UPDATE: This place is closed, darnit.
I’ve eaten way too many a breakfast in Portland, and it’s pretty darn rare when I come across a place I’ve never even heard of. It’s even more rare when it involves food I’ve never had.
But that is just what happened this week. I am in the home stretch of researching places for the third edition of my Portland breakfast guidebook, Breakfast in Bridgetown, and I’ve decided to create a listing of all the hotels in downtown Portland whose restaurants serve breakfast and brunch. I knew about the usual suspects — the Heathman, Nel Centro at the Modera, Imperial at the Lucia — but then I found out about the Paramount Hotel and its restaurant, Tasting East.
It’s a pretty striking place, with these amazing light fixtures hanging all over. They look like big paper flowers or jungle plants or baskets. Really something.
The menu, which is on their website, has some of the usual fare, but I already knew what I was getting: congee. What is congee, you ask? Basically rice that’s boiled so long it becomes a porridge. Might not sound like much, but it’s warm, filling and soothing. And people all over Asia put things in it to create a meal.
One way to get it at Tasting East is the Seafood Congee, with shrimp, scallop, calamari, soft poached egg, ginger, scallion, and garlic oil. Now it sounds better than “rice porridge,” I bet. They also serve it with chicken and with tofu and bok choy.
I got a Zen Breakfast, with a piece of baked salmon, an egg roll unlike any you’ve had, a small congee, tofu, miso soup, rice and Korean nori. Also included is a pickled plum, which my waitress said is an acquired taste. I won’t be acquiring it. The rest of it was really good, though.
I knocked back the miso, which was a most welcome way to start when it’s about four degrees outside. Then I started in on the congee, trying various combinations of fillings, touched up with soy sauce and red pepper oil. The waitress (a striking Zooey Deschanel look-alike, by the way) assured me there would be “no judgement” about how I eat my congee.
This is congee with some salmon and crumbled-up nori :
After that, I tried tofu with combinations of just about everything else I had, save the pickled plum. I asked the other waitress, who liked kinda like Cameron Diaz (I need to see my girlfriend more often!) how she likes her congee, but she fessed up to have never eaten it! I guess you spend all day looking at something and you lose interest. I was sure glad to give it a go, though.
Just for fun, I tried uploading a quick iPhone video and putting it on my Youtube channel. I should have shot it horizontal rather than vertical, but here you go. The first thing you see is my side of arabiki, a kinda spicy, kinda sweet, kinda crunchy-on-the-outside, finger-sized Japanese sausage.
I really liked Tasting East and will definitely go back to
flirt with the starlets try the seafood congee. Even the price of $13.95 for all this food (not counting the sausage) seemed reasonable. I walked out warm, full, and happy — and having had that rare treat of a multi-tastePortland breakfast unlike any other.