Tag Archives: culture

Akadi – A West African eatery in Portland

I have never been to a West African restaurant in my life before and had almost zero knowledge about their dishes, until a friend of mine mentioned this place, called Akadi. It was 3 of us, on a Friday night, decided to go to for dinner in Akadi.

Akadi entrance

Without much of an extravagant exterior, Akadi has one of the most beautiful and spacious interiors as a restaurant in Portland. With its grand entrance and high ceiling, this has an open vibe to it. We didn’t make any reservation, but luckily had to wait only less than 15 minutes to get a table.

Inside Akida in Portland

My friend and her other friend already came to Akadi before and they knew right away what they wanted. My friend ordered their special fried chicken wings, called Suya chicken wings from the appetizer, her friend ordered a meat and fish stew that came with a side dish, called “fufu”…mashed yam.

The Suya chicken wings, rubbed with peanut and other spices, were spectacular. I don’t think I have ever tasted chicken wings like these before. They had a nice kick but not too overpowering with spices. It can be a bit dry for some people but yet very tasteful.

Suya chicken wings in Akida

The okra (or spinach?) stew with goat (and I think she mentioned it also had fish?) and a side of yam was not particularly made for my taste buds, but I can understand why some people love the side yam, “fufu” and the stew together. I’m not a big fan of yam either…so, yeah.

Stew with “fufu” in Akadi

For my dish, fried whole red snapper with salad on top with a side fried plantains was my favorite. It passed my expectation with its flavors and texture, especially with the onion, herbs, bell peppers, tomatoes, and on top drizzled with vinaigrette. The fried plantains that came with it was the best…I could have a couple more plates of those.

Fried whole fish with salad and plantains in Akida

Overall, Akadi was an experience for me. It was a perfect place to hang out with the girls. My friend also told me, on Saturday nights, Akadi opens its whole floor for dancing. I guess, next time, I just to be go there on a Saturday night then.

Ovation Bistro & Bar in Historic Downtown Milwaukie, OR

What do you do when you have a day off and you are trying to find a French place to have a lunch get together with a friend? Well, after searching for all the French restaurants in Portland, I saw that most of them aren’t open until 5pm.

Inside Ovation Bistro & Bar

Ovation Bistro & Bar is a cute hang out place with an airy ambience in the historic downtown of Milwaukie near Portland. They have a bright and relaxed indoor sitting arrangements, but it was one of those rare and gorgeous October day in Portland with no rain. So, we decided to hangout outside on their front patio. Lots of picnic benches and high chair/tables with umbrellas are surrounded by tons of hanging flower baskets are here. It felt fresh and just the right place to chill and catch up with a friend.

Outdoor patio, where we sat

This modern French country style place would be my ideal place for brunch or lunch. We went for simple food. From the appetizer, we had some steak frites, where marinated sirloin steaks are served in cubes with shoestring fries. I had their soup of the day, which was tomato bisque served with a mini baguette. And my friend had some fettucine pasta in home-made ratatouille sauce with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and eggplants. The tomato soup was definitely one of the best I’ve tried so far. And those shoestring fries with garlic aioli sauce was simply addictive. Pasta was great too, I may try a different one next time.

Steak frites in Ovation Bistro & Bar

People, food, and the whole place are all amazing at Ovation Bistro & Bar. Opened back in the summer of 2020, they are making real good food in a small restaurant with casual vibe. Being the historic downtown adds a bit more excitement to this location. Definitely have to come back at night sometime to see the crowds of this place.

Pasta on the top and tomato soup at the bottom in Ovation Bistro & Bar

Gado Gado – Dutch-Indonesian Cuisine in NE Portland

A friend of mine and I made a sudden plan to have dinner together tonight and her, never experiencing Indonesian food before, I suggested Gado Gado. I love Indonesian dishes which is a mixture of Oriental Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. There are many similar spices and ingredients in that part of the world, plus the way dishes are prepped and cooked share common techniques.

Outside Gado Gado

Gado Gado in NE Portland is a casual and bustling place with dimmed light and soft decorations. The eatery boasts for their pan-Asian/Indo-Chinese & Dutch-Indonesian plates. There is an outdoor but shaded sitting option too. With friendly service and a couple of different menu options, this is one of the top Indonesian places to try out in Portland.

Inside Gado Gado

There are 2 ways you can order in Gado Gado. One is order from the a la carte. Second one, called Rice Table experience, is more exciting. With the Rice Table experience, you pay $85 per person but you get a family style feasting encounter, where everyone has to participate and your whole table will be filled with many items from appetizers all the way to desserts.

Chicken Satay with peanut sauce

Since it was only 2 of us, we ordered total 3 items from the menu. First came the chicken satay as an appetizer. They were beautifully charcoal grilled on skewers and served with peanut sauce on the side. Then came the main entrées. Charcoal grilled albacore with fermented turnips in a pool of coconut broth with tons of cilantro had a fabulous fresh scent of fresh lime/lemon leaves. Last one, “Sumatran Style Beef Rendang” was recommended by our server. The beef came with a side of scented coconut rice, boiled eggs, shrimp crisps, and sambal sauce. The beef was soft and almost looked like shredded/pulled beef with perfect amount of spices and a slight kick of chili.

Sumatran Style Beef Rendang

There dessert menu is not that great currently (only had one option – orange cardamom donuts). But if you want to get out of your comfort zone and try something not-so-popular cuisine, I can bet everyone will love Indonesian dishes. I’ve heard about Gado Gado from few different people and it definitely served my expectations.

Grilled albacore with fermented turnip in coconut gravy

Casa Zoraya

Tonight was my second time trying Casa Zoraya. First time I was there with a close friend and tonight with an ex-colleague who I saw after about a year.

Inside Casa Zoraya

I have a thing for Peruvian cuisine and tried most of the top Peruvian places in Portland. Casa Zoraya has a great atmosphere (with lots of plants) to just chill…and…relax and enjoy heartwarming good food. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, though I’d recommend sitting outside…it’s just beautiful. Servers are super friendly and nice.

My ceviche dish in Casa Zoraya

It’s a casual hangout place but aesthetic enough to surprise your guest(s). The menu isn’t super big but has most of the Peruvian dishes that I usually go for and loved during my visit to Peru.

Lomo Saltados at Casa Zoraya

After trying ceviches from many different countries, Peruvian ceviche is my most favorite one, because it usually has a slight kick of chilies. Ceviche at Casa Zoraya is nicely blend with corns, fried calamari, herbs, onions, and raw seafoods. It may not have the heat but the portion of the dish, presentation, and freshness of all the ingredients make it so palatable.

My colleague’s vegetarian dish

Their Lomo Saltados is what I took when I was their first time. Again perfectly cooked beef with white rice, and veges in a pool of gravy .

My friend’s dish from my first visit to Casa Zoraya

Checkout this place to be nicely surprised by their setup and mainly by their flavorful dishes. Definitely make a reservation and be ready to park on the streets.

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.

Gandhi Restaurant

Gandhi Restaurant is about a block or two walk from my work. It’s a popular place and a fairly crowded during lunch time on weekdays. The days I don’t bring lunch are the best time for me to look around downtown and taste different places.

Gandhi Restaurant in Portland Downtown
Gandhi Restaurant in Portland Downtown

This is a Panda Express style Indian fast-food place. They don’t have buffet or menu items. You have the option to choose from chicken, lamb, or different kinds of vegetable dishes. I had spicy chicken with eggplant curry. The amount of rice, curries, and naan I got for $9 is amazing. I walked over to the chutney/raita place to add some on my plate.

Dishes in Gandhi Restaurant in Portland Downtown
Dishes in Gandhi Restaurant in Portland Downtown

Both chicken and eggplant tasted nice for the first few bites. Then I kind of lost the appetite. I started feeling like I am just eating very mediocre type Indian food made for people who never had gourmet or good quality Indian food. The rice was completely buried and got mushy under all the gravy from chicken. Half way thru, I didn’t even feel like packing the rest of my food to bring it home, because I knew I wouldn’t eat it anymore.

I haven’t tried the other items here at Gandhi Restaurant but I doubt if I will ever go back there again. The customer service is great here and couple people at my work actually recommended this place…just not my type of Indian food.

Si Señor

I have been to this place multiple times with my kids before. And again last week, when I was craving for some Mexican food, I went there with one of my friends to try some new stuff. I don’t go to Si Señor for the food actually, because I’ve had more authentic and better Mexican food other places. Si Señor’s food is good too, but I love their colorful and fresh interior.

Si Señor, Cedar Hills
Si Señor, Cedar Hills

After they changed their location, the place looks amazing. All the furniture and decors are adorable. The customer service has also improved a lot. You will be treated with a bowl of tortillas chips, bean dip, and salsa after you sit down. BUT do walk to their salsa bar for more dips and sauces.

My Shrimp a la Diabla in Si Señor
My Shrimp a la Diabla in Si Señor

We’ve tried their carne asada, guacamole (pre-made), and tacos before. This time I had shrimp a la diabla (shrimp in red hot sauce) and my friend had mixed grilled beef, chicken, and shrimp. They all came with rice, beans, salads and fresh avocados. But next time I know I should order my shrimp diabla really hot and not medium. My friend’s grilled beef was smokey and tender. From my previous visit, I remember my daughter loved their carne asada too and finished it all. I wasn’t a big fan of the chicken BBQ…but then again our waitress mentioned that their beef is more popular there.

Mixed grilled - beef, chicken, shrimp in Si Señor
Mixed grilled – beef, chicken, shrimp in Si Señor

Si Señor is a nice place for celebrations or just to hang out with the loved ones. It is a bit pricey for the food quality. Again, food was great but I think they can kick it up a notch with some fresh stuff and not pre-made things sometimes for the price they charge. I would recommend this place to anyone actually. Try it out and decide. I will definitely go back there for no reason really. I always have had a great experience when I go their from their waiters/waitresses and managers.

Mixed platter in Si Señor

Andina – Taste of Andes in Portland, OR

It was time to check out another Peruvian place in Portland. Thanks to my daughter, who just turned 12 yesterday for picking this restaurant for her and her another January-born sister (yeh, I have 2 January babies).

Live music inside Andina in Portland
Live music inside Andina in Portland

Andina is a super elegant, up-scale restaurant in Downtown Portland with multiple floors and a full bar. If you are looking for an exquisite place to celebrate an occasion or just spend time dining with your loved ones in a romantic atmosphere, this would be an ideal restaurant. I would highly recommend to make a reservation for this place, even for weekdays’ nights. We didn’t make a reservation but luckily got a table for 6 of us at the bar on a Thursday evening. This restaurant is a bit on the pricey side but it’s worth it somehow, because of the location and vibe of this place.

Our table at Andina in Portland
Our table at Andina in Portland

Let’s come to food now. Service is pretty fast and friendly here. I though the menu didn’t give too many options though. I was looking for chaufa, which is a Peruvian style fried rice with either shrimp or meat, for my 8 years old. But didn’t see that. Also, there weren’t variety of seafood options either.  The food was great though; but don’t get me wrong, I’ve had better Peruvian food for lesser price in Portland. As I said, this is a fine dining spot in the heart of Portland, where many other posh eateries reside.

Beef Empanada (left) and Chicken kabob (right) in Andina, Porltnad
Beef Empanada (left) and Chicken kabob (right) in Andina, Portland

You know a place is good when they can make raw fish taste good. I ordered ceviche with an order of chicken kabob from the appetizer. And in Andina, the ceviche was awesome with little kick of green chilies and a whole lot of lemon juice and a small side of vegetables. Chicken was also above my expectation…gotta love Peruvian style chicken. My little girl, uncle-in-law, and my cousin had lomo saltados. I didn’t taste the beef itself from lomo saltado, but the rice was fragrant and fries were very…PERUVIAN. If you want to go safe this is probably one of the safest dish to try and it’s Peru’s national dish. My older one, the birthday girl, had Peruvian seafood paella. Man, oh man…that was a good paella, even better than what I had in Spain. I never order paella and forget about ordering a seafood paella. But this was unexpectedly tasty. Also, we had beef and vegetable empanada as appetizers. They were good, but I am not a big fan of having powdered sugar on my empanadas…it was a bit sweet.

Lomo Saltado - a Peruvian beef and rice dish in Andina, Portland
Lomo Saltado – a Peruvian beef and rice dish in Andina, Portland

All the dishes were very proportioned and nicely decorated. My newly become pre-teen got a dessert with a candle to blow on the house. It was some kind of lucuma dessert and a hard chocolate cake with peanut and lucuma mousse. My lucuma ice-cream and my little girl’s lucuma mousse were both delicious. By the way, lucuma is a very popular fruit that we tried while visiting Peru, somewhat similar to avocado but sweeter.

Ceviche with veges (left) and Peruvian seafood Paella in Andina, Portland
Ceviche with veges (left) and Peruvian seafood Paella in Andina, Portland

If you want to drink something Peruvian, Andina serves Inca Cola which is a Coke product. While I am not a big fan of it, both my girls love it. I had to have a traditional purple corn juice, called Chicha Morada. Again, this is something  I had in Peru…so, had to test Andina’s version of it and it was what I was expecting…nothing extraordinary but good.

Overall, I would recommend this place to anyone. Would I ever go back there again? Yes, I would. But not for food, maybe for the nice arrangement of it. I definitely loved the character and look of this place.


Mexican Grocery and Eatery at Super Mercado in Hillsboro

Yes, I was looking for some authentic Mexican food in Portland after coming back from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I knew I wouldn’t get the quality food we had in Cabo. I tried couple other places but they were more like commercialized restaurants trying to make our American taste buds happy. But nothing really Mexican.

Super Mercado in Hillsboro was recommended by couple of my coworkers. They are big time taco guys…have to have taco Tuesday every week and have tried lots of places to give me some good recommendations.

Super Mercado in Hillsboro, Oregon
Super Mercado in Hillsboro, Oregon

Super Mercado is a Mexican grocery in downtown Hillsboro. Some of the food and items that I saw in Cabo were actually being sold here. From fresh produce to fish/meat section to bakery and everything else, this has it all. If you are looking for some rare fruits like guava or papaya…get them here. I was looking for some hot tamarind candies that we brought from Mexico were here too.

Super Mercado in Hillsboro Downtown, OR
Super Mercado in Hillsboro Downtown, OR

Let’s come to the small eatery section they have here. Super Mercado has a nice family atmosphere with variety options, reasonable price and good portion. Chicken, beef, pork, fish…all choices are here, even freshly made papaya juice…something I don’t know where else to get from.

Tortilla chips with variety of salsas
Tortilla chips with variety of salsas

Grab some free tortilla chips with some salsa from the open salsa bar while waiting on your food. I had the best shrimp cocktail in Cabo…the Mexican style (not the way we get here in the U.S. where the pale shrimps hang sadly from the side of your cocktail glass). Mexican shrimp cocktail is like a cold soup mixed with picco de gallo, cucumber, red onions, and you mix it with your favorite hot sauces. Sprinkle some tortilla strips…and voila, the best shrimp cocktail you’ll ever have. Super Mercado has a very close to the one we had in Cabo, except for the red onion. And pico de gallo wasn’t as good either, but hey…it wasn’t bad, I’ll probably go back there whenever I want some shrimp cocktail.

Shrimp cocktail
Shrimp cocktail

My friends ordered carne asada, chicken plate with rice and beans (forgot the name), and cheese quesadilla. They were all good, especially the chicken (according to my daughter).

A pollo dish with rice and beans
A pollo dish with rice and beans

Knowing little of Spanish may help while you are in Super Mercado, since most of the workers here don’t speak fluent English, or sometimes no English at all. But yeh, my little Spanish came handy in this grocery.

Carne Asada in Super Mercado, Hillsboro, OR
Carne Asada in Super Mercado, Hillsboro, OR

I still have to try some taco trucks in Portland and I heard, we have some really good ones in downtown or other places. But Super Mercado got me hooked for now. Next time I am there, I will be trying their ceviche, guacamole, and other plates.