Taking a cue from Portland's better cart chefs, who limit themselves to variations on a single, simple theme, Kalé proprietor Makoto Yoshino does only one thing—Japanese curry—and he does it very, very well. In fact, were he to ditch the buried digs in Goose Hollow for a parking spot on 10th and Alder, we'd already be tired of hearing about his specialty, a popular Japanese dish that has more in common with good ol' American beef stew than with the Thai and Indian curries we know and love. Kalé offers two basic versions of this modest comfort food: with meat ($6.95) and without ($6.45), both served with white rice and a small side of pickled radish. The meatless iteration is slightly spicier, but it lacks the depth and range of its stout counterpart, which should come as no surprise—the menu did helpfully suggest you order the beef. Be nice, obey the menu and, while you're at it, add a hard-boiled egg ($1), which makes for a pleasantly chilled complement to the tender chunks of meat and hearty sauce. A third menu option lets you get a little wild with either basic dish, but Kalé will only serve it 10 times a day, for reasons I have yet to suss out. It's called doria, and it essentially transforms your curry into a twisted take on lasagne: a brick of rice is smothered with cheese and curry and then baked until the cheese bubbles and burns and the sauce goes crisp around the edges. Is it weird? Yes. Is it delicious? Indeed.
- Best bite: Japanese beef stew ($6.95).
- Cheapest bite: The standard curry without meat ($6.45)—we warned you.
Kale, 1628 SW Jefferson St., 957-8577, kalepdx.com. Lunch 11 am-2 pm, dinner 6-9:30 pm Monday-Saturday. $ Inexpensive.