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Arts & Entertainment

Danwei Canting Opens New Restaurant in Southeast

The interior of Danwei Canting, a new Chinese restaurant located at 803 SE Stark Street. Danwei Canting is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Photo by Abby Watters.

“Every item on our menu has a story behind it,” said James Kyle, a member of the management team at Danwei Canting. The new restaurant, located on the corner of SE Stark and Sandy, offers an array of authentic Chinese home-style dishes inspired by Kyle’s travels to Beijing.

The restaurant opened in mid-January and is a combination of recipes discovered during Kyle’s thirteen years living in Beijing. “As people came to visit me [in Beijing], coworkers, friends, and family, I would take them to visit my favorite restaurants for dinner,” said Kyle. “My favorite dishes became their favorite dishes as well.” Each item on the menu can be found in a different restaurant in Beijing. “Everything on the menu you can find. I can take you to the restaurant in Beijing where it was from,” said Kyle. “It’s a real Chinese dish and I remember the first time I tasted each thing.”

The original idea was for Danwei Canting to be a dumpling (Jiaozi) restaurant with other dishes offered in between. Although Danwei Canting does offer pork and lamb dumplings on their menu, Kyle said their signature dish right now is their spicy chicken (La Zi Ji). The dish consists of wok fried spicy chicken with whole chili peppers, scallions, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns. “This dish [La Zi Ji] is one of the dishes that inspired me the most,” said Kyle. Another popular dish is their burgers, or “roujiamo” meaning “meat inside of bread.” They offer a Pork Roujiamo which contains pork shoulder braised with star anise, fennel seed, and ginger, a Lamb Roujiamo which contains lamb braised with cumin, garlic, and chilies, and a Tofu Roujiamo which contains tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame, and chilies. Kyle also recommended the cauliflower dish for visitors who are vegetarian. The wok seared cauliflower with sweet peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, and scallops is a signature dish for those who don’t eat meat. “In Beijing they eat a lot of broccoli,” said Kyle. “This particular dish [the cauliflower] is from a little restaurant in Beijing.” In addition to these signature items, Danwei Canting also serves noodle, vegetable, and meat dishes, as well as specialty items on the side.

One of the challenges that Danwei Canting has faced is that they do not serve any frozen food and don’t have a freezer. “All of our food is from fresh and locally sourced suppliers, especially our protein,” said Kyle. “Our goal was to portray great cuisine and great product.”

When I visited Danwei Canting, the space offered a very modern and rustic vibe. A large mural on the wall added a beautiful balance of color to the space. The moment I walked in, my mouth watered from the aroma of spices. I ordered the tofu burger (Roujiamo), the Beijing peanuts, and the crispy potatoes. The server was friendly and helpful when explaining what each item consisted of. When the tofu burger arrived at my table and I took my first bite, the flavors blended together perfectly. The subtle spiciness of the tofu matched perfectly with the warm bread. The Beijing peanuts, which are wok roasted, marinated in black vinegar, scallions, and cilantro, had an exquisite, indescribable flavor which was new to me. The satisfying crunch of the peanuts paired beautifully with the soft tofu. Finally, the crispy potatoes, which are shoestring potatoes wok seared with peppers, ginger, cumin, and scallions, were my favorite dish of the meal. The thin presentation of the potatoes offered not only incredible flavor, but a unique crisp texture that left me in awe. The fresh ingredients of each dish stood out in a fantastic way.

Danwei Canting is an extraordinary new place to get authentic Chinese dishes. Each item has meaning, and the flavors do not disappoint. With whatever you choose to order, Danwei Canting provides a glimpse of the amazing food and energy of Beijing. Danwei Canting is located at 803 SE Stark Street and is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Arts & Entertainment

Poets Throw Down at Verselandia

Seth Estrada (left) and Lily Lamadrid (right) perform at the sixth annual Verselandia poetry slam. Both poets made it into the final round, and Lamadrid finished in first place. Photos by Naim Hasan.

Smooth rhymes and clever wordplay filled the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on April 27 as students from around the city performed in the biggest slam poetry event of the year: the sixth annual Verselandia. Literary Arts, a nonprofit based in downtown Portland, put on the show, which featured the two top poets from each participating high school. Lily Lamadrid (12) and Seth Estrada (11) performed at the event after placing first and second in the Franklin poetry slam, respectively. Nathan Wilk (10) was the alternate for his third place finish at the Franklin slam.

Prior to taking the stage at Verselandia, the two poets from Franklin put a lot of work into perfecting their performances. Lamadrid and Estrada had never met before the Franklin slam, but the two bonded over their common interest in poetry. It was Estrada’s first time performing poetry on such a large stage, so Lamadrid’s experience was helpful for the newcomer.

In the first round of Verselandia, Estrada courageously opened up about the hardships he has faced trying to find his place in a judgmental society. He chose to perform this poem in the first round because he thought the personal element would boost him into round two. “The majority of people are more intrigued with story,” he said. His line, “I got a metabolism your criticism can’t change,” garnered applause from the audience, and before Estrada confidently exited the stage, he ended his performance with the question, “Although I don’t know mine, what’s your purpose?” The poem earned respectable scores, which elevated Estrada into the second round.

Lamadrid’s first poem featured her interpretation of a statement made by Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to President Donald Trump: “[It is not enough to have] the fire in your belly. You have to have the bile in your throat.” Lamadrid found inspiration in this outlook. “It really spoke to me about my mania and how you have to have constructive and destructive forces,” she said. Her performance explored the ambition that Conway possesses and contrasted it with her excessive “twisting” of the truth. Lamadrid’s final thought grabbed the audience’s attention: “Dear Ms. Conway, I want to speak like you one day, to spin, to pivot, to watch my tongue dance. But I want to be able to believe it.” With scores creeping into the nine point range, Lamadrid joined Estrada in the second round.

The second, final round highlighted the top ten poets from the first round. Estrada’s piece backed away from personal anecdotes, turning more toward addressing the social issue of catcalling. “A lot of men just think of women as pleasure pallets, ignoring how they might be independent, not needing ‘compliments’,” he said in his poem. Although Estrada’s poem was an audience favorite, it unfortunately did not place him in the top five.

As the leading scorer going into round two, Lamadrid continued her momentum. She talked about her religious upbringing and and how she found a new kind of worship in comedy. Lamadrid spoke of advice her grandmother gave her about her love of comedy: “She said, ‘make that your church, you can chose your own bible’.” Lamadrid’s engaging style and clever way with words caught the judges’ attention. At the end of the night, she was named the sixth annual Verselandia champion, receiving a Mac Book Pro laptop and a visit to Wieden and Kennedy, an advertising firm.

Lamadrid believes that her success is largely due to her dedication and the volume of practice she puts into her performances. Her presence at adult poetry slams each month also allowed her to receive feedback on her pieces, which is a resource she thinks most the other poets didn’t have.

Estrada said that one of the things he liked most about performing at Verselandia was having the platform to discuss issues like catcalling. “It feels like your voice is being valued,” he said. Estrada was happy with his success in his first year of slam poetry. “It’s my first time, and I’m still trying to find ways in which I can do better.”