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Portland Lunch

Soul in the Bowl


In the pantheon of home cooks, there's none more superior than grandma. Just make sure your mom’s not around to hear you say it.

But that rule doesn’t scale at Ben Bui's Fish Sauce, where Bui's mother, Lauren Huynh, runs the line (and in effect, the kitchen's show), turning out plate after plate of the same dishes she used to prepare for Ben at home when he was just a little boy.

“It’s mommy food,” Bui says. And there’s lots of it to try, but the one thing that’ll keep you coming back is Huynh’s phở.

While there’s lots to love about phở—Fish Sauce’s comes in beef, chicken and veggie flavors—the soul in the bowl belongs to the broth. And Huynh’s homemade broth is the kind of comforting thing that can right all your wrongs.

Each week, she fills three industrial sized pots with water and beef shanks, seasons those with star anise, coriander, fennel and clove, and and then simmers those pots for a full day until she’s got enough broth to last the week.*

If you’re dining in, you’ll enjoy the space. It’s spare and full of clean modern lines, and for a room with a 20-person family-style table and an open kitchen, it’s surprisingly intimate, too.

Plus, the best part of are those first few slurps is the savory smell of the steam that mists off your soup's surface.

There’s nothing that quite beats a homemade soup, and this one might even trump your own grandma’s.

But don’t worry. Ain't no one telling.

Fish Sauce, 407 NW 17th Ave., 503.227.8000

* Sorry, vegetarians and vegans: there have been heroic efforts made to pull off a tasty veggie stock, but Bui decided that none of their experimental broths could match a good old-fashioned beef stock.

Putting a New Spin on a Very Old Wheel

bacon sandwich.jpg

Once a year, every summer, Gretchen’s, the casual restaurant in Idaho’s Sun Valley Lodge, dusts off a pair of recipes: Liver & Onions and Egg Salad Sandwiches. When you see those specials, you know one thing for certain: the Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree’s in full swing. I’d know. I used to live there.

When you saw those items, you knew it was the time of year when people (by which I mean old people—and not to be chauvinist, but we are talking about Idaho—old white people) ascend the mountains in their motorhomes to soak up some Dixieland.

Now I like jazz, and I like Dixieland. And I like egg salad—I make it at home. And while I do like old  people (love 'em actually), I’m not necessarily ready to be one. Not just yet, anyway.

So when I see an egg salad sandwich on some menu, I think, “Aw, that’s so cute!” before invariably choosing something saltier, spicier and, because my choppers can still chomp, crunchier.

That said, when I first saw the egg salad sandwich on The Fireside’s menu, I paused before deciding, slowly, almost suspiciously, “Sure. Okay.”

To Fireside’s credit, the menu does list it as a Bacon Sandwich, and, in this town, bacon has sway. Lots. And it doesn’t hurt that The Fireside’s team butchers its own pig each week turning it into sausages, rillettes and, yup, bacon.

Along with the egg salad, the bacon’s sandwiched in rye—toasted on the inside, not on the out—with roasted chicory.

But it’s the egg salad that truly gives this sando its charm, its personality.

That’s because the kitchen takes something that’s ordinarily vanilla, and sort of electrifies it. So how do you do that?

By pickling those eggs with bay leaves, mustard seeds and chili flakes for five full days before chopping them into a mustardy, mayonnaisey salad that’s only finished off when it’s spiked with a dash of brine in the way that you’d dirty a martini.

Now be warned: it’s messy, but it’s definitely worth getting jazzed about, no matter how old you are or aren’t.

The only sad part? You can only order one during lunch, which runs from 11:30am–3pm (and till 5pm on weekends), so get one when you can.

The Fireside, 801 NW 23rd Ave., 503.477.9505