When Daniel Chen was a Portland State College pupil, he longed for Chinese language restaurant close to campus.
Ten years later, he’s taken issues into his personal arms. Chen, the co-owner of Hillsboro’s extremely regarded Szechuan Backyard, has returned to his previous stomping grounds with Tasty Nook, a brand new restaurant serving a slimmed-down “biggest hits” menu of dishes from Sichuan Province and past.
A lot has modified previously decade. Since 2016, the Portland State space has had an excellent close by Chinese language restaurant in dumpling specialists Duck Home. However regardless of purposefully firming down the spice, Tasty Nook’s tackle Sichuanese delicacies reveals a stage of ability extra generally seen at westside eating places equivalent to Style of Sichuan or Chen’s personal Szechuan Backyard.
Chen, who beforehand managed Southwest Portland’s Szechuan Chef (certainly one of a number of native Sichuan eating places with roots in Bellevue, Washington), and enterprise companion Yuangming Li of Arcadia, California, had hoped to open a downtown location even earlier than the pandemic. This nook area — the previous Chit Chat Cafe, a Taiwanese restaurant and one of many solely bubble tea cafes round Portland State when Chen was a pupil — grew to become obtainable in June of 2020.
“At that second, as a result of that is 2020, the entire campus is empty,” Chen recalled. “It’s quiet. It’s simply lifeless. There was no person there. However we thought, ‘That’s a great place. Even when no person needs it, we should always simply take it.’”
After negotiating the lease, Chen waited six months to acquire a allow, then six extra to complete a full rework, together with an overhaul of the kitchen. The restaurant opened in early summer season.
Tasty Nook’s menu is slimmer than the one at its Hillsboro sister — “there’s no gut,” our server mentioned, explaining one huge distinction — however you would nonetheless spend 20 minutes flipping by way of its laminated pages. Up to now, my favourite bites have come from the normal Sichuan dishes, significantly the mapo tofu, with appropriately medium agency tofu swimming in aromatic chile oil and floor pork, and the recent and spicy “dried pot” dishes, together with prawns, lamb, fish, rooster wings and juicy chunks of bone-in pork rib wok-fried with simply simply sufficient salt, chile spice and Sichuan peppercorn to make your lips tingle.
Hand-shaved noodles are one other home specialty, served right here with a alternative of veggies, meat or seafood. These noodles, that are trimmed off a lump of dough immediately into boiling water utilizing a particular knife and a movement much like peeling a potato, are rapidly chilled then tossed in a sauce that’s milder than the handful of darkish pink dried chilies may lead you to count on. They’re chewy and scrumptious. You’ll additionally discover crispy noodles, spicy dan dan noodles and each wonton and braised brisket noodle soups, although we haven’t had an opportunity to attempt these.
Chen, who’s Cantonese, requested his Sichuanese cooks to tone down the spice, hoping to attraction to a broader clientele. In apply, meaning it takes a bit extra time to work up a sweat. He additionally added extra vegetarian dishes, together with properly cooked snow pea leaves in garlic sauce and a candy eggplant and fried tofu dish with triangles of sauce-soaked fried tofu and sliced purple eggplant, some items softer and extra slender than others. There’s a small appetizer checklist of conventional chilly dishes, together with some refreshingly spicy smashed cucumbers, and dumplings too, although to this point I’ve most popular the soup dumplings and wontons in chile oil at Duck Home.
And that would find yourself being the easiest way to deal with the 2 eating places, heading to Duck Home for dumplings, and Tasty Nook for Sichuan dishes. As a pupil, Chen longed for Chinese language restaurant close to campus. Now there are two.
Tasty Nook is open for lunch and dinner from Thursday to Tuesday (closed Wednesdays) at 624 S.W. Corridor St., 503-954-1835, tastycornerpdx.com.