Chef Thu Ha Dinh and her eclectic team at fuAsian merge flavors from a variety of Asian cuisines. Whether they're helming a cooking class or whipping up well-crafted meals for diners or catered events, the chefs use handpicked natural ingredients, creating dishes that ooze earth-culled goodness and each write polite thank-you notes to the ozone layer.
Elephants Delicatessen has been providing Portlanders with fresh deli fare since the dying days of disco. Items are made from scratch daily, with the menu and prices varying from location to location. A few staples pop up at several Elephants eateries, however—namely, the delicatessen's highly praised soups, including the beloved tomato orange soup ($4.50 for a bowl at the Elephants on Wheels location), said to have the ability to align stars in a single spoonful. An array of sandwiches is also available at Elephants Delicatessen, including an albacore tuna salad mini-hoagie ($4.50 at the three Flying Elephants locations), or the Elephants' Own Hamburger ($8.95 at the NW 22nd Avenue location). Depending on which Elephants you choose to harness with your lunch-grabbing lasso, you can also opt for pizza, spinach salad, a black-bean burger, fish and chips, or a Carolina pulled-pork sandwich. Be sure to check your location's menu before making crazy-eyed demands for lobster-and-squash cookies, which don't exist.
At Umi Sushi Japanese Restaurant, chefs busy chopsticks with 14 specialty sushi rolls and a menu of traditional Japanese dishes. Servers stroll through the placid dining room, rescuing empty plates from the clutches of Olympic-discus hopefuls and dotting the yellow tablecloths with appetizers, such as the taco su's octopus, cucumber, and seaweed salad ($7.50). Behind the sushi bar, fresh ingredients merge together to create raw and cooked nigiri sushi ($3.50+), vegetarian maki ($3.50+), and specialty maki, including the dragon roll with eel ($8.95 for seven pieces). The Umi special sauce marinates thin strips of short-cut ribs ($11.95–$13.95), and the Tanshin bento box ($12.50 for a large) partitions teriyaki flavors into culinary cubbyholes. Diners can augment meals with scoops of green-tea ice cream ($3.95) or signal their departure by gurgling imported beer, wine, or sake.
Bellagios Pizza, locally owned and operated since 1996, brews ripe batches of tomato sauce and tosses fresh disks of dough daily at their Wilsonville location, while crews at each restaurant sprinkle pies with delicious toppings to create a menu loaded with pizzas, grinders, and calzones. Heaps of spinach, artichokes, and juicy tomatoes guide wandering bellies out of the desert with the Oasis pizza ($10–$19.99), while the Butcher Block throws a crust-top party of salami, pepperoni, canadian bacon, and italian sausage ($10–$19.99), coming together in hearty harmony like a chorus of lumberjacks. Diners interested in a wider variety of toppings or in teaching children about medieval class structure can opt for a pie cleanly divided down the middle, such as a half-cheese, half-pepperoni pizza ($8–$17.99). Slathered with pizza sauce and adorned with meaty toppings, the Bellagio grinder ($5.99) competes with a host of calzones ($10.99) for the silver medal to the pizza menu's gold.
Stanford's Restaurant & Bar stays close to home, even as it explores and combines the diverse flavors of the US. In addition to buying fish from the Columbia River, its chefs obtain as many ingredients as possible from Washington and Oregon producers such as Inaba Farms, Ralph?s Greenhouse, and Dungeness Farm. The results: fresh grilled salmon with lemon-chive cream and a rib-eye steak that spends 48 hours marinating in pineapple and soy. As for their combinations, the chefs don't believe land and sea need to remain separate?just look at their Surf & Turf Kobe burger with dungeness crab, b?arnaise sauce, and roasted mushrooms. And both surf and turf tend spend a lot of time together atop the kitchen's wood-fired grill, too, soaking up the smokey flavor of the smoldering logs while coming to realize there aren't so many differences between them after all.