Dishin’: Belly Full of Bellies at Cafe Ori

Following the advice of one of Seattlest’s faithful readers (and proving we value the comments!), we continued the craze of eating on the Eastside, where we think the best Chinese restaurants are located (our favorite is Szechuan Chef, followed by Yea’s Wok). This time our destination was Café Ori, a Hong Kong-style eatery with a side order of Taiwan-style drinks.

As at Szechuan Chef, the crowd was mostly Chinese. So was the service. Seconds after seating, the waitress kept approaching us for our order. We asked for more time; whereas most customers came in knowing what they wanted, we were looking for that something special. Finally, we found it in the hotpot section: Chaozhou Pork Bellies ($8.75).

And as at Szechuan Chef, the waitress asked if we knew what the dish was and if we really wanted to order it. Perhaps few non-Chinese belly up to the pork bellies, but we love this fatty part of the pig.

In truth, we didn’t know what to expect. We had a hunch that Chaozhou (sometimes spelled Diojiu, Teochew, and Teochiu – an eastern city in Guangdong province) was home of Chiuchow cuisine. This might explain why, unlike Szechuan Chef’s interactive affair of dipping meats and vegetables into a hot and spicy broth, Café Ori’s version was a soup featuring a lighter, milder stock. Simple in its contents of pork bellies and cabbage (anyone know what kind of cabbage?), the hotpot had a suppai (sour) taste tinged with vinegar and topped with black peppercorn.

We tried a variety of dishes, like prawns with cashews, pork chop rice, and the highly recommended curry chicken. The prawns were pedestrian (or should we say “swimmer”… aw, never mind) and the other two dishes decent. But the clear winner, the one we continue to crave, was the hotpot. Would we go back? Not likely, except for the pork bellies. Maybe we simply like spicier cuisine, but Café Ori, while a step above what Seattle offers, didn’t rise to the level of go-back-worthiness of Szechuan Chef (did we mention them every paragraph?) – where we’re headed tonight and will look for pork bellies to accompany our favorite intestine and fish dish.

Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on November 3, 2006.

Cafe Ori on Urbanspoon

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