Thursday, August 30, 2012

Portland Restaurant: Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

Doug and I try to get together with Shaun and Krystle, our friends from college, every other month or so for dinner or happy hour. Krystle and I lived together for a year and captained our college dance team together- so I know a thing or two about her eating habits.

There are two rules for choosing restaurants for our get-togethers: 1) No sushi, Thai or anything too out-of-the-box. 2) A good deal is always appreciated.

A few weeks ago, Doug and I finally made it to Luc Lac and we were quite impressed with not only the quality of the food and drinks, but also the lovely combination of generous servings and excellent prices. Perfect choice for our double date with Shaun and Krystle!

What: Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen
Where: 835 SW 2nd Ave
Honeys Heart: Rice plate/vermicelli bowl

Our second visit did not disappoint!

 We started out with drinks. Yes, cocktails are on the pricier side- but they're made with unique ingredients, are super tasty, and with food at such reasonable prices, I don't feel bad about spending a few dollars more on booze.

Left: Krystle's Parasol Punch ($9) with rum, pho syrup, lime, and grapefruit syrup
Right: My Summer in Saigon ($10) with St. Germain, watermelon, lime, and kolsch
Not Pictured: Doug's Smoke & Mirrors ($11) with mezcal, Fernet Branca, cola and smoked salt

Love that my drink was so summery and fun- both in looks and taste. Krystle and Doug both enjoyed their drinks as well.

For food, Luc Lac serves salads, pho, and some other specialty plates, or you can choose your preferred meat served with rice, vermicelli noodles or as banh mi.

 Doug and Krystle tried the vermicelli bowl and rice plate (respectively) with Steak Rolls ($8.50), marinated round steak wrapped around grilled veggies. I had a rice bowl with Grilled Chicken skewers glazed with honey ($7.50).

Each rice plate and vermicelli bowl comes with salad, a dipping sauce, and two crispy rolls made with pork, taro, jimaca, carrots and noodles.

Shaun tried the Combination plate ($10) which comes with pork, chicken, shrimp, and pork sausage skewers and crispy rolls. So much meat! But don't think Shaun was complaining.

All the meats were so flavorful and the sheer amount of food you get is kind of amazing.

My honey-glazed chicken reminded me of skewers that our neighbors served during our annual street fair when I was growing up. I remember being kind of obsessed with them so I was happy to find something so reminiscent. I loved the shrimp skewers I had during our first visit too though so I'm not sure how I'll choose between the two on our next visit!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Portland Happy Hour: The Bent Brick

One perk of working within walking distance of our apartment: I'm home by 5:15pm at the latest. In theory, that should mean I get to make it to all kinds of end-at-6pm happy hours. But since everybody else doesn't have the same commute, it's pretty rare these days that I do get to partake in an early happy hour.
I know, so sad right? But don't feel bad for me for too long because two weeks ago Doug got off work early (yay!) and tasked me with figuring out what happy hour to go to (the pressure!).

Unfortunately I chose wrong.

What: The Bent Brick
Where: 1639 NW Marshall St 
When: HH 5-6:30pm Everyday
Honeys Heart: ???

I've heard good things about The Bent Brick- at least I thought I had. Now I can't quite remember where, so maybe I haven't? Regardless, their $3 happy hour snack menu and $5 cocktails seemed like a good choice.

My first mistake might have been veering off the happy hour drink menu as regularly priced cocktails are a little up there. I decided to go for one of the least expensive: Stay Cool Out There ($8), made with vodka, house elderflower liqueur, strawberry syrup, and "sparkles" (aka some bubbly).

This was good because it reminded me of a sparkling rosé somehow, but that also made me a little mad because if I wanted a sparkling rosé I would have ordered one.

Doug stuck to the hh menu and ordered a Moscow Mule ($5), which he described as "sub-par" and "the most pedestrian Moscow mule I've ever had." Yikes. Can't say I disagreed.

Another downfall: half of our snack of choice, Smoked Cod Poofs with Malt-Garlic Dip ($3), were stale. Like feel like you're going to break your teeth when you bite into them stale. Not good.

And the final strike: the place was completely empty. That's ok in some restaurants, but at The Bent Brick, Doug and I just felt awkward. It was as if we had arrived way too early to the party.

One more thing. They have a great little patio, but on the day we were there, a bright sunny day, there was only one picnic table sitting smack dab in the middle of the patio. There was definitely room for more seating. Awkward again.

I don't think we'll be back any time soon.

UPDATE 8/30: Following the posting of this review, we were contacted by the PR folks representing The Bent Brick asking if we would give them another shot. We agreed and were treated to a lovely meal. Kel loved the Green and Romano Bean Salad ($10) and my favorite dish was definitely the Pork Belly and Loin ($23) served with country ham gnocchi. However, my initial review was of Bent Brick's happy hour, not their dinner menu, and as the happy hour menu does not accurately reflect the restaurant's focus on fresh, local ingredients, I stand by my initial assertion that this is not a happy hour I will return to if the happy hour menu remains the same. If I ever feel like splurging on dinner in my neighborhood, Bent Brick will be on my radar. Cheers!