Think you can't afford a swell meal at one of Portland's premier restaurants?

For as much as you'd spend on a couple of margaritas and a taco plate, you can indulge in a sublime three-course dinner at Lucere in the RiverPlace Hotel. Formerly the dull Esplanade, the restaurant was seriously overhauled last summer, and Chef Pascal Sauton's market-driven menu keeps getting better.

While ordering a la carte can result in a steep bill, the fixed-price dinner allows you to eat really well for $25. Diners can choose among several appetizers, entree and dessert dishes. One possible combination is leek and Gruyre quiche to start, followed by grilled chicken breast with cider sauce, chestnuts, celery, apples and buttered noodles, and warm carrot cake with cream-cheese-streusel ice cream for dessert.

Lucere's fixed-price menu is offered nightly; the restaurant is at 1510 S.W. Harbor Way, 503-228-3233.

Orient Express via MAX

It had to happen sooner or later: Gresham has gone gourmet.

Top Thai restaurant Typhoon opened its fifth location last month at Gresham Station, situated on the MAX line. It's not Typhoon's first foray into the suburbs Ñ there's an outpost in Redmond, Wash., and it's not the last. In May, Bo and Steve Kline will set up shop at the other end of the west-east MAX route at the Beaverton Round.

The Gresham restaurant is outfitted with a display kitchen and a cocktail lounge featuring a discounted happy hour menu from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Typhoon in Gresham is open for lunch and dinner daily at 543 N.W. 12th St., 503-669-9995.

Another gem in the Pearl

Sungari Pearl, the new River District offshoot of the classy downtown Chinese restaurant, was scheduled to open last October. But restaurants and bars rarely launch on time Ñ just like your home repairs that drag on for months after their planned completion.

Sungari Pearl opened Wednesday and, chances are, this one was worth the wait.

Sungari Pearl serves lunch and dinner daily at 1105 N.W. Lovejoy St., 971-222-7327.

Straight sushi

Ever wonder what those fried tofu packets served at sushi restaurants are called? (Aburage.) Or what the difference is between hamachi and hamaguri?

If you're a sushi devotee, you know that hamachi is yellowtail tuna, and hamaguri is clam, but you might not know that futomaki and futo-maki are two separate things. (The former indicates a large sushi roll, the latter is also a fat roll but one that's filled with rice, sweet cooked egg and pickled gourd.)

I recently discovered an extremely helpful sushi glossary that defines dozens of sushi terms from aji (Spanish mackerel) to yakinori (toasted seaweed). Available free online, it's buried in the Web site for the giant sushi chain Todai. You can find it at at the bottom of the Sushi & Roll menu page.

You'll never again order sashimi when what you really wanted was nigiri.

Contact Christina Melander at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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