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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Chinese, Dim Sum
Casual restaurant

Daily 9:00am–8:00pm

Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Not accepted

82nd Avenue Area
8350 SE Division St.
Portland, OR
(503) 771-0812
Best Taste
Meat by the pound in a less-than-charming, gritty space

We’re willing to bet that you don’t know about this place. If you do, we tip our caps to you. It’s little more than a sleazily labeled storefront along a particularly gritty stretch of the 82nd Avenue area that has, in recent decades, turned into Portland’s legit Chinatown.

The Chinese have always had a penchant for purveying the most delicious things in places where you’d least expect them—from rickety roadside carts, in blank banquet halls, beneath seamy thickets of urbanity. And so it might not surprise the true Sinophiles that Portland’s best Cantonese roast meats are being hacked up behind a counter that comes off as just a bit less sophisticated than the one in front of which you might have once queued up in public school to beg the lunch lady for seconds of franks and beans.

The people here, though, are a great deal nicer than she probably was, although they barely speak English and might well try to convince you to take a pound or two of impossibly juicy roast meat when you really only want a half-pound. (Later, you’ll thank them.) Hanging in front of these wizards of barbecue and negotiation—and, really, dominating the décor—are those giant glistening animals, visible from the street, signifiers of meaning beyond their grisly selves, emblems of the fat-worshipping school of modern chef-geekery, the embalmed pig sliced cruelly in two, the duck publicly hanged as if to be punished for some terrible crime.

Roast suckling pig at Best Taste is a study in textural contrasts, crackling skin against a melting layer of fat and some of the juiciest pork flesh into which you are likely to sink your teeth anywhere in Portland. And yet the duck might be even better, with a flavor whose rich finish seems to carry on for minutes, like that of a great wine. There’s also an entire menu of noodle soups, rice plates, porridges, even some seafood and dim sum and vaguely Vietnamese dishes. But keep your eyes on the prize: the section of the menu labeled “Barbecue & Soy Meat.” It’s about $7.50 per pound, and two pounds of it is easily the best $15 you can spend in the city of Portland.

Although almost every Chinese customer (and almost every customer is Chinese) takes a bag of the stuff to go. But if you venture a taste of meat from your plastic bag—before stepping beyond the smudged glass door and back into the grimy reality of the neighborhood—you may quickly forget your mission. You may forget that this bare box is one of the least attractive spaces in the whole city in which to dine. For within that flimsy bag lies the power to turn rickety tables to pools of untold joy, blank walls to expanses of wide-eyed wonder.

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