Country Morning Cafe
8202 SE Flavel, 771-0088

If I were to write a book consisting of little anecdotes and stories meant to comfort and uplift the weary mind, I would call it Cantonese Roast Duck and Wonton Noodle Soup for the Soul. Nothing--not even my mother's Matzo Balls--calms my nerves more than a steaming bowl of Cantonese noodle soup, and Country Home Kitchen serves the best version in town.

Little more than a roadside shack at the far end of Southeast 82nd Avenue, Country Morning serves two disparate clienteles: recent Chinese immigrants, and longtime, long-haired residents of this down-and-out area. There are two separate menus--one for the ethnically challenged (omelets, biscuits and gravy, sandwiches) and one for the Asian folks. If you don't ask for the Chinese menu, you won't get one.

Dive into a bowl of noodle soup with wontons and your choice of beef stew, roast duck, or other animal parts too gross to mention here, and the adventure begins. The stew is richly flavored with copious amounts of ginger, orange rind, and star anise, and the meat is extremely tender, if perhaps a bit fatty for American tastes (funny though how "American tastes" tend toward globs of mayonnaise, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and a love of all things deep-fried). Roast duck isn't as refined as in a larger banquet-style Chinese restaurant, but looks (and crisp skin) aren't everything. These ducks are more succulent and more ample than I've encountered anywhere else in Portland, except maybe at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Make sure you order your soup with wontons, for these shrimp and pork babies are far more intense than you'd find in your average bowl of wonton soup. You'll fall for their lardy, white-peppery goodness.

I haven't yet ordered from the American menu. I'm sure the eggs and hotcakes are satisfactory, but there's really no need to travel all the way to 82nd Avenue for that stuff. However, if the best noodle soup in the world were in Northern Alaska, I'd be the first to rent the dogsled. And that makes the trip to the Southeastern fringes seem like a walk to the neighborhood coffeehouse.