Sherman's Food Adventures: December 2023

Pier 88 Boiling Seafood & Bar

On our way back up to Vancouver, after some pretty epic eats in Portland, we stopped in Lynnwood to end this foodie road trip with a bang.  The place?  Pier 88 Boiling Seafood where the name says it all, featuring an array of seafood dishes as well as the main event, the seafood boil.  Now seafood boils are no longer a novelty because there are quite a few of them to choose from.  However, the key difference between them are the actual physical restaurant as well as different sauces and of course pricing.

As for Pier 88, the purpose-built dining room is spacious with a clear nautical theme.  Lots of room on the table to make a mess with your crab legs.  On the topic of crab, we had the Deep Fried Soft-Shell Crab with parprika aioli.  These little guys were not so little.  They were lightly breaded and fried just enough so they were crispy while still tender and custardy.  Of course there was the natural brininess that made this taste really good.

We then had another pair of fried appies in the Calmari and Popcorn Shrimp.  They have mad deep fryer skills as both were perfectly prepared.  The tender calamari rings were coated in a light and crispy batter while the same was true for the shrimp.  As for the shrimp, they were of a decent size with a buttery, yet not overly soft texture.  I particularly liked the tartar sauce that came with the shrimp.  It was creamy with nice bite from the bits of onion and pickles.

Going from deep-fried to a couple of cold appies, we had the Lobster Salad and a dozen of the Shinsei Oysters.  As you can see, the salad had a good amount of lobster claw meat atop greens, tomatoes, croutons and egg.  This came with a 1000-Islands-type dressing.  The oysters were similar to kushis and were shucked properly.  These petite oysters were briny and sweet with plenty of liquor.

So all of the appies were fantastic, but really, we were here for the seafood boil!  On this platter, we had Snow Crab Legs, Whole Live Dungeness Crab and King Crab Legs in 88 Special Sauce (Medium Spice Level).  Both the snow crab and king crab legs were cooked just right being fluffy with that classic crab rebound texture.  The live dungeness crab was also done right.  We got this in the 88 Special Sauce which was buttery and garlicky with a background kick.

On our next platter, we had a Whole Live Lobster, Head-On Shrimp, Mussels and Crawfish in Garlic Butter (Mild Spice Level).  As with the crab, the lobster was prepared properly with sweet bouncy meat.  The mild garlic butter complimented without being overpowering.  Mussels were plump and briny while the crawfish were earthy tasting as expected.  Shrimp had a nice rebound and were sweet.

For dessert, we tried both the Chocolate Molten Cake as well as the Butter Toffee Cake.  Of the 2, I preferred the latter as it was soft and moist with a rich sweetness that wasn't overpowering.  Naturally, it was buttery and no, it probably wasn't good for my figure...  However, one thing is for sure - the seafood was fresh (even the frozen ones) and prepared properly.  On top of that the sauces were delicious and the prices were fair.  Would do this again.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this post*

The Good:
- Fresh seafood (even the frozen ones)
- Prepared right
- Fair pricing

The Bad:
- Even though I feel the pricing is fair, naturally seafood is expensive, so you will need to be prepared to spend some money 

Rukdiew Cafe

We started this Portland foodie trip with Thai food at Khao Moo Dang, so it was fitting to end it with Thai food at their sister restaurant Rukdiew Cafe.  Now they might be of the same cuisine, but the menus couldn't be anymore different.  Whereas Khao Moo Dang dishes up hawker-style food, Rukdiew offers up more typical items you'd find at a Thai dinner spot.  However, the food is far from typical as they have a variety of dishes as well as tasty cocktails.  I absolutely love the eclectic & colorful decor.

Decor aside, we were here for the food as well as some Halloween-themed cocktails (we visited in early November).  These included Dracula's Kiss, Endorphins, Blackberry Margarita and Mango Mojito. Loved the colors as well as the flavors.  There was definitely a balancing amount of sweetness in each one to offset the alcohol content.  Plenty of fruitiness too.  Check out the fake teeth on the first cocktail!

Onto the food, we started with the Crab Rangoon.  This is a classic appetizer that is not particularly Asian due to the use of cream cheese.  But honestly, I do not care if it is a North American invention because it is quite good.  For this version, the wonton wrappers were crispy with melty cream cheese in the middle mixed with imitation crab and onion.  We found chili pineapple sauce on the side that added sweetness.

Nicely-plated with lettuce, sliced cucumbers and fried vermicelli noodles, the Moo Ping (Thai Pork Skewers) were nicely charred.  Also well-marinated, these were flavorful with caramelized sweet smokiness.  The meat itself was moist and almost juicy.  This was further enhanced by the side of spicy tomato dipping sauce.  There was a spicy sweet tanginess that really went well with the smoky pork.


Onto some salads, we had the Somtum (Green Papaya Salad) as well as the Larb.  I don't really consider Larb as a "salad" since it is more of a lettuce wrap.  However, yes, it can be eaten as a salad, so it depends on how you eat it I suppose.  With a squeeze of lime, the meat mixture was fairly bright.  The onions helped in that regard.  When eaten with the lettuce, there was some fresh crunch for contrast.  As for the somtum, it was also crunchy and fresh with elements of fish sauce, spice from the chilis, tang from the lime and sweetness from palm sugar.

One of my favorite appies of the meal was the Hot Wings on a bed of fried noodles (actually loved the noodles as they soaked up all of the spicy glaze).  Now the glaze was indeed spicy, but it also was sweet with some hits of soy.  As for the wings themselves, they were cooked beautifully where the skin was rendered while the meat was still juicy and moist.  Also, check out the size of those dummettes! 

To bring it down a bit, we moved onto the Tom Kha.  Now this actually had some spice too but it was definitely balanced by the coconut milk.  As usual with this soup, the aromatics were the real draw with hits of lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal.  Hence, there was tanginess and bright citrusy finish.  With the addition of tender pieces of chicken, there was some nice body to the soup as well as texture.

From here, we moved onto the bigger plates including the Panang Beef Curry.  This was rather aromatic and full-flavored.  It was mild and creamy with the usual nuttiness from the peanuts.  I found this one to have a balancing sweetness.  The array of veggies were cooked just right as they were still vibrant with a light crunch.  As for the beef, it was really tender and not chewy like many other versions.

Trying to go for something different than the usual red and green curries, we tried the Mango Chicken Curry.  Now this was by default a red curry, but with the addition of mango, it ate a bit sweeter and was more "tropical".  This had a bit more spice, but once again, the sweetness balanced things off.  The peppers were cooked just enough while the ample amount of chicken was tender.

Also really enjoyed the Soft-Shell Crab Pad Thai, not only because of the crab, but because this was a solid version of the dish.  Exhibiting noticeable wok hei (high wok heat), the noodles were smoky and caramelized.  There was no excess moisture on the plate, yet at the same time, the noodles were not clumpy.  Lots of brininess and sweetness as well as the unmistakable tamarind tang.

Ending off our savory plates, we went out on a high with the Khao Soi.  This ever popular Northern dish featured a rich and creamy coconut curry soup that was fragrant and aromatic.  The bone-in chicken was soft and stewed to the point where it fell off that bone.  It had soaked up some of the flavors of the soup.  The egg noodles were al dente while the crispy egg noodles soaked up the sweet creamy goodness.

We ended the meal with 3 desserts including the Lava Chocolate Cake, Butterfly Pea Tapioca Pudding and Crème Brûlée Cheesecake.  Yes, these weren't exactly Thai desserts (well maybe the tapioca), but they were good nonetheless.  The lava cake was rather textbook with a rich, yet fluffy texture while the cheesecake was not heavy.  It was creamy with plenty of cheesiness.  I really enjoyed the tapioca pudding due to the sweet coconut milk and the chewy texture.  Overall, the meal was fantastic with bold flavors and well-executed proteins.  Solid Thai food in a colorful and cozy dining space.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this post*

The Good:
- Bold flavors
- Colorful and fun atmosphere
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Yes, there is free parking, but that is one tight parking lot

Olympia Provisions

Originally back in 2020, I was slated to do another road trip down through the Western US that would take me into Portland.  Well, you know what happened that year...  That plan was quickly scrapped in favor of infrequent road trips to the grocery store as our only outing during that time.  I did have designs on visiting Olympia Provisions while we were down there, but instead, in 2022, we had Life of Pi and Kim Jong Grillin' instead.  This time around on our foodie road trip, I wasn't going to be denied as we had a tasting at Olympia Provisions!

We ended up visiting their SE Washington location and started with some of their popular charcuterie boards including the Spanish Board.  This consisted of 3 salamis, sweetheart ham, fresh chorizo, miticaña, fried almonds, cranberry relish & piquillo pepper salad.  This was served with a baguette and fulfilled out charcturie cravings.  Loved the spiciness of the salami while beautifully complimented by the sweet cranberries and smooth cheese.

We also had the French Board consisting of two french saucissons, paté, pork rillettes, garlic sausage, brie fermier, pickled vegetables & grain mustard.  This was much milder and subtle in flavour with the pate being meaty and well-seasoned.  Loved the firm texture of the saucisson that were aromatic and nutty.  This had the same sweet and tangy cranberry relish that went well with the creamy brie.

One of the more simple items we had was the Cantabrian Brown Anchovies with beurre de baratte on sliced baguette.  Naturally, the saltiness and brininess of the anchovies really came through.  The flavours were very impactful and the bread was absolutely needed to balance this.  Furthermore, the creaminess and natural flavour of the butter created another layer of deliciousness.

From the robust nature of the anchovies and bread, we went to something more refreshing in a dozen of the Pickering Pass Oysters.  These little gems were properly shucked and featured fairly small oysters.  That worked for us as we prefer the kushis of the world more than the larger oysters.  These were lightly briny and sweet while being delicate and easy to eat.  They came with lemon, mignonette and hot sauce.

We continued on the anchovy train with the Catalogna Chichories with radicchio, croutons grana padano, anchovy vinaigrette and boquerones.  Unlike the saltiness of the Cantabrian Brown Anchovies, the boquerones were tangy due to the use of vinegar.  This brought an extra jolt of flavour to the already anchovy vinaigrette-dressed veggies.  Lots of crunch and freshness in this salad along with the meaty anchovies.

Possibly my favourite dishe of the meal was the Steak Tartare with olives, parsley, shallot, egg yolk and butter toasted baguette.  Look at the  beautiful color of the hand-diced steak!  It was fresh and buttery tender.  The aromatics from the shallots and the salty tanginess of the olives complimented the beef along with the proper amount of seasoning.  Now to top it all off, the crunchy baguette soaked in copious amounts of butter meant this was going to be super delicious and sinful.

Our final small plate, before we got to the larger items, was the Octopus a la Plancha with potatoes, chorizo, garlic bread crumbs and salsa verde.  Oh this was just as delicious as everything else so far with a tender tentacle that also retained a bite.  The salsa verde was so bright and flavorful.  It complimented the already seasoned octopus by keeping things light.  Crunch was added by the bread crumbs and so as was the crispy chorizo.

Finally getting to the bigger items, we dug into the Parisian Gnocchi avec Champignons first.  This featured a fairly rich cream sauce that was obviously influenced by the roasted mushrooms.  There was depth and woodsiness as well as a beautiful aroma.  We found the gnocchi to be light and soft (as Parsian gnocchi can be).  They were nicely seared to add a nuttiness to the dish.

Topped with a considerable amount of toasted almonds with brown butter, parsley and capers, the Pan-Roasted Trout Almondine was perfectly prepared.  Beyond the crispy skin underneath, the fish was flaky and moist.  It was properly seasoned, yet the crunchy almonds on top not only added a textural contrast, there was a buttery nuttiness as well as a salty tang.

Although the Salmis de Canard was a good dish overall, I felt the roasted duck breast could've been cooked a touch less.  By no means was it not tender, I just personally enjoy a medium-rare cook on it.  The skin was properly rendered though.  As for the confit leg, it was fall-apart succulent and featured rendered skin as well.  I really enjoyed the rich foie gras beurre blanc as it provided a luxurious and velvety coating to all of the components on the plate.  

When it hit the table, the Braised Bone-In Short Rib elicited quite the response as it was huge!  The meat literally fell off the bone and was nicely complimented by the apple cider & pork belly gastrique.  The acidity helped cut through the richness of both the lardons and the fatty short rib.  It also had an appealing sweetness that was an excellent compliment to the tender beef.  The aggressively roasted gold potatoes were nutty and crispy.

We ended off the meal with a pair of desserts including the Mountain Apple Tart and the Flourless Chocolate Cake.  The tart was very good with tender slices of sweet apples.  I found the tart crust itself to be on the lighter side, but still had a pleasing firmness.  As for the chocolate cake, it was rich and purposefully sweet.  The texture was dense, in a good way.  In the end, I was very happy with my meal at Olympia Provisions.  It was well worth the wait of 3 years since I had planned to eat there.  This won't be my last!

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this post*

The Good:
- Excellent charcuterie
- Overall delicious food
- Cozy atmosphere

The Bad:
- This particular location is a bit hard to find in the dark, mainly an industrial area

Tanaka PDX

After some healthy and delicious eats from Carioca Bowls, we made our way over to Tanaka PDX located in Downtown Portland.  Upon walking into the place, we were greeted with a spacious dining room with communal seating and high ceilings as well as floor to ceiling windows.  As for the menu, they feature a variety of Japanese fare including those viral fruit sandwiches as well as a host of katsu sammies as well.

As much as the plight of Portland's downtown has been in the news, the area around Tanaka was fine.  We got straight to the Sandos including Chicken with yuzu egg salad, Spicy Fish and Toasted Egg Salad.  With toasted milk bread, the texture was more robust, but it helped hold all of the ingredients inside.  Mind you, the creamy egg salad did leak out from the sides (but that was expected).  Loved the addition of yuzu as it really lightened up the salad.  The spicy katsu sauce really added kick to the crispy fish.

We also had the classic Pork Katsu Sando with cabbage slaw as well as the Breakfast Sando with egg, cheese and bacon.  Being slightly thinner than the chicken, the pork cutlet was more firm, yet was uniformly more crunchy due to the meat-to-panko ratio.  Loved the crunchy and bright slaw.  As for the breaky sando, it was pretty standard and had a nice runny egg with plenty of meat.

As good as the sandos were, I was pretty impressed with the Chicken Katsu Nuggets with a variety of dips including Karashi Honey Mustard,  Tanaka Katsu,  Shishito Ranch, Spicy Tanaka Katsu & 
Curry Aioli. I found the panko coating to be crispy and not greasy.  The meat was moist, but the real draw here was the dips.  I particularly enjoyed the spicy BBQ as it had a real kick to go with the sweetness and tang.
We also had a Miso Caesar Salad as well as some Fries with curry aioli.  With the addition of miso, the salad did have that rich fermented saltiness.  Hence it had a little something something that made it interesting.  As for the fries, they were crispy with soft potato goodness inside.  The side of curry aioli was creamy with only a mild hint of spice and sweetness.

As the defacto dessert due to their fruitiness, the Fruit Sandos featured strawberry, orange and kiwi.  With airy whipped cream and fresh fruit, these ate very much like a dessert, especially with bread that masqueraded as sponge cake.  These were a fine finish to a delicious meal that wasn't very complicated, but executed well.  These could be classified as unique eats that won't break the bank.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this post*

The Good:
- Fully-stuffed and delicious sandos
- Reasonably-priced
- Spacious dining room
The Bad:
- Can get busy and seats are at a premium
- Parking is a bit difficult to find 

Carioca Bowls

Initially, I was a bit apprehensive when we had Carioca Bowls on our schedule while visiting Portland.  Not that I want to eat burgers everyday, but healthy food and delicious aren't often mentioned in the same sentence.  However, I was about to find out that my fears were unwarranted as their bowls and smoothies were both appealing in appearance and delicious in taste.  How about that?  I could actually like some healthy bowls...

So before we got to those bowls, we tried all the available Superfood Smoothies including the Classic, Verde, Azul and Forza.  Despite 3 of them being a similar color, they were all unique in their own way.  I particularly enjoyed the verde due to the tropical fruitiness of mango and pineapple.  This was also true for the azul with blueberries and peaches, but it had another layer of sweetness from the dates.  With almond butter, this had a bit more body.  With the addition of peanut butter, both the classic and forza were thick and nutty while balanced off by the açai.

Off to the bowls, they all were comprised of one of the following bases: Rio (
açai, strawberries, blueberries & banana), Ipa (açai, peanut butter,  blueberries, chia seeds & banana), Copa (açai, strawberries, blueberries, banana, lions mane & coconut milk) and Mar (açai & coconut sugar).  For their classic Carioca Bowl, it featured a Rio base with nut-free granola, sliced banana, strawberries & blueberies.  As you could expect, this was a fruity and refreshing concoction.  This ate fairly light and was blessed with natural sweetness from the fruit.  The Rio base was a carbon copy of the ingredients, hence, it matched really well.

With more body, due to the use of the Ipa base, the Ultra ate more heartily.  It was comprised of nut-free granola, sliced banana, strawberries, almond butter, dates and pumpkin seeds.  This was mainly a protein bowl and the heaviness of the base and ingredients made it filling.  Definitely not as light and fruity as the Carioca Bowl, but still had a bright component to balance off the richness of the peanut butter in the base and the almond butter.

Continuing on with more robust bowls, we had the Yogi consisting of both the Ipa and Copa bases, nut-free granola, sliced banana, strawberries, peanut butter, toasted coconut, cinnamon and coconut oil.   We already knew that the Ipa base was pretty robust, but with the addition of peanut butter, this was quite the meal, especially for breakfast.  However, if you wanted more than just fruit, this would be it.

Other than the original Carioca Bowl, my favourite of the bunch was the Pollinator with a Mar base, nut-free granola, sliced banana, kiwi, raspberries, bee pollen and honey.  This was definitely up my alley due to the fruity tang of the raspberries and kiwis.  The mar base provided some more bright fruitiness while the bee pollen added some floral sweetness.  Of course the crunch from the granola added some texture.

The Rose City Bowl was something a bit different as it featured a Rio base with hemp granola, sliced banana, strawberries, raspberries, Honey Mamas chocolate pieces, and Jem nut butter drizzle.  Yah, this was quite the creation with hits of fruit, sweetness from the chocolate crunch and richness of the nut butter.  This was yet another filling creation that would satisfy even the biggest appetites.

In addition to their smoothies and bowls, we also tried their Avocado Toast as well as the Brazilian Cheese Bread.  As you can see in the picture, this was a very different avocado toast.  It contained vegan sauce and hemp seeds.  Hence it had an earthy and nutty thing going on.  Possibly a bit of fermented taste to it too.  It was not lacking in flavor.  As for the cheese bread, the regular ones were just like how I like them - cheesy & chewy.  The vegan version was a bit more dense and had a slightly saltier taste.  Overall, I really did enjoy the bowls and smoothies, mostly due to the fresh fruit and the delicious bases.  This turned out to be the thing we needed to cleanse ourselves for the next batch of upcoming restaurants.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Fresh quality ingredients
- More healthy than most other meals
- It actually tastes good!

The Bad:
- Some of the more protein-focused items are rather heavy, but it is par for the course

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