How the hell do you decide where to eat in Paris? Pardon my French (pun very much intended). When Jonah and I decided to spend a quick 36 hours in the city of light between Christmas with his family in Germany and landing in Lisbon, I immediately felt overwhelmed. In my opinion, Paris is not the kind of place you can do in that short amount of time! But Jonah and I had both been to the city before, so we decided to just spend the day walking and eating.
As a holiday gift, my mom sent me some money for a nice dinner out in Paris. The research commenced, and after much reading, we ended up settling on a place I found fairly early on in my hunt: Restaurant Alliance from chef Toshitaka Omiya and Shawn Joyeux, two men with lots of Paris kitchen experience. It seemed beautiful, small, and interesting – and that’s exactly what it was. The space was long and narrow, seating maybe 30 people in total in comfy chairs under beautiful round chandeliers. The space was very calm and quiet without being uncomfortably so; everything felt very relaxed. In the back of the dining room, a huge window allowed a peek into the kitchen where the chef works.
This week, Jonah and I were itching for happy hour. The sun was shining, and we both had finished up a day’s work by 5 o’clock. Because we both have a passion for any kind of Asian food, we decided to go to Fish Sauce, a little Vietnamese restaurant on a quiet corner in NW Portland. We had been once before a long time ago, and quite enjoyed ourselves. So I met Jonah there, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they have a lovely patio where we could sit outside.
First we ordered drinks: Jonah started with an IPA, while I went the cocktail route with the Bangkok Dangerous, made with rye, thai tea, lemon, and demerera sugar. Because we were so hungry, we immediately ordered the crispy pork roll, which was fairly standard Vietnamese fare.
After that we ordered some grilled mussels, topped with coconut milk, toasted coconut, and peanuts, which were pretty unique and very good. We also ordered the grilled romaine with dressing and grilled tofu. I liked this dish – it was crunchy and refreshing – but I do wish there had been a little more dressing. Next up were some fantastic chicken wings (which were eaten so quickly that I couldn’t nab a picture). They were crispy and not drenched in sauce, while still being a little bit sticky and sweet.
After those small plates, we were still a little hungry so we decided to order the Bún, a big bowl of vermicelli noodles with lettuce, cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots, mint, topped with a crispy roll, grilled shrimp, grilled beef, and of course there was a little bowl of sauce to pour over the whole dish. This dish was light, sweet, crunchy, and fresh, and is one of our favorite things to order since our trip to Vietnam last year.
The service at Fish Sauce was extremely friendly, and I love both the patio and the long communal table inside. This place feels like a great combination of a neighborhood spot, a best kept secret, and a tasty hip Portland restaurant.
This year, my father was lucky enough to have my older sister Emily, my cousin Lia, and me and Jonah in town for Father’s Day. I imagine that, if I have children one day, I will feel lucky to have them around as they get older and venture off into the world. And it’s nice to know that, even as they wander farther from home, they can come back and celebrate milestones with you. This Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were oddly emotional for me, so maybe I’m being too sappy. But I think as I get older, and think about having children of my own one day (a far off day, mind you), I think of my parents differently and appreciate them in whole new ways. I feel pretty lucky in that both of my parents (all four of them, actually, if we include my “step-people”) are strong and brilliant in their own ways. They have been through some incredible trials and have come through those trials even stronger and wiser. I have learned incredible lessons from both of them, and hope to be like them when I grow up.
Anyway, that was an emotional and sappy opening to a post which is really about an amazing meal. It was one of those moments where I feel a lot of joy – to be enjoying incredible food with wonderful people in a beautiful setting. It can’t get much better than that, can it?
For Father’s Day, Darla (one of my “step-people”) made reservations at La Bête, a Seattle eatery I had been hearing about for quite some time. I knew it was one of her and my dad’s favorite spots, so I was excited to learn that’s where we’d be eating. As soon as we walked in and sat down, I knew I was going to like it. The decor was funky and soothing at the same time – gray walls, old tables and chairs, neat art, old silver, beautiful light… Our waiter was very friendly (turns out his parents ran an Eastern European restaurant my dad loved back in the day) and helpful.
First off, we ordered some house made juices (by juicebox) to share. With flavors like beet & lemon & ginger, kale & cucumber, and carrot & orange & turmeric, these brightly colored drinks were a welcome sight, and a nice way to tickle the taste buds before we started the meal.
To share with the table, we ordered a few “starters,” as we were all pretty dang hungry when we arrived. First up we ordered a chicken liver mousse paté, which came with a lovely salad with grapes and walnuts, as well as some really crispy toasts. The liver was really creamy, but not too smooth, which I kind of like in my liver paté. It was wonderfully seasoned, and disappeared quickly at a table of liver lovers. Next up was the ricotta terrine, which seemed as though it had been lightly seared on the sides, and served under a heap of thinly sliced (and perfectly ripe) honeydew, red onion, and a slew of herbs. The bites were perfection – the cooling mint, creamy ricotta, biting red onion, and juicy sweet melon made a perfect combination. Lastly, we shared a plate of the pistachio coffeecake with rhubarb compote. The coffeecake came on a beautiful little plate, and was still warm when it arrived. Have you ever put a warm pastry in your mouth and the steam is filled with the essence of the spices used to flavor it? These bites were full of cardamom steam, a perfect compliment to the pistachio. The dollops of rhubarb compote and creme fraîche didn’t hurt either.
My cousin Lia and I shared the spring salad and the Spaetzle with apple, chicken, cabbage, and an egg. Both were lovely and unique. The spaetzle wasn’t creamy like I’ve had before – rather the little dumplings were tossed with bits of fruitiness and earthiness, with a yolk running over it all. The star of the salad was the puréed charred eggplant that had been smeared on the plate beneath the veggies, and acted as a kind of dressing. Other big hits at the table were the breakfast sandwich and the waffles with fruit.
Writing it all out, I remember now how wonderful it was, and how being with my family, enjoying new flavors while sitting in a beautiful setting is really one of my favorite things in the whole world. Thanks, La Bête, for offering such a peaceful place and fantastic menu, the perfect atmosphere for us to enjoy while enjoying each other’s company.