(UPDATE: Uni-Cart is closed.)
Uni-Cart, located near SW 3rd Ave. and Ash St. in downtown Portland, Oregon, basically serves three vegan, gluten-free dishes (each $5), using a fantasy animal theme to attract customers.
|Menu as of August 2011|
I arrived promptly at 11:30 on a Monday, just around the time this place opens. I asked Ethan, the chef/operator of Uni-Cart, what their most popular item was. Without hesitation, he said it was the "Spicy Barbeque Griffin." Tofu is seasoned with fresh garlic, black pepper, and smoky black tea extract, then put in a rice-paper "uni-cone" with rice and lettuce, then topped with BBQ sauce. The rice paper is also fried for a few seconds to get crispy, then it's served gyro-style. Intrigued, I asked for one of those.
|Spicy Barbeque Griffin|
Usually, one could get brown rice, but on this day, Ethan was out of brown rice, so I settled for the white rice instead.
I liked the crunchiness of the rice-paper "cone" here. That and the crunchy, fresh lettuce really provided the texture contrasts I wanted. The tofu was OK...nicely cooked, but it could have benefited from marinating in something a bit longer. The ratio of rice and tofu was a bit off, in my opinion, as every bite I took seemed to give me more (bland) rice instead of tofu, lettuce, or BBQ sauce. The dish needed more bold flavors overall to make me go "wow."
A respectable attempt, but it could be made better with a few tweaks. I'd marinate the tofu in something to give it more pop. Perhaps a little lighter on the rice portion and a bit more BBQ sauce to cut through all the "bland" items in the uni-cone.
I must say, Ethan provided excellent service. I told him about my business school plans and my interests in photographing/writing about food. Ethan invited me to return in the future if I wanted to take some more food photos. I just might take him up on that offer. I'll give some bonus points for that one.
The food can be worked on, but the service will definitely make me return one day (if I can find the time). Uni-Cart has some bizarre hours. The last time I checked, they were only open for lunch Monday through Wednesday, and open late nights on Friday and Saturday. Not sure if I'll be able to make any of those times, but we'll see. 4.5/10