sure if this place would be ideal if you are looking for messy tacos or mouth watering diablo dishes. But if you are looking to enjoy Mexican food without too much cheese or grease or refried stuff, I would highly recommend this place.

Food and culinary Adventure in Portland, Oregon

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