Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cameo Cafe

Cameo Cafe (a.k.a. Cameo Coffee Shop or Cameo Pancake & Steak) is a small, unique Korean fusion restaurant located on NE Sandy Blvd in Portland, Oregon. There's also a second location in Vancouver, WA.

At the NE Sandy Blvd location in Portland, Oregon!

Chef with some hash browns working on the flattop!
Cameo's homemade syrup!
(L to R) Cameo's spicy seasoning salt, a berry puree of sorts, and hot sauce
Top half of breakfast menu (January 2012)
"Specials" menu board (January 2012)
I walked in the door on a Tuesday, just before the lunch rush. Only one table occupied at the time of my visit. An Asian woman (I'm guessing Korean due to the Korean fusion menu) greeted me. Our first few interactions were uneasy, with her matter-of-fact responses and minimal smiling. I was still glancing at the menu for just a couple of minutes when she asked what I wanted to order. I still had no clue and asked what were the most popular items. "Everything popular!" Um, well, that terse reply (almost in a snappy manner) didn't help, but thanks anyway. She then sat on a chair at the counter on the opposite side of the table. When I finally knew what I wanted, I had to flag her down (I rarely, if ever, do that at any establishment).

The menu has your traditional American breakfasts, from pancakes/waffles to meat-and-egg plates. However, there are Korean fusion options, like Sue Gee's fusion pancake with rice, cheese, and vegetables ($8.95); and Pindaettok, a savory pancake with vegetables, beans, rice, and spices ($9.95).

When I saw the "Specials" menu board, I saw one of the highly-praised dishes (at least according to fellow Yelpers): the Kimchi Omelet. I'm not sure if this dish is available every day.

Kimchi, eggs, and a boatload of cheese are combined, then served with hash browns and toast. For an extra $3, I added bulgogi beef to my omelet. For toast, I tried their house-made grain "strong" bread coated on the outside with poppy seeds. The grand total for the meal: $14.95.

My two slices of buttered toast arrived first. A pleasing crunch, with the right amount of butter for me. I love poppy seeds -- maybe a bit too much. Just gotta make sure I don't need to take a drug test anytime soon!

Two slices of Cameo's house toast
(Cameo Cafe)
My omelet and hash browns arrived, a stunning plate in size and taste. The hash browns were perfectly golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside. But the kimchi omelet carved out a permanent spot in my brain. I've never had (let alone heard of) such a creation two weeks ago, and this was delicious! The bite of the kimchi was there, but the cooking process toned down much of the pickling aftertaste. The juicy bulgogi announced its presence, but balanced things out instead of completely butting its way to the starring role. I musta looked like a goof trying to reason with this cheese. Stringy, gooey, sexy cheese. Yum.

Kimchi Omelet + Hash Browns
(Cameo Cafe)
Closeup of omelet
Peek inside to see the bulgogi!
I put some of Cameo Cafe's hot sauce (from a squeeze bottle) on my omelet and hash browns. I wonder if I woulda looked very weird had I unscrewed the top and chugged the bottle. A pleasant, noticeable kick, very tasty. Cameo even has wonderful spicy seasoning salt, although my meal didn't need it.

The pancakes at Cameo Cafe are gigantic, rivaling places like Mac 24/7 in Waikiki and Stepping Stone Cafe in NW Portland. A "1/4 acre" is one large pancake, a "1/2 acre" is two pancakes, and a "full acre" is three pancakes. There's buttermilk, blueberry, and other fruit-inspired pancakes, depending on availability and time of year. Additionally, Cameo Cafe makes their own maple syrup. Is there anything that this place doesn't do? Yeesh.

As I paid my bill, I had to take this picture: three massive pancakes, several portions of hash browns, and a Korean pancake on the flattop.

This should be a food challenge...epic carbs!
Honestly, I'd do a few of those Kimchi omelets instead, with maybe one of the pancakes on the side
I half-jokingly mentioned to the woman that this place should have a food challenge to consume all that. Yes, there's no official challenge (yet), but I had to label the place as such, should one want to invent a food challenge here one day. My competitive eating buddies would be all over it if they had the time and money. And I know they'd eat it all without much of a problem. The woman smiled and thanked me for coming -- really the only time I saw a happy disposition on her face.

If my wallet had a heart, the tab here could have induced a minor heart attack (fitting, since I noshed on a hefty portion of eggs, beef, and cheese myself...woohoo saturated fat!). But overall, I felt the dent to the wallet was at least fairly reasonable, given the quality and portion size.

Yes, Cameo Cafe also serves lunch and dinner. Check the website for their regular menu items. But I'm a breakfast person all the way. I eat at least 2-3 breakfasts a day, so I guess I could at least vie for the title of crazy sick Yelp (and blogger) breakfast dude. I tried something I wouldn't normally see every day, and it was awesome. I'll be back one day to try the pancakes.

Now, if only my server was not so uptight and serious, I'd be talking about a much higher score here. Service makes a huge first impression, and it really plays a role on whether I'd come back. It's probably one of the few times I'd really consider fraction-stars on Yelp (probably the lower end of a 4-star rating there, so as not to take too much away from the blissful meal). 7.25/10

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