Location: SE 13th and Lexington [updated August, 2010]
Last week I made the mistake by proclaiming that another cart was the first sushi cart. I screwed up. While that cart is the first to serve Chinese, Zenbu should have received the kudos for being first on the scene with fish sushi as they opened in early May. Along with sushi, Zenbu serves up plenty of other Asian inspired dishes for you to enjoy.
Tucked away in the corner of a burgeoning new pod on N Albina, just south of Blandena street, this vintage airstream is what I always picture as the quintessential food cart. Airstreams remind me of the 70′s when my parents would pack us in the giant station wagon and trek off for 2-3 weeks during the summer to camp across America. During those long drives on America’s byways, the Airstreams would pass and we would marvel at the shiny chrome skin and invent crazy stories about the people who lived inside. Now, I see them being reborn as food carts, my adult love and it makes me smile.
Zenbu has a great mix of items on the menu. I needed some lunch to satisfy a couple of hungry vegetarians and Finn and Wes, the owners and chefs, were there to help. The menu is a mix of Japanese and Asian inspired dishes including sushi rolls. We ordered some California rolls and the tofu balls. I just couldn’t pass up something called tofu balls. Before I could leave with my winnings, Wes ran out with a plate of Szechuan Green Beans for us to “try.” Seriously, when people are giving you free food, you know they are proud of it. All of the dishes we ate from Zenbu were wonderful. The green beans still had that fresh picked crunch when you took that first bite and a super tasty Szechuan garlic sauce that I actually mixed with everything else on my plate. The tofu balls were about one inch in size and deep fried – a perfect little morsel to go along with the lime soy dipping sauce they provided.
Zenbu is now open in north Portland along with a few other carts in that pod. Finn and Wes were welcoming and even offered up their own recommendations. Along with the free green beans Wes gave me, they were handing out large chocolate dipped strawberries to all of their customers that day. These are guys on a campaign to win your hearts and minds and I love that. The pod does have a nice seating area tucked in the back with picnic tables, so you don’t have to order and run. Check out this new cart and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Crispy Spring Roll: shrimp and veggies in a crispy fried roll with fresh mint, cilantro, red leaf lettuce and nuoc cham dipping sauce – $5
- Tofu Balls: fried tofu with beans, carrots and onion served with rice, salad and a lime soy dipping sauce – $5
- St. Paul Sandwich: egg foo young sandwich with lettuce, tomato and pickle – $5
- Szechuan Green Beans: fresh green beans woked with Szechuan garlic sauce served with rice – $5
- Ginger Chicken: garlic/ginger marinated chicken, panko fried with a sweet teriyaki glaze, served with rice and salad – $6
- Cucumber or Avocado Maki – $3
- California Roll – krab, avocado and cucumber – $4
- Hand Roll – unagi, tuna, salmon, smoked salmon or hamachi – $4
- Tempura Shrimp Roll – tempura shrimp, scallion and siracha – $4
- and others
Hours: Open daily, including weekend, 11am-6pm (or 7) – closed Wednesdays