Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Not So Cool Things in North Portland: Chinese Food

We're not the only ones to bring home something nibblelicious from Canton.

Cantonese food - in it's more usual "Americanized" form - is pretty much a staple all over the world, a testimonial to the south China diaspora. No matter where you go you'll probably find that someone from Guangdong got there before you and started serving Egg Foo Yung. I ate Cantonese in London with pre-Mommy, in Jerusalem on leave from the MFO, in Panama, and all over the U.S., where-ever I lived. I'll bet that the first "Double Happiness Restaurant" opened in Portland, like, twenty minutes after Lewis and Clark paddled back up the Columbia dishing up Pemmican with Black Bean Sauce and Lake Tung-ting Chinook. I'll bet that the first settlers in Oregon City had them some sweet and sour pork for their first meal out washed down with three fingers of hot tea and a sasparilla for the young 'un.


The tragic reality is...

...there IS NO DECENT CHINESE FOOD in North Portland today.First problem is, there's only three Chinese joints in what is "offically" North to begin with, and one is "Mars Meadows", waaaay the ass up near the racetrack, and who the hell wants to hump all the way up there for some mediocre Lemon Chicken? Not the Master Chief's boy.

So we tried the first of the remaining two this past fall. The "Ying Ying" - we call it the "Yingyang" - pictured above is, frankly, just fucking scary looking. The building is dumpy, the parking lot looks like a West Side Story set minus a dead Shark or Jet or three, and the interior isn't much more cheerful. You know that smell that your crazy aunt's apartment used to have, the one that wasn't quite a stink but was just...wrong? Off? Kind of a skeevy, funky, musty, dried-cat-food smell? That's what this place smells like.

And the food is...eenh. It's not Panda Express bad. But it's not quite up to the Safeway Chinese deli, either. The rice dishes are dry and overcooked, the sauces glutinous and either too sweet or too salty. The fried-and-sauces dishes like sweet and sour or orange chicken feature immense nasty doughballs with tiny chicken bits in the middle. And the price is pretty mainstream for the mediocre-to-top-end-crappy dinner you get.

So. Okay. There's still the "Lung Fung" down Lombard towards the freeway.

Normally I'd give big props to any place with a "Tiny Bubble Room". But - so sorry, Lung Fung.

You suck.

I was coming home late from Longview and decided to chance a take out. Sweet and sour pork, General's Chicken, house fried rice. Foolproof, yes?

No. The pork McNuggets were twice as small, doughy and hard as the Yingyang's, the General apparently liked his sauce thick, brown, salty and in-the-style-of-meatball-gravy. The rice had a nasty sort of waterfront tang, like the water left sloshing inside of an abandoned drydock. It think that was the product of the elderly shrimp. Not sure. Didn't want to chance it finding out.

So I say this more in sorrow than in anger: we are bereft. We are hungry. We are poor, wayfaring strangers and we can't get decent Kung Pao Chicken to save our ass.

Well, fuck.


walternatives said...

Any Chinese grocery stores near your `hood? The Goob and I recently had The Best Chinese Food Either of Us Had EVER Eaten (truly) from a little cafe in the back of a local Chinese grocery store.

Good luck on your quest...

atomic mama said...

We had some fairly decent chicken feet yesterday. And turnip cake, of course. Not many outstanding options, though.