427 SW Stark St., 284-4575. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
You don't have to know where Mauritius (moh-RISH-us) is to delight in cilantro chutney-embellished vegetarian samosas ($5) at Chez Dodo. Once you pinpoint the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, the ethnic rendezvous captivating your taste buds makes more sense. Colonization of the island, originally populated by dodo birds, brought French, African, Indian, Creole and Chinese influences to its cuisine.
This culinary kitchen sink hits a sweet spot with eclectic concoctions of rice noodles fried in turmeric and cumin, topped with chicken or potatoes. Chez Dodo owner Shyam Dausoa has sold boxed island specialties at Whole Foods Market and Food Fight grocery for years. Now he leans out the window of his beachy food cart with a steaming wok of noodles, asking customers through a thick French accent to assess the spice factor of their portobello burry, a whumongously generous gluten-free lentil-and-mushroom mound ($5.99). Ask him for true Mauritian spice in the island fever curry sauce, and its onion, pepper, ginger and vinegar will clear your nasal passages for a month. (He's now in the market, he says, for ghost and scorpion peppers, and will host eating challenges.)
Pick a base of dholl puri flat bread, curried noodles or brown rice; next, choose among healthy vegan, tropical happiness or island fever curry sauces. And for the final twist, pick from proteins like curried chicken and lentil fritters. The spicy lamb and portobello burry pack more flavors than the island has culinary influences. In a world where veggie samosas can be a disappointing mush wrapped in filo dough, Chez Dodo proves its worth, heaped with chutney we'd make a meal of a la carte. ENID SPITZ.
Pacific Pie Co.
1668 NW 23rd Ave., 894-9482; 1520 SE 7th Ave., 381-6157, pacificpie.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Burritos be damned. Empanadas and pierogies and hum bao and gyros be damned. When comfort is the only goal, Anglo meat pie is the perfect carb-sheathed food pellet. Spice is a tingle like a scratched itch, curry an affair of cumin and turmeric rather than chili. And so the Australian-style meat pies of Pacific Pie Co. are just that: pacific. You spice your roast lamb, beef stout or peas-and-chicken pie (all $6.95) with the somewhat easygoing vinegar-tamarind tang of HB brown sauce, and that is all you need. It's like watching an old movie on VHS. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
L & L Hawaiian Barbecue
4328 SE 82nd Ave., Suite 1500, 200-5599, hawaiianbarbecue.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
I'd lost my faith in Portland kalua pig by the time I walked into this L & L Hawaiian Barbecue in Lents. It only took one bite of the kalua pig plate here ($8.75) to bring my entire childhood back to me. It's tender and juicy, but also firm, with clumps of sinew and pockets of fat. L & L is a Hawaii-based chain with restaurants in every neighborhood on O'ahu. It was voted best plate lunch on the island in 2008 by the Honolulu Advertiser. And there is really no reason to get plate lunch anywhere else in this town. ALEX TOMCHAK-SCOTT.
Southwest 9th Avenue and Washington Street, 713-8008, 808grinds.com. Lunch Monday-Friday.
I've had Hawaiian on the Big Island, and the kalua pig plate from 808 Grinds' food cart downtown is the closest thing I've had to it here. For $7, you get perfectly seasoned and tender pulled pork—just a little stringy—plus white rice that gets better with a drizzle of semi-sweet soy or tangy teriyaki and a scoop of appropriately unmemorable macaroni salad. The salty, delectably rich slow-roasted meat is heaped generously atop the rice. Still, the real deal at 808 is its addictive ginger-garlic fried chicken ($8), which makes you remember that Hawaii is way farther south than Georgia. SAVANNAH WASSERMAN.
2454 E Burnside St., 445-6101, ate-oh-ate.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Ate-Oh-Ate probably has the most highfalutin' culinary pedigree of any Hawaiian spot in town; it's the product of Laurelhurst Market and Simpatica co-owner (and emigrant Hawaiian) Ben Dyer. The bare-bones shop is one of the few in Portland to offer taro-leafed lau lau, not to mention three varieties of housemade kimchee. The generously heaped kalua plate is monotonous by its end even though the pork is tender and smoky and the cabbage, steamed separately, maintains a bit of snap. The basic mac salad makes blessedly liberal use of pepper and something that makes it…orange. Still, think past the merely serviceable plate lunch and make use of a varied menu that includes complex saimin soup, kimchee burgers and a solid beef hekka. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
6014 SE Foster Road, 777-4217, tambayancuisine.com. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday.
The atmosphere of Tambayan restaurant is, while warm, somewhat utilitarian. But for what it lacks in décor, Tambayan delivers in good, authentic Filipino cuisine. For pork lovers, the Shanghai roll appetizer ($4.49) is tangy perfection. As for house specialties, kaldereta (stewed beef sauteed in olive oil with garlic, onions and tomato, $8.49) is comfort food at its most satisfying. Also of note is the Pancit Palabok ($8.49), a rice-noodle dish with chicharon (fried pork rind), diced pork, tofu, sliced eggs, green onion and fried garlic that would shame strangers on Instagram. But a little hint: Tambayan offers a choice of steamed or garlic rice with many of its dishes. Go with the garlic. DEBORAH KENNEDY.
Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | 20 Amazing Bites for $7 and Under
Cheap Eats by Cuisine: African | Breakfast and Brunch | American Comfort
Burgers and Dogs | Chinese Diet: Veg/Gluten-Fee/Paleo | Indian | Islands | Japanese
Korean | Latin American | Mexican Middle Eastern/Med. | Old World | Pizza
Sandwiches | Sweets & Treats | Thai/Cambodian | Vietnamese