Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ya Hala

I have been wanting to branch out of our comfort zone a bit and try some ethnic cuisine which might include flavors and sensations outside of what we normally partake. I believe that we breached our safety zone last evening with cuisine from Lebanon and we emerged from the doors of the restaurant with pleased palates. In fact, due to the copious quantities and our desires to taste each of the items set before us, we came away a bit over full. The host generously offered us carry out boxes so we can continue our enjoyment at home.

Not being at all familiar with the items offered in the
menu, we asked our server to help us with our choices which she did with a pleasant smile. We started with a mezza selection which is an appetizer apparently. We chose the Veggie Mezza. It was an assortment of various finger foods, pastes, and what we normally call salsa to be eaten with the wonderfully freshly baked pita bread. That was where the over eating began. The flavors were delightful and in essence, we ate too much bread at the very beginning.

Freshly baked pita bread. They brought more after we ate the first two.

Here is the homous. It is a paste made of garbanzo beans with various additional ingredients to enhance and complete the dish. The Baba Ghanouj looked nearly the same but its main ingredient is eggplant. Click on the image above with all of the mezze plates pictured together for a better look at the subtle color differences. The flavor, of course, was far more distinct but each was good in its own way.

This mezze dish was called Tabouli. As I mentioned earlier, it is much the same as what we call Salsa. It, too, went well with the pita.

Our last mezze plate featured Aranabeet which essentially is a piece of quickly deep fried cauliflower. It is not my favorite choice of vegetable but I ate it and am still here today to report that it really wasn't that bad. This plate also featured a couple of grape leaf wraps. They were good. I have no idea what was in them. It was a bit like eating a pickle but not really. I would certainly eat them again. The final two items on this dish were called Falafel. These are apparently a deep fried dumpling made of finely ground garbanzo beans. I ate one and it was good but I was already beginning to suffer from over-indulgence so the flavor was some-what wasted on my palate. I brought one home so perhaps if it retains its characteristics through to the next day, I will know better how good they were.

There was one thing that I wanted to mention but was hesitant to place it at the end of this post because I prefer being able to end on a high note. Debbie ordered lemonade. The menu describes it as lemonade with orange blossom water. She let me have a taste because it was just so weird. It was like someone poured perfume into the drink. I had to agree with her that it just didn't taste good. Ok, let's get back to the things we really enjoyed.

Our entrees each came with an green salad topped with a vinagrette.

Debbie chose a chicken kabob on a bed of rice. She could have chosen beef or lamb but I suspect that she felt that chicken was a "safe bet".

My choice was a couple of lamb shanks in a nice sauce with the rice on the side. It was very interesting that the lamb was cooked in such a way that the distinct lamb flavor was somewhat more subtle than it often is. The dish was garnished with mint which is also different to me. I really haven't experienced it with savory dishes before. It was good and I am looking forward to my plate of leftovers.

I am confident that we will eat here again. I'm pretty sure that even with some of her reservations about certain unusual foods, even Debbie enjoyed her meal. Perhaps next time it would be prudent to only order selections from the mezza list. It would be much more economical as well although now that I've said that I should mention that we got out of there for less than $50.00 and brought home enough to eat a light meal later. I think it would be worth the trip for you if you're in the area.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cadillac Cafe

Now let me be perfectly candid for a moment. This blog is normally about places which we have visited without any previous experience. This particular restaurant is one with which we do have some history. We visited it again this morning and wish to comment without bias as if we'd never been there before.

Each of my experiences with the Cadillac Cafe has been during breakfast hours and the breakfast menu has been the menu from which we chose a meal. As has been the case in each of our visits, today we signed in and waited for a table to become available. Today the wait was only 5 minutes or so.

The waiter was quick to our table, made some friendly small talk and then was quick to answer any questions which we had and take the order. The first item on the order was coffee. The quality of the coffee was supurb. I should have asked for the name of the supplier of their bean.

Debbie chose an item off of the menu with which she was familiar. It was their Hazelnut French Toast.

I, on the other hand, chose a selection with which I was unfamiliar. I chose Eggs Mazatlan. It was a couple of poached eggs on a flour tortilla with hashed browns on the side. There was a nice salsa and a delightful "glop" of quacomole. I chose to add to the plate with a healthy helping of hot sauce.

I truly enjoyed my breakfast and would have been pleasantly pleased with my portion but Debbie was full after only one slice of French Toast and I had the opportunity to over-indulge by finishing her second slice of toast. I would have to add that her breakfast was very good as well. It came with sufficient maple syrup but I found that between the butter, the hazelnuts, and whatever other secret ingredients were in the recipe, I didn't need any of the maple syrup to please my palate.

You will not be disappointed with the Cadillac Cafe. The wait staff is efficient and effective. The menu choices are wide and delicious, and the atmosphere is interesting and eclectic. I encourage you to put this establishment on your list of restaurants to visit.

As they do not have a website. You can find the cafe at:

Cadillac Cafe

1801 Northeast Broadway

Portland, OR 97232

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Joe's Crab Shack

Apparently we've developed a habit! Tonight we needed to get another "fix". I was actually anticipating something a little more exotic but Debbie's hopes for the evening fell somewhere different than we'd ever been before but within our normal paradigm of eating establishments. Tonight we ventured across the Columbia River to the Portland suburb of (tongue in cheek) Vancouver, WA. This evening our destination was Joe's Crab Shack. It is located right along the river and features a choice of indoor

or outdoor seating.

Our concern regarding the outrageously obnoxious mosquito population this year heavily weighted our decision to dine within the sanctuary of the inside dining area.

This establishment is a fun and happening sort of restaurant. The wait staff seemed generally helpful, eager, and youthful. Nearly all of them were in their late teens or early twenties. Good for them! They probably need to tap into that energy because along with their focus on their patrons, every 45 minutes or so, they break into some entertaining group dance. Just a few minutes into our visit we were treated with the Macarena, perhaps three quarters of an hour later it was some choreographed rendition of "Staying Alive". I got the impression that we as guests were invited to join them but it would have required copious amounts of tequila to get me to do that. In fact, the only people that I saw involved in the dancing, that weren't employed by Joe's, was a couple of kids a few tables away.

Well now, Mateys. Let's get down to the menu and our dinner selections.

Now I would have loved to try and tie into one of Joe's buckets of crab and things but that would have set me back at least $27.00 per plate and up to over $40.00 depending on what was in them. We decided to be a little conservative though we still spent what I consider to be a lot for two people. Debbie chose something called Salmon Orleans

which I suppose was a Cajun influenced blackened salmon. It came on a bed of rice and according to her was quite good. Mine was a platter which included fried clams, shrimp a couple of different ways, and a nice fried fillet of fish.

Unfortunately, neither of these selections is featured in the online menu so I can't let you read for yourself what it was like. I suppose you'll have to take my word that it was good. With all of that fried food, however, I'd wager that any benefit from eating fish was heavily compromised. But, like I said, it was good! We were unable to be tempted by the dessert plate due to our over indulgence in the main course. There were some very interesting selections available, however, and perhaps we might be tempted to sneak up there just for dessert sometime.

Now this particular establishment is part of a national chain and like so many has chosen to offer various souvenirs to boost the bottom line. They have a rather large, in my opinion, selection of T-Shirts available for purchase. They didn't suck us in this time as the colors were far more flamboyant than my boring tastes will allow.

Overall, a very nice time. So, if you're looking for a casual atmosphere with good seafood and a great view, Joe's Crab Shack is a lot of fun!

Friday, July 2, 2010


We really did step outside the box on this visit. I was showing this blog off at work the other day and someone said one of the places which he enjoyed was called Montage. The rather brief description was that the place was kind of cajun. Well, I suppose that it is, in fact, kind of cajun.

When we first saw the place, there were a number of people standing outside the door. Many of them were very well dressed. Oh, wow I thought, were we a little underdressed? As it turned out, the reason people were standing outside was because the doors were locked only to be opened promptly at 6:00pm and I don't know why that group had decided to dress up a bit. What matters is that one can apparently eat at Montage dressed well or down a few notches like we were.

My first impression from the street was, uh oh, this reminds me of some kind of dingy little bar. When they finally opened the door, I was shocked to see all of the white linens. It was kind of weird. I mean the place turned out to be really casual and the tables were adorned with fancy white linens.

Ok. You need to know. The second question we were asked after how many in your party was, "Do you want to sit at a table with people you don't know or would you rather sit at the counter?" We chose to eat at the counter. That was interesting in itself. It put us very close to the kitchen and allowed us to watch and listen to the cook staff as they announced to the wait staff when a order was completed and ready to be delivered.

Between the hollering from the kitchen, the music being played on the dining room speakers, and the general conversations going on between patrons, the room noise was remarkable. I mean it was really quite loud in there. In order to pass a private message between the two of us it was nearly neccessary to talk directly into each other's ear.

Let me get to the waiter and the meal. Our waiter was attentive and helpful. He answered questions and was very responsive to our needs. I am apparently a bit more at ease with experiencing new foods than Debbie is because as I looked at the menu, I felt that I could have comfortably tried any number of selections. Debbie, on the other hand, didn't step out too far and ordered chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, and a vegetable medley. Her meal also came with a lovely garden salad.

I chose a jambalaya with scallops and for three dollars more was allowed to pick an additional meat. I couldn't resist the temptation to order alligator. I couldn't really tell you what it was like. I'm not going to say it tastes like chicken. It was actually difficult to separate all of the flavors due to the spices and herbs in the sauce. It was good, however, and I ate it all and had to make a consious effort not to lick the bowl.

I probably would be remiss in not mentioning some of the items which seemed to be popular. There were a lot of macaroni and cheese dishes coming out of the kitchen. We actually decided to purchase their "Old Mack" selection and bring it home to our 17 year old son. He said it was the best he'd ever eaten. Now that is pretty high marks from him.

Wow! I want to mention something else. We were just too full to have appreciated another bite of anything, but there were some truly wonderful looking desserts coming out of the kitchen as well. I saw some really tempting cheesecakes and a couple of chocolate cake dishes that were probably really worthy of our attention. But in the words of the contemparary philosopher, Dirty Harry, "A man has got to know his limitations."

Overall, it was good, fun, and way outside of our comfort zone in any number of categories. From our single experience, I would recommend this establishment as long as you're willing to have a go with some of the things which I've described.

Bon chance and bon appetit!