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Trader Vic's Revival
Titillates PDX Diners
By Fred Delkin

 December, 2011 --  Many moons ago, we dined at Trader Vic Bergeron's original Oakland CA establishment, to be followed, with our toothsome appreciation, by Pacific Northwest sites at Seattle's Benajmin Franklin hotel and Portland's Benson hotel.  The latter site closed some time ago, and we mistakenly surmised the Trader chain had gone the way of countless other restaurant enterprises.  Not so.  The new Portland site opened in the same time frame as new operations in (gasp!) Kazakhstan* and Dubai joining a chain now in 27 locations around the globe.  Portland's is a magical remodeling of the Manzana establishment at 10th & NW Glisan.

(*OMED: the suffix "stan" means "land."  In this case, Kazakhstan means: "land of the Kazaks." Other examples from that part of the world: Afghanistan is "land of the Afghans." Pakistan, in the news of late, designates that geographic area next to India as the "land of the Paks."  These different groups are ancient clans or tribes, most of whom, like the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, converted to Islam in what we call the First Century, A.D.  Polynesian people are also tribal in nature.  For some reason the PacNW, and particularly Oregon, has a long and deep association with them. I went to school in Hillsboro [OR] with these wonderful island people in the Fifties, and you will find them on our high school and university football teams to this day. Okay, now back to Fred's delicious text.)

Here (at Trader Vic's) you'll find a wishfully authentic Polynesian paradise set off with grass wall coverings, Tiki wall carvings, tribal masks and myriad other South Seas touches.  The menu has also endured for almost eight decades, with the Trader's unique offerings.  The Portland site includes a giant wood-fired ceramc Chinese smoke oven open off the dining area, where attendants supervise meat, poultry and seafood preparations as you watch.  Entree highlights include a gigantic 20 oz. "Cowboy Ribeye" steak, a pair of 6-rib racks of Lamb, an 8oz Filet Mignon and an oven-smoked wild Chinook salmon filet.  There's also a soy & garlic marinated chicken 1/2 fryer.  The side offerings arriving on your plate include artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, balsamic-sauced spinach, crisp cabbage and yams.  If you must go vegetarian, the Veggie Chow Mein is a creative mix of Asian noodles tossed with sprouts, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts.

Volcano Fish walk the wok

There are other main dishes that include Macadamia nut covered Mahi Mahi fish, 'Volcano spicy prawns seared in a wok with garlic cloves, Bok Choy and snow peas with Jasmine rice and a crispy smoked 1/2 duck with Mu Shu pancakes and plum sauce.  We started our personal feast with an old favorite, the Pupu Platter that offers a selection for two to four souls of BBQ spareribs, Crab Rangoon crisps, crispy prawns and Char Sui pork bits.

Starter offerings also include oysters on the half shell, Diver scallops and Dungeness crab lettuce cups.

The Trader's signature soup, Bongo Bongo, lives on...a puree of oysters, cream and spinach.  Salads include a pair of classics:  Caesar and Green Goddess and a House salad returning us to fond memory with pickledearts of palm, endive, mushrooms and a Trader exclusive, Javanese dressing.  Desserts?  a chocolate tart, a Passion fruit mousse, lemon grass creme brulee and a 'don't miss' Banana Trio of bananas Foster, a frozen chocolate covered vbanana popsicle and a banana fritter.

This is not an inexpensive dining choice in our depressed economy, but no question...it's worth the cost in our humble estimation.  (OMED: Fred hasn't got an ounce of humility.)  Hours are 3-11 Sunday-Thursday, 3-11 Friday and Saturday, with dinner served daily 5-10. Trader signature cocktail offerings are available along with every other beverage choice at a large bar area, with happy hour on Wednesdays 3-6:30 and 10 to closing.  The lounge has a separate snack menu.

Welcome home, Trader!!

© 2011 Oregon Magazine