(1) Whoever invented the term “niblets” is a marketing genius or a wizard or something.
(2) Sushi-ya. Try Sushi-no. It opened a short while ago in the space formerly known as Misako on Willamette at 8th. Poor quality — poor quality — tuna, soggy, tasteless and mushy. The snapper, which I should have known was bad (given it was offered as a special with lemon and ginger) was almost dangerous. I did like the Hawaii roll, and speaking as someone who is disgusted by most American kitchen-sink-type sushi rolls, this is high praise. They keep that one simple, with tuna, chives, and hot peppers. Wormy little bean sprout salad as a free starter, no thanks. The food took forever to arrive and was disappointing when it did. Young white men manning the sushi station: never a good sign. Probably the worst sushi I’ve had in a very long time.
But a serious, serious problem, and one I can’t believe no health inspector has noticed, is that the sushi is served on old wooden boards that were once food-grade, but now the varnish is peeling from the corners and the wood has cracked. We ate from one with a big hairline crack down the middle, and another one that had two significant flaws in the wood — the knots and divots that create pretty patterns on your hardwood floors, but a health hazard when on service items in a commercial kitchen. And one featuring SUSHI? Ugh. Two wasabi-green thumbs down. (No, the picture isn’t the board we ate on. It’s a used BBQ cedar plank from our woodpile. But evocative, no?)
(3) And a delight, for balance. The late-night Lebanese hummus plate at Café Soriah. Simple, fresh sliced broiled lamb, seasoned with mint and sumac, atop a big mound of delicious, creamy hummus, with pretty green marinated olives and some hot pink pickled onions on the side. Want.
(4) And oh heck, more delight. Ish. The prosciutto and fresh arugula pizza at La Perla. The restaurant itself could use some fine tuning, but the pizza oven rocks. The first night we went was during the Olympic Trials, and we were seated on the south side of the pizzeria, which is acoustically flawed (I fear for good) and we could hear the other tables better than our own dinner companions. The second time was much better, with fewer kids running around and more adult noise levels on the north side. The service was less snotty Barbie doll high school girl with attitude, too. (Jesus, give me a fuckin’ BREAK.)
Eschew the expensive, prepackaged desserts and the pedestrian salads, and get your pizza topped with a big handful of arugula leaves. Do salad like the Italians do. Well, pick off the bruised and yellowing arugula leaves (La Perla, shame on you), then do it like the Italians do. The peppery, greeny, crunchy arugula is a perfect match, dare I say synergy, with the cheese and the salty prosciutto and the blackened bits on the pizza dough. I’ve been looking for a pizza like this since my trip to Italy in 2002. Yum.
(5) The laab beef salad at Aiyara Café in Springfield (in a sad little strip mall at Harlow Road and Gateway). Finally, a Thai restaurant in the area that doesn’t over-sugar its food, gah. This is one of my favorite Thai dishes, featuring rare beef slices, mint, cilantro, onions and fresh lettuce, tomato and cucumbers in sour and spicy lime dressing texturized with roasted rice powder, and Aiyara makes it well.
(6) From another car on the arugula train, Midtown Bistro‘s bacon, arugula and tomato sandwich with homemade mayo is really quite delicious. Thick, chewy bacon, great bread, and a summer tomato — ah, I’m drooling just thinking about it. Take a hint from me and order a green salad on the side, though, to supplement the skimpy serving of arugula on the sandwich. Or just tell them to add more. I guess you could be less passive-aggressive.
(7) Belly. I haven’t been. But a little bird told me very good things.