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Golden on Golden Lotus and Hash Browns, McCarty on Bonfire

John Golden hopes The Golden Lotus can break free of its pale imitations of Empire, lists hash brown locations in Portland; Kate McCarty can't get behind the free bacon at Bonfire Country Bar.

John Golden released a First Look at The Golden Lotus, breathing down the neck of Portland's latest Chinese restaurant in its first week of operation. He called "the menu of Cantonese specialties...carbon copies" of those of neighbor Empire Chinese Kitchen, owner Joe Teng's most recent employer. But these copies paled in comparison for the reviewer; the walnut shrimp was less "refined," the stir-fried flounder "lacked...finesse."

Golden didn't hate the place after multiple visits, though, and concluded that "there's the potential for an establishment like The Golden Lotus to make its mark." The restaurant shared the review on its Facebook page, admitting with humility, "Our first review! Not too shabby I must say, but there are many things for us to improve on." Maybe week two will prove more successful.

Golden also found time to track down three of the best (and apparently only) spots to enjoy hash browns in Portland: Marcy's Diner, Hot Suppa, and Eve's at the Garden (Golden scoffed at the notion of "Italian hash browns" at option four, Piccolo, which he didn't have a chance to include in this piece). He channeled Boston Globe writer Christopher Muther, belly-aching about weight gain throughout the reviews (The hobo hash browns at Marcy's "were so good and so rich I contemplated popping a Lipitor midway through the meal to halt lipid-count tizzies"). For those north of Portland, the reviewer shared a secret about Brunswick Diner: "...hash browns there are by request only and not listed on the menu."

Kate McCarty braved Bonfire Country Bar for her blog The Blueberry Files, also remarkably early in its life cycle. She "enjoyed the novelty of the DIY (pour-it-yourself?) beer wall," which had a craft beer selection that seemed out of place for Bonfire's target audience of Solo cup fans and drunken dancers, but it was downhill from there. Her legs fell asleep in the saddle stool and the noise level was shouting-room only by 8 p.m. The atmosphere felt "corporate," the french fries "tepid," the fried green beans "off-tasting," and the free bacon for the table "cold, flaccid." Time to toss another log on that bonfire.