Pillars decorated with ornate Chinese dragons hold up a pagoda-style canopy and invite visitors to the Ambassador, where classic Chinese recipes and cocktails fuel nights of karaoke tunes. The lounge presents itself as a stylish karaoke haven, outfitted in jewel-toned neon that casts colorful light throughout the shadowy interior. Each song from its exhaustive library is programmed to coincide with lighting effects that amplify performances and distract belligerent cats. Singers belt out their chosen tune through the high-quality sound system on a long stage surrounded by panels of tiny star lights.
A bevy of Chinese dishes served in the adjoining restaurant helps singers recharge when offstage. Egg foo young and popular pork, chicken, beef, and seafood dishes populate the menu alongside the kitchen’s specialties. Mongolian steak is cooked in a spicy brown sauce, and the yuzi shrimp pairs large shrimp in chili-ginger sauce with baby shrimp stir-fried in black-bean sauce.
Cabezon dishes out a constantly metamorphosing menu of locally and regionally procured fish fares that vary based on season, availability, and the position of Orion as viewed through an astrolabe. The most recent menu leapt from the starting block with chive blinis with trout caviar and crème fraiche ($4) and Hood Canal oysters with champagne mignonette ($2). Heartier bites include the basil-wrapped gulf shrimp (apricot-almond chutney and tangerines, $11), wild king salmon (beets, salsa verde, fennel, and frisee, $20), and Mediterranean mussels ($12). Desserts such as Callebaut Belgian chocolate pot de crème ($7) and lavender and honey crème brûlée ($6) are just a few of the treats that have recently humbled sweet teeth. A list of West Coast and European wines accentuates the fresh bites the same way a top hat really brings out a magician's eyes.
In addition to awarding Lucky Strike a spot on its list of Best Restaurants in 2009, Portland Monthly praised the eatery for its ability to "revise everything you know about Chinese food." While the chefs source ingredients from local producers whenever possible, they also embrace the fiery flavors of Sichuan cuisine by incorporating such traditional spices as prickly ash and Sichuan peppercorn. These incendiary ingredients appear throughout the menu, which includes signatures such as twice-cooked pork belly, braised eggplant, and sweet-and-sour chicken.
To complement bites, the restaurant features a selection of locally brewed beers that rotates regularly. Bartenders mix cocktails with spirits infused in-house, including the signature vodka with lemongrass, ginger, and thai chili.
Wine-red and jet-black walls lend a lounge-like ambience to the dining room, which features dark wooden tables and traditional Chinese wall art. From the ceilings, red chandeliers light the space more effectively than a portrait of a supernova.
The bamboo steamers sit conspicuously behind the glass counter, spirals of steam escaping their closed lids as guests peer at the expansive menu and consider their options. There are three types of dumplings and four kinds of bao filled with the likes of barbecue pork, Szechuan chicken, coconut custard, and adzuki bean paste. In addition, the menu offers pad thai noodles and banh mi sandwiches. Guests sip loose-leaf teas to complement the meals, soaking in the sun from the large windows or out on the sidewalk patio.
Finely chopped vegetables. Seared slivers of chicken. Sauces that balance sweet and savory notes. These ingredients have come crackling together in the kitchen of Chen's Dynasty since the eatery’s eponymous founder opened it in 1985. Jacob Echeverria took the reins two decades later, and as a longtime associate of the Chen family, Jacob adopted their culinary style.
The Sichuan- and Hunan-style recipes belong to past generations of the Chens, who have eschewed photo albums and immortal butlers to pass down specialties such as peking duck glazed with honey and served with steaming pancakes and hoisin sauce. Another dish, pan-fried oysters, drops onto tables accompanied by onions and ginger, or sizzling with black-bean sauce.
Feel the Pacific breeze wafting scents of sustenance over the noses of forks with the authentic island eats of Noho’s Hawaiian Café. Appetizers include Korean ribs ($13.35) and 20 sautéed shrimp ($12.35), welcoming diners like delicious leis draped on taste buds. Meaty main courses run the gastronomic gamut from thinly sliced teriyaki pork ($8.35 for a small order) and pan-fried Korean chicken ($10.40 for a small order) to stir-fried butterfly shrimp ($13.35) and the Loco Moco ($10.35), featuring two hamburger patties topped with fried egg, macaroni salad, and gravy. Leaf lovers and slurping superstars can fill up on flavorful helpings of yakisoba noodles ($12.85)—a pile of slick strings topped with crisp vegetables and drizzled in sweet or hot garlic sauce—and wash down the wave of deliciousness with a refreshing glass of passion-orange or guava juice ($1 each) before the riptide of joy overtakes the mind and washes away Florida.