Miss Dish is often invited to joyful opening parties for restaurants about to swing open their doors (is it the lure of her dashing wit? Or the fear of her poison pen?). She gets to poke around and check things out and drink and eat a bunch of stuff. A hard job, she knows. The recent opening party for the new, long-awaited Vietnamese Noodle House, Pho Van in the Pearl, seemed a little different from the rest of these shindigs.
The Van family (all of whom seem ripped from the pages of a Vietnamese fashion magazine, so stylish and handsome are they) symbolize the kind of success story that makes restaurant writers tingle with satisfaction. They started out at the battered site of a former fast-food joint, where Mrs. Van, who was a self-trained home cook in Vietnam, lured ex-pats and pho-newbies alike with her fragrant soups. The whole family worked at the restaurant (the operative word here is "work") and offered a sense of graceful dining that transcended the cheap prices and not-so-elegant atmosphere. Soon they snatched up a spot a little ways down the street on 82nd and moved their whole operation. The new Pho Van was sleek, stylish and the perfect backdrop for Mrs. Van's culinary vision. Now, after being firmly established on the east side, they've opened their second location (1012 NW Glisan St., 248-2172) and topped everything that came before. The night of the party, the counter was engulfed in huge, glorious flower displays from well-wishers. Mr. Van gave a speech in Vietnamese that you didn't need to speak the language to understand. You know how sometimes you'd see a family on TV and secretly wish you were in that family? Or at least get to be a cousin Oliver? Miss Dish wanted to be a Van. And not just because the food at the holidays would be bitchin'. As Miss Dish fondled what may be the most innovative-yet-seemingly-too-delicate-to-last menu in town (a large piece of bamboo you take apart to reveal a plastic scroll with the menu items printed on tongue-depressorlike pieces of wood slid into slots in the plastic) and looked around at all the babies being passed over table tops, she was overcome with a rare sense of clarity about why good restaurants exist--to flood an entirely different kind of gene pool. NOTE: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW OF THE FOOD. LOOK FOR THAT IN THESE PAGES REAL SOON.
The rumors aren't true. Miss Dishettes have sent her email in recent days asking if it's true that Morton's of Chicago (213 SW Clay St., 248-2100) is splitting the Rose City come spring. This is hooey, according to general manager Bryant Coleman. In fact, Coleman says that the Portland Morton's won an award from the home office for having the highest growth percentage in 2001 of any restaurant in the 63-member chain. "We've even been made a training restaurant within the chain," Coleman says. So there!