I had a birthday last week. What better time to enjoy some of the fabulous restaurants our city has to offer? What can you give a person who has it all? Wonderful meals prepared by someone else. My husband gave me all that and more.
Dim sum is hands down my favorite lunch of all time. Comfort food at its finest. Most of the dim sum in Portland is served in Chinatown. Restaurants here include Fong Chong and House of Louie, neither of which are the cleanest restaurants ever encountered. I have been reasonably happy with these for many years, however. That was until I discovered... Ocean City (or as we like to refer to it... Ocean Magic). Remember Ocean Magic Barbie? She wore a wet suit that, when warmed, as in warm water, disappeared. She came with a very small whale. My husband and I did a photo shoot for Mattel many years ago that involved ‘Ocean Magic Barbie’ and the real live ‘Keiko the Whale’ at the Newport aquarium. She was later sold as ‘Ocean Friends Barbie and Baby Keiko the Whale.’
Why was there never a pregnant Barbie? Because Ken came in a different box!
Ocean City is a bit of a distance from us, but definitely worth the drive. When you enter, the first thing you may notice is the fact that there are very few non-Asian customers in sight. In fact, we were exclusive. English is not the preferred language here. It helps if you know your dim sum to assure you can fill the table and your tummy with all your favorites.
When the carts stop at our table, I intercept with questions? Ha gau? Cheong fan? Shu mai? Hun shi gao? Hum bao?
Small, shiny metal containers are pulled from the depths of the cart. The steaming contents are revealed as they’re laid out in front of us like gifts for the queen.
Slurping and mmmmming are allowed, if not encouraged.
One of the most delicious items they offer is not in the carts. You must ask, in your best Chinese, for the barbecued pork. This delicacy is a must have! Displayed like prizes in the front of the restaurant, pork and duck hangs in glass cases resembling the animal it once was. The pork is a tenderloin sliced and served warm on a small platter with plum sauce on the side. Drool!
Leave your American ideas and language at the front door. When you walk through the door at Piazza Italia, you are in Italy. We made a reservation for 9pm. A respectable time for a European meal, especially when you’re still recovering from a trip to Hong Kong earlier in the day.
If your first impressions of a good Italian restaurant are the bread, you’ll be in awe from the get go. One person made the rounds, making sure our bread basket and balsamic/olive oil well were full at all times. The freshly baked bread is cut into sample sized bites, which keeps you from realizing just how much of it you’re consuming. The wait staff is unhurried and relaxed and customers are greeted like long lost relatives stopping by for the holidays. Wine is poured with a heavy hand, laughter and loud jovial conversations abound. If you’re looking for a restaurant where you will feel welcome and appreciated, you’ve arrived. Tables are placed very close together, and by the end of your long meal you may even make a new friend, or, in our case, learn more about the couple next to you than you really cared to.
The menu is somewhat limited, but consists of homemade pastas that are out of this world. I ordered the Linguine Squarciarella (aka Gino’s favorite) a simple linguine made with eggs, prosciutto, onions and parmesan cheese. This was a large mound of pasta, which I managed to consume in its entirety. Squisito!
This week I will dream of noodles and gnocchi while consuming only
salads and smoothies... sigh.