Divine Inspiration 

Living Long and Eating Right, Chinese Style

Chinese food gives you long life, good luck, and much happiness. Chinese food is the healthy and tasty embodiment of a centuries-old tradition. A delicate balance of meats, fowl, fresh vegetables, and creatures of the sea combine to make delicate flavor, and delightful texture--most notably at the restaurants listed below.

Om Seafood Restaurant

7632 SE Powell Boulevard, 503-788-3128

The recently opened Om Seafood is the new darling of Portland's burgeoning 82nd Avenue Chinatown. It specializes in fresh seafood, prepared Hong Kong style.

A helpful waiter recommended a mixed seafood hotpot off the Chinese specials menu (currently, there is no English translation, so be bold and ask questions). Silken abalone, sea scallops, shrimp, roast pork, chicken, and huge shitake mushrooms (the best quality I've ever seen) mingled in the mini-wok atop a small camp stove. An understated brown sauce stayed out of the way of the subtle individual flavors.

I may have been the only one in the room to order a meat dish, but the kitchen proved it was no one-trick pony. My Pork Chops with Black Pepper dish was without flaw, full of salty-sweet, peppery flavor and plenty tender.

There wasn't much in the vegetable section for vegans, but the Assorted Vegetable Hong Kong Style was surprisingly flavorful, abounding in crisp, fresh bok choy, those wonderful shitakes, and tiny cellophane noodles.

Om, only about a month old, has already produced a solid buzz in the community and can get pretty crowded on the weekends. Nevertheless, it's worth the wait.

Good Taste Restaurant

18 NW 4th Avenue, 503-223-3838

Back in Portland Chinatown, you'll find perhaps the only proper Chinese noodle house in the Portland area.

At Good Taste, you can't go wrong with any plate containing hacked up BBQ pork. Particularly popular is the BBQ Pork Chow Mein; pan-fried egg noodles topped with the fragrant, anise-scented meat and stir-fried Asian vegetables. Another to-die-for item is the Scrambled Egg with Shrimp, or BBQ pork if you prefer. It's a heavenly three-egg omelet, fried in the wok so that it comes out crispy on the outside.

The noodle soups are also pretty good, as are the rice porridges, which will only set you back $3.20. In fact, most of the menu falls into the under five-dollar category, making Good Taste an official "Portland Mercury Best Buy."

Lum Yuen

28 NW 4th Avenue, 503-229-1888

If you're unfamiliar with Dim Sum, I'll give a brief rundown. You take your seat, and a check is placed on the table. It is then marked to keep track of how many plates you select from the roving carts. Waiters will display and explain the various dumplings, bean curd rolls, and buns available. Don't feel pressured to eat something you don't want; something better is inevitably going to emerge from the kitchen. Lum Yuen is among the most varied and tasty Dim Sum parlors in Portland, and they do have Dim Sum seven days a week, if you can't hold off for the weekend, which typically offers a wider selection of plates.

Yummy Garden

4729 SE Milwaukie Avenue, 503-239-8551

Yummy is that rare find, a Chinese-American restaurant that, though their clientele may not appreciate the delicate nuances of Chinese food, will still cook their asses off, with skill and bravado. Still, there's nothing extraordinary about this place; okay, actually there is.

The décor is kind of outlandish--it was inherited from a former Hollywood-themed burger joint, and all the C-list movie memorabilia remains, as does the Zen film reel fountain in the corner. The Yummy Lo-Mein is possibly the best Western-style Lo-Mein I've ever had. A recent rainy-day treat of Two Flavors with Scallions (beef and chicken) was very tasty and more Chinesy than you'd ever expect from a hole-in-the-wall on Milwaukie Avenue. The portions are on the generous side, and there are always leftovers, even with the lunch specials, which are essentially the same food for less.

The thought of ever living more than five miles from a capable, dependable Chinese restaurant like Yummy Garden is a harrowing one indeed. Happily, Mercury readers won't be in that predicament, as our city is on the list of "Cities Blessed with Divine Chinese Food." It's a short list, mind you. We are very lucky, and most of us will also have longevity.

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