Sok Sab Bai Cambodian Restaurant Portland



While wandering around the Hawthorne area of Portland, I found this little gem. I know what you’ll say, “Why are you eating at a Cambodian restaurant in Portland when you are moving to Thailand next week and will be right next door to Cambodia itself?” Well, all I can say is that something drew me there and the menu looked too good and intriguing to pass up. The highlights of the various things I tried are below.






Fish ball, Seafood, and Tamarind Soup: The noodles were fresh and perfectly cooked. The broth was gentle and delectable. And it came with a cart full of accompaniments (which I found to be typical as soon as I was out of the States and in Thailand): fish sauce, pepper sauce, dried onion flakes, Siracha, hot pepper soy sauce, and various other spicy sauces. But what was best about this dish was the fish balls. They were a pleasant surprise. The egg-like outside bursts open in your mouth to reveal an inside full of tastiness. If only my chopstick skills were better with these slippery noodles, I’d have eaten the whole large bowl!

IMG_1038Balut: a dish of slightly incubated duck  eggs served in the shell. I am not quite sure of the incubation period, but it is somewhere past that of a raw egg and a formed fetus. From what I tasted, all seemed rather moist and mushy; nothing was yet hard or formed. It is very popular and available all over Malaysia.  I had it here to give it a try before I possibly get it in some random street vendor there. And I also wanted to compare it when I get there. All in all, it was quite good. It tasted like  a mix between eating an egg and eating roasted duck or chicken. I did not drink the juice inside as is custom. It smelled like pungent duck juice, so I think I get a feel for what it might taste like -I’ll pass for now. This dish was not bad as one might think, though, and I’m glad I tired it.


Voodoo Doughnut Portland

IMG_1064IMG_1063As their cheeky slogan exclaims: The Magic is in the Hole. Well, I suppose there is some truth to this as these doughnuts are undeniably great (and I’m not a big doughnut fan). Though I tried only one, the maple glaze and bacon, which was delicious, I could tell that these were well made, quality doughnuts. The dough is what made it truly superb: moist, almost melting in your mouth, with a rich buttery taste both sweet and fulfilling, yet not overpowering. It tasted much like a beignet. The maple glaze was fresh made and appropriately coated as not to be too intense. The bacon on top added a nice savory component and tasted great with everything all together. It was like your morning bacon and pancakes. All in all, as I rushed off to the airport for an early morning flight, I was happy I took the extra time to squeeze in a visit to this place and get a maple and bacon doughnut, which constitutes a well rounded breakfast, right?



Something seems to be trying to keep me in Portland, or at least give me strong incentive to return. Everyone I speak to, the photographer at Mississippi Studios, the cab driver that sped me to the airport, the hotel clerk at Jupiter, and the girl at the ice cream shop, all said to me that I’ll be back. They said it matter-of-factly, as if they knew me and truly knew that I would. And honestly I think I will be.

IMG_1027The people here are really friendly, like southern hospitality with a young, indie, family vibe. In fact, it felt very oddly like I already knew all the people I met in my brief, one day, visit. Portland is already well known as a city for hip young people and hip people in general, not just in clothes but in demeanor and in mind. It is composed in large part of people who seem to buck authority, while maintaining a sense of polite respectfulness about it. They seemed to care more about one another than what you’d find in other cities. And, honestly, I thought it’d be kind of pretentious and make me feel self-conscious of my own coolness, and though I’m sure you could find this feeling somewhere in the city if you looked hard enough, but I didn’t feel that way at all, even as I spent all of my time in the Eastern areas of Hawthorne and Burnside, and the Northern area around Mississippi Avenue, which are trendy areas.

IMG_1029 Something I find funny, is that the cab driver (from New York), the New Zealander (housing the Jacco Gardner band), and the ice cream girl (from Florida originally, going to a private art school in NW Portland, a more upscale area to which I did not have the time to see), all mentioned the meekness of people here, as if it were their self-depreciating duty to mention it in passing. Like a city of people hesitant to intrude on the existence of others, like saying: “oh, did you want these, or, uh, were you just looking or, well, ok, well are you sure? I mean, I don’t want to force you or anything, just saying that like, ok, yeah, then you’re sure? ok, cool, well here you go, enjoy the apples! This years harvest was just great! I think you’ll really enjoy them. There’s a real strawberry, dragon fruit kind of note to the the sweetness. Yeah, I think the rain and the soil this year has just been great! Ok, cool, well I sure hope you enjoy them! See you later” -said with a smile. (and this person could be anyone, male or female, young or old, in a store or open air market. And it may well be accompanied by a conversation of where you’re from or what you’ll be doing on the weekend, or various other things that you’d talk about with a more personal acquaintance. (there are elaborations to this facet of the culture in the tv show Portlandia, which is actually quite a good representation of the city).

IMG_1015IMG_1563And though I do get that vibe here a bit, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. At least the people are nice! I mean, everyone with which I spoke was just super nice and interesting. They were, in most part, people with which I could have a conversation and perhaps be friends. And I don’t say this lightly because I’m constantly told that I have an unreasonably high bar for which to make a determination of interestingness or coolness.

But that’s the thing about the people in Portland, they seem to foster a culture where people build up the coolness inside themselves to display to others. For me, they seem like people who were alone or dispossessed in some way, and then all came here, open and hoping to make friends with other loners and outcasts. Perhaps it’s been said and cliche to characterize it this way, but it is true. And maybe that’s why I liked the place so much. The people seem rather sensitive at heart, and instead of closing off, they smile and bring you in, respecting your personhood -a reality that you don’t much see here in the states.

For me, Portlanders made me feel welcome and appreciated, like visiting extended family or old friends, saying a big, “Hey, I’m glad you’re finally here! Hope you’re staying a while, aren’t you?” It reminded me of a large bohemian family, were there’s adopted and natural kids, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends always around, coming and going, always bringing in new people in passing, bringing an eclectic mix of random ideas and acquaintances all held together, without pressure, by strings of openness.

IMG_1050IMG_1056I’m not sure if it’s been researched, but I feel that if Portlanders took the Big Five Personality Test (one of the more commonly used personality criteria tests used in the field of personality psychology research), that the people here would score well above average on ‘Openness to Experience,’ which is one of the 5 constructs. I score very highly on this construct as well, so perhaps that’s why like the people here so much.


Their openness and appreciation of people, cultures, and things was evident all around in the many quirky shops, organic markets, holistic doctors and wellness centers, intercultural restaurants and cafes, antique and ‘junk’ shops, and small, specialty wares and services of all kinds. It could be called a smorgasbord of representational and expressionistic uniqueness. And not the kind that is exhibitionist, needy and fame-mongering, like I expect to see more of in LA, but simply spoken, to no one in particular, just made as if a statement of confirmation to their selves and to the universe. Perhaps this is the best way for truth and art to be spoken, and is why this city speaks to me.

However, I’m moving on today, on my way to LA, which should be a change -one that I’m not sure I’ll care for, really. But that’s why I changed my travel plans in order to spend two days in LA rather than one. I’ve seen enough of Portland to know that I’d like to come back again. LA, on the other hand, I suspect that two days will be sufficient for some time, but we will just have to see.


Jacco Gardner @ Mississippi Studios, Portland

IMG_1079Before coming to Portland I had perused the music venues and artists playing here. Despite staying at the Jupiter Hotel, which has a music venue playing Ha Ha Tonka (an unforgivable name, in my book, that I simply cannot get past in their decision to choose it), I decided to go see Jacco Gardner, a band that plays what I’d like to call New-Age Psychedelic Indie Rock. I don’t know, it was something about his face, one of those faces I speak about that is just interesting to me and I like instinctually.

I always think of people’s faces in the manner in which I’d paint them, the color palate, angle, and scope. Well, I’d decided mentally that I’d paint him like a Rembrandt or Vermeer, realistic, with contesting darks and yellow reds. (maybe the fact that he’s from the Netherlands had something to do with this, but once I saw  him in his beige coat and hat after the show, I knew this was definitely a right choice.)

At Mississippi Studios, Portland

Jacco Gardner, at Mississippi Studios, Portland

The throw-back psychedelic tunes reminded me of the music of my father’s years, the ’60’s music I listened to in my late teens and early twenties. Later , Jacco told me that he was influenced by Pink Floyd. Yes, there was that as well as a bit of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, and many other ’60’s greats. And I’m sure that is why there were so many older, ex-hippies at the show. Not dirty or degenerate hippies, but the kind that developed into something more streamlined, or else, still had a hippie flair, just clean and worn more as occasional attire.

Jacco and band are from the Netherlands. And perhaps some of their cultural leanings and laxities influence the manifestation of their trippy sound. The idiosyncrasy I like most  about them is their insistence on incorporating a projector screen playing black and white movies and various other random visuals to accompany the music. It lends a touch of art to what they are doing. And after spending several hours after the show hanging out with the band, I do believe that Jacco is an artist at heart and is doing this out of genuine need for self expression, not for girls, money, or even fame.

The band is Dutch. And thought they all spoke proper English, to each other they spoke mostly Dutch, and somehow it lent a brother camaraderie to their union. They are clearly a band just starting in the industry, especially in the states; and so, you can feel the tense energy, self-consciousness, and awareness of the audience that they possess. On stage, even, you could feel their apprehension, their eyes searching through the crowd to gauge how well they performed. And they seemed genuinely gratified when the crowd cheered or whistled. They are a band waiting for recognition and a big break.


The audience of older hippies, along with ample young to middle age hipsters, either stood staunchly or swayed gently with the music. There was not much movement or excitement going on in general. The venue, Mississippi Studios, is a rather bohemian palce, which set the ambiance for them nicely. Large Persian rugs haphazardly adorned the floor. Chandeliers and curtains hung to further the bohemian ambiance.

After the show was over, we all clapped and then the band came off the stage, pensively, awkwardly bowing backwards, and moved through the crowd  and settled at the back corner of the room. After a slight hesitation the crowd simply dispersed, meekly eyeing the band as they passed by and out. Though some stood around talking before leaving, most of the crowd simply left; and the lights were risen.

After coming back in from outside, calling a cab to no avail, I decided to look at the wares they were selling at the front, now, near the now-empty ticket stand. Jacco was now standing there behind the table of things, greeting people who came up to buy something, or simply to say that they enjoyed the show.

He is a rather shy, awkward person, which makes him both genuine and interesting. He does not appear to have fun on stage or seem to laugh too easily. I suppose he performs more for his own self-validation than for anything else, to hear his own voice, and see his self, tangibly, in existence. He seemed to have a mind capable of understanding and engaging others around him. In brief, he had a depth if consciousness that was not blatantly apparent, but sensed in his quiet thoughtfulness.


I came to hang out with the band by way of a girl petting a cat there in the building, who I started talking to about my own cats. She, with her quirky afghan, full-length peasant skirt, and little black hat, had another face I particularly liked, something like Winona Rider, but nicer and more genuine. She was honestly one of the nicest, most gentle people I’ve met.

I thought she just randomly takes her cat around and holds it like some do their toy dogs. I thought that’s just what some Portlanders do (which would be awesome). But the cat lives in the bar/music venue and just travels around, being held and petted by random people.


So while I was taking to her, a freelance photographer of the band was talking to her boyfriend, a quirky fellow dressed preppily in all black, who also had a gentle, introspective, and appealing face and genuine,self-aware demeanor. So we eventually all started talking, as the photographer was very friendly and talkative, and convinced me to stay around for a bit to hang out because she said after I explained my travel plans: “You’re leaving tomorrow! You have to stay and hang out! It’s your only night here in Portland.”  And that was true. Meeting people is meeting a city. So I stayed, which I’m happy I did because I met some genuinely nice and cool people.


As she and Jacco skateboarded through empty streets as we were leaving, it felt as if the city were ours, or else we had some secret knowledge about the place or about people in general. Yet, it was late on a Monday night, when normal people are sleeping and prepared to go to work in the morning, so perhaps simply that societal abnormality, along with openness to experience, led an unlikely mix of people to share a random Monday night in Portland.

Fifty Licks Ice Cream


This is an awesome little ice cream shop that was suggested to me around the corner from the Cambodian restaurant at which I ate. With specialty ice creams and hand made, gluten free cones (I was told it took a long time to perfect this recipe and the result is really good).


I spoke for quite a while with the girl working there, who allowed me to taste many of the flavors. She was a really nice and cool person who reminded me of someone I used to know.

She started by giving me the jasmine rice with sweet cream. It was delicious. You can really taste the sweet rice flavor. I actually ended up getting this with the passion fruit sorbet, to make kind of a mango and sticky rice concoction. (It was her idea and it was awesome!) I also tried the Tahitian vanilla, with a more mellow, fruity vanilla than many other strains of vanilla, like Madagascar or Chilean.

I tried also the browned milk cream. They take milk powder and cook it so that it’s slightly carmelized in the pan and then fold it into the ice cream. It was delicious. If not for the rice and sorbet mixture, I would have gotten this and the bourbon cherry. You have to be over 21 to get the bourbon cherry. There is a local brewery that makes cherry bourbon; and Fifty Licks takes the cherries left from the batches, grinds them down, and uses them in the ice cream. You could really taste both the distinct flavors of tart cherry (like mellow and sweet like rainier cherries, and sweet bourbon -more mellow, with a nonintrusive bite -kind of like the nonintrusive bite I accidentally took out of the ice cream in the photo about before I remembered to take the picture).


This place started as one food truck, then several; and one can see why because this is probably the best ice cream I’ve tasted any where in the world thus far. Sweet, creamy and flavorful, yet not heavy or saccharine, all tasted like fresh from a cow milk and garden fresh ingredients. It’s a must to go to in Portland.



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May 2022