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I’m from Portland, Oregon, but you probably can’t tell from reading my reviews. I’ve lived in Portland my whole life, but for some reason, I don’t know of very many places to eat there. Once I move back to Portland after graduation, I definitely need to explore the food places there. One place I do know about is HK Café (4410 SE 82nd Ave., 97266) – Overall restaurant rating: 3.5/5. I haven’t had dinner there, but whenever I’m in Portland, my family always takes me there for dim sum. Dim sum is great for breakfast or lunch because the portions are small and served with hot tea! Dim sum food is served on rolling carts with servers pushing the carts and yelling out what they have on their carts in Chinese. Then they stop by your table and show you what dishes they have on their cart and you point to the dishes you want. My family and I used to go to dim sum weekly when I was living at home so I know very well what’s delicious and what’s not so delicious.

What we ordered:

Pork Dumplings from HK Café

Shiu Mai (Pork Dumplings) – Rating: 4.5/5 – The pork dumplings here are so good! My family and I usually order four baskets of these. The baskets are supposed to have four dumplings in them, but my family took the other two dumplings before I could get a picture! This is a traditional dish of dim sum, if you don’t order it, you’re missing out on real dim sum food.

Chow Fun from HK Café

Chow Fun – Rating: 3.5/5 – These stir-fried flat rice noodles are delicious. The only thing missing from the noodles is some meat, but it’s because it’s the dim sum serving size.

Chow Mein from HK Café

Chow Mein – Rating: 4/5 – Different from chow fun, these are stir-fried crispy egg noodles. I really liked these noodles because they were so crispy. It’s difficult to keep the noodles crispy when you cook them, but the noodles from HK Café were perfect.

BBQ Pork Buns from HK Café

BBQ Pork Buns – Rating: 2/5 – The pork buns are stuffed with diced pork, mixed with a Chinese BBQ sauce and the bun is glazed with honey. I gave this a 2/5 because the buns were over glazed with honey and made them somewhat difficult to handle (too sticky!). The sweetened pork and the honey bun combined were a little too sweet for my taste.

Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls from HK Café

Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls– Rating: 4.5/5 – Besides the shiu mai, this is my family’s second favorite dish at dim sum. This is a wide strip of rice noodle wrapped around shrimp. They also have beef rice noodle rolls, which is very good as well. I always ask for extra soy sauce on the noodles to keep them from becoming dry and tasteless. The soy sauce on the rice noodle is usually a bit less salty than soy sauce from the bottle.

Stick Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf from HK Café

Sticky Rice wrapped with Lotus Leaf – Rating: 3.5/5 – A ball of sticky rice stuffed with chicken and wrapped with a lotus leaf. The rice is moist and the chicken is flavorful. The lotus leaf gives it a great aroma as well. I gave it a 3.5/5 because sometimes the chicken is a bit greasy.

Pinnapple Egg Custard Bun from HK Café

Pineapple Egg Custard Bun – Rating: 3.5/5 – This is my favorite dim sum dessert. If you like eggy desserts like crème brulee or flan, then you should try this one. The bun is filled with an egg custard that is sweet and rich. The custard in the buns served at HK Café needed to be thicker because mine was too liquidy. It may have been because I ordered them while they were still hot and fresh out of the oven. The plate is served with three buns, but my family grabbed them too quickly, and I could only take a picture of one.

Baby sister picking at her egg tart

Egg Tart – Rating: 3/5 – I don’t have a picture of the egg tart, but this is my adorable two-year-old sister sticking her finger into an egg tart. The egg tart at HK Café is standard, but sometimes too dry. It varies every time we’re there.

Around my area of Portland, I think HK Café has the best dim sum. I’m sure there are better places around Portland, but I’m talking about southeast Portland. My family ate dim sum at Wong King for years, until they raised their prices. Not only did Wong King raise their prices, but their quality of food went downhill as well. There’s also Ocean City Restaurant near that area that serves dim sum, but that place has horrible service. O.C’s dim sum is about 10 cents per dish cheaper than dim sum at HK Café, but HK Café’s food and atmosphere is better. I can tell because my baby sister isn’t as cranky when she’s at HK Café than when we take her to Ocean City. Dim sum is only served in the mornings until 3 p.m., so make sure you plan accordingly. This review is just on their dim sum, but as for dinner, I have no idea. I would try going on a weekday as well because the place it PACKED on the weekends, so service is ridiculous.

Here are other reviews on UrbanSpoon:

H.K. Cafe on Urbanspoon

Happy eating my fellow foodies!

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Overall Restaurant – Rating: 3/5. As a college student I eat a lot of Top Ramen. Honestly, the ramen I tried at Toshi’s Ramen (1520 Pearl St. 97401) didn’t taste much different from what I can make at home. Unless someone points out a dish I MUST try from there, I probably won’t be back anytime soon. I might go there if I completely run out of Top Ramen at home and really feel like paying $7.50 for some. I’m not giving the restaurant lower than a 3 because they at least have some ingredients that an average person wouldn’t have at home to add to their ramen.

Toshi’s menu is extremely overwhelming. It’s difficult to figure out where to start if it’s your first time! However, the cashier was more than happy to explain how the menu works:

First, there are three soup bases to choose from:
Sho-yu: Soy sauce based
Miso: Soybean paste based – this is the most popular soup base, she noted.
Shio: Salt based

Once you choose your soup base, you choose what you want in your ramen:

It starts with plain: Ramen noodles with topped with green onions and bean sprouts.
Then the original: Green onions, bean sprout, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans and marinated sliced pork.
After that, the choices are everything in original with one or two more ingredients added to it. The price increases according to what you add to it.

What we ordered:

Toshi's Miso Wakame: Miso soup with seaweed, green onions, bean sprouts, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans, and marinated sliced pork.

Miso Wakame – Rating: 2/5 – Soybean based soup with seaweed and everything in the orginal (green onions, bean sprouts, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans, and marinated sliced pork). I liked the seaweed and corn in my ramen, but the broth was overly salted. I generally like my miso soup a little more bland. I also like my miso soup with tofu and have the tofu soak up the tasty soup, but tofu wasn’t even an option as an add-in on the menu. The pork slice had a little bit too much fat on it.  I did however, like the ramen noodles – they were cooked al dente; I think the ramen noodles are actually made there from scratch.

If I wanted to make something like this at home, I would use Top Ramen and crack an egg in it. I’d watch the noodles to make sure they are cooked al dente and add all those ingredients in the ramen. I learned from my Miso Wakame that I like corn in my ramen so I would add that.

Toshi's Shoyu Butter: Soy sauce soup with butter, green onions, bean sprouts, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans, and marinated sliced pork.

Shoyu Butter – Rating: 3/5 – Soy sauce based soup with original ingredients and BUTTER. I liked this soup based a lot better than the miso. I think it actually had a lot to do with the butter. I was turned off by the idea of a whole stick of butter in the soup, but it actually made a big difference in taste. They had a few seasonings on the table you could add to your soup. There was a shaker with red seasoning in it, which I’m guessing is paprika. My friend added a lot of it to her soup and it made it taste a lot better.

If I wanted to make something like this at home, I would cook ramen noodles as usual, but use only half of the seasoning and add 2 tablespoon of soy sauce. Then I’d add 1/3 cup of butter and any other ingredients, like vegetables or meat I’d like. I’m sure I’d get the same affect as the Shoyu Butter ramen bowl.

If you end up going there, I’ve heard the Gyoza (pork & veggies potstickers) and the Cha-han (fried rice served with a side of soup) is good to try. The gyoza is little pricey for 6 potstickers though,  they’re $4. Those are two items I’d try next time if I come back. If you’re ordering ramen, I’d stick with the shoyu soup and have butter be one of the ingredients.

Toshi’s Ramen doesn’t have a fully active website, but urbanspoon has menus, reviews and other information for the place:
Toshi's Ramen on UrbanspoonHappy eating my fellow foodies!

Overall Restaurant – Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 – If you search Sweet Life Patisserie (755 Monroe Street, 97402) on Google, you’ll find an average rating of 4 ½ stars with 386 reviews. For the most part, I agree. I love the place and its atmosphere. I make a trip to Sweet Life with my friends almost once a month. Yes, I have a HUGE sweet tooth; I’ve probably been there at least 15 times since I’ve lived in Eugene. It’s a great place to chill with friends. I can’t exactly give the place 5 stars because I’ve had more fail desserts than winners. They have so many desserts and treats to choose from, it’s hard to figure out which one to choose. After going there so many times, I’ve learned that there are definitely some desserts you should just avoid ordering.

What I’ve tried:

Drinks

Mixed berry smoothie

Mixed berry smoothie – Rating: 2/5 – It tasted like a margarita without the alcohol. Okay, so a virgin mixed berry smoothie/margarita should be decent, right? Nope. It tasted like watered down fruit juice with an off-after taste.

Raspberry cremosa – Rating: 4/5 – Loved the cremosa and the raspberry taste, but I’d avoid sweet drinks with sweet desserts. It’s a sweetness overload! Stick with water or milk.

Desserts

Lemon bar

Lemon bar – Rating: 5/5 – If you like lemon bars (love it or hate it type of dessert), then this is a good lemon bar to try. The tart taste of the lemon bar is very well- balanced with a good amount of confectioner’s sugar. Yum.

Pumpkin cookie

Pumpkin cookie with frosting – Rating: 3/5 – Pumpkin desserts are kind of iffy to me. The pumpkin cookie was slightly too sweet and had a tad bit of nutmeg spice.

Red velvet cupcake – Rating: 2/5 – I read this article discussing the necessities of an authentic red velvet cake and the red velvet cupcake at Sweet Life didn’t seem to have any of the listed components, besides being red. The frosting was definitely not cream cheese.

Strawberries-topped cheesecake

Strawberries-topped cheesecake – Rating: 4/5 – Rich, a tad bit heavy but the strawberry topping balances the richness of the cheesecake.

Chocolate cream pie

Chocolate cream pie – Rating: 1/5 – No, don’t do it. What happened? The chocolate custard was way bitter, but had no taste of chocolate. It tasted more like cheap coffee ground. I am a chocoholic, but the chocolate custard just did not taste like chocolate. I was thoroughly disappointed. I took three bites hoping it’d start to taste better, but just ended up taking home the majority of the slice hoping to fix it somehow.

Tiramisu – Rating: 2/5 – Their Tiramisu tastes funny. I’ve had better Tiramisu from Fred Meyer’s, Safeway or even Cash N’ Carry’s frozen cake.

Cream cheese brownie

Cream cheese brownie – Rating: 5/5 – Oh my gosh, yum. My go-to dessert. So rich and so decadent. It totally satisfies my sweet tooth. My friends had theirs heated to make it even better. Warm or not, the brownie is delicious either way!

Brownie sundae

Brownie sundae – Rating: 5/5 – I saved the best for last. I’ve been to Sweet Life so many times, but once I discovered this dessert, I have not been able to try anything else. You can create your own brownie sundae by picking your choice of brownie and topping it with your choice of gelato. My favorite all-time combination: cream cheese brownie topped with dark Venezuelan chocolate. The turtle brownie topped with Tahitian vanilla gelato is amazing too. Describing this makes me want some right now. Yum!

Overall, Sweet Life is a great place to go to satisfy your sweet tooth, but be aware that not everything they offer will do the trick!

Check out Sweet Life Patisserie’s website for their menu and other information: http://www.sweetlifedesserts.com/

Here is urbanspoon’s reviews of Sweet Life:

Sweet Life Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Happy eating!

"The Big Easy" Eggs Benedict from Studio One Cafe: Cajun hollandaise on top of poached eggs, jack cheese, grilled tomato, spinach, and a grilled English Muffin, served with a side of homefries.

I am a complete supporter of small, local businesses. I rarely choose to go out to big name restaurants. I prefer to try out local, small restaurants. You never know when you’ll walk into a hole-in-the-wall that serves the most amazing food you’ve ever tasted!

Today I went to Studio One Cafe in Eugene, Oregon for brunch. I got “The Big Easy” from their Eggs Benedict menu. Now I’ve tried eggs benedict in many, many places. But The Big Easy from Studio One Cafe is my most favorite! And to think, I would’ve never found this out if I didn’t try local restaurants and only went to iHop!

My mom owns a little salon in Gresham, Oregon called Paradise Day Spa & Salon. Her business has been suffering for a few years since the economy went into recession. My mom’s a single mom, raising three kids while attempting to run a business, pay off a house and a car.

Being the eldest, I wish there were more I could do for her business. Back in high school, I would go out to her shop and work as a receptionist. I worked to build relationships with the customers. I greeted everyone by their names and made sure customers felt completely comfortable.

Now that I’m away for college, there’s not much I can do. I’m hoping to take the public relations and communication skills I learn from my PR and business administration courses to help her business out once I graduate! I started a Facebook page for her business, but I’m having a hard time gathering any fans. I’ve figured out that personal use of social media is much easier than business’ use of social media. Kudos to those businesses that succeed in the social media world!


Blogger Linda Lam

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