Sadly, one of the few places I actually finished my write up on, has closed. As of May 11, the eulogy can be found as follows:
Luckily, I got a chance to dine there recently with friends, but sorry to see it go.
Sadly, one of the few places I actually finished my write up on, has closed. As of May 11, the eulogy can be found as follows:
Luckily, I got a chance to dine there recently with friends, but sorry to see it go.
I’ve been waiting for this place. The background goes like this: once upon a time, there was a fantastic little tapas spot off of Hawthorne, where EVOE now lives, it was called Bar Pastiche and it was a slice of heaven. As in, even though food items were around $0.50 – $2.00 and wine pours were on average $4, my husband (then just my BF) and I would spend a good $80 or so just hanging out and eating snacks and drinking. Then came Toro Bravo, nearer to our home, but disappointing in comparison. Then Bar Pastiche closes, I believe the rumor at the time was that the folks at Pix who were associated with it, closed Bar Pastiche to focus on the Pix side. That may or may not have been true or the whole truth, but it seeded my personal boycott on Pix, that pretty much existed up until now. All places that claim to serve tapas are compared to my memory of Bar Pastiche, and probably memories of too much wine, and by now, are probably totally distorted but that is me.
That being said, Bar Vivant is here and I can remove the boycott!
Located in a totally weird spot near 22nd and NE side of Burnside, we had a bit of trouble finding parking, so we ended up a few blocks away and walked in, no big deal. I notice that they have the GREEN minors sign, which to me, equals a green light for me to bring my child. Upon entering, the atmosphere is lush and eclectic and I am immediately drawn in to the Savory side, where the glass case displays the offering of small plates. A little disappointing, because my memory is of multiple cases with far more offering than what I see before me now, but I am immediately excited by the items I do see. In my heart of hearts, I am hoping they will add more as things pick up. It wasn’t busy when we went in. There were like 3 tables the whole time I was there, I hope this is because we went kind of early.
We ordered a bottle of wine, because it is a better deal to do so than it is to buy multiple glasses of wine. I think our bottle was $25. There is a wide selection of wines. You can buy more and less expensive ones, all depending upon what you are looking for.
We started with the chorizo, because no Spanish meal is complete without it, and I’m a big fan. This is an order of two; because there are two of us and I don’t want to share it. Of course, it it Olympic Provisions. I love Olympic Provisions, but I do have to say that their products are pretty accessible, so I can get these at all of the farmers’ markets, as well as the grocery stores I haunt. Still though, tasty, and basically the standard by which most others would be judged.
Now the egg salad stuffed roasted pepper on crostini arrives. I like that they used capers in the mix, and obviously some paprika in there as well. I like eggy items, and I think that it was a pretty good bang for the buck.
I am a sucker for ham cheese and pickle. Especially when it has a little piece of brie smeared underneath it. All of these are on a nice crusty piece of baguette. I want to say it is Pearl, but it could be Lovejoy Bakery as well. Since the bread is the base, I don’t focus on it as much because in this case, the toppings are the stars.
I like shrimp but my husband doesn’t, so lonely….
My little single shrimp on a pick with a tomato. It was nice, but I don’t know that I would do it again. I am hesitant about shrimp that sits in a case like that. But, it didn’t taste off at all, and I wasn’t ill later on. I know that doesn’t sound like a strong sell, but I was really into the meat and cheese happening here.
Ham, it is a big leg out front where they shave it off, almost crispy. Served with bread. I don’t know how my husband felt about it. Actually I think I do, it was a borderline item for him. I admit, the ham was almost greasy as well as crispy. But it was salty and tasty and mild. The husband is just a chicken, even though he ate it.
The mushroom stuffed pastry was up next. It was flaky and flavorful and I wish I had ordered two of them, so that I didn’t have to share it.
Cheese plate, covered a bit more on its own on this site under my cheese musings. It was on the cheap, as far as cheese plates go, and it was almost too much to eat. Almost. But we soldiered through and ate it all. No joke, this is some good cheese!
Our last food item to arrive was the tortilla. Served cold with a slightly tangy tomato sauce atop and an aioli as well. I liked it, because I like tortilla. It wasn’t out of this world or anything, but I also think that one needs to get larger items like this in order to anchor down a meal of small bits.
After eating all of the cheese, we weren’t really up for dessert. But, they have espresso here, so we got two of those. They have a machine here, and good coffee. After all is said and done, our bill was around $65 for two people, including the wine and coffee, but not including the tip.
All in all, a pleasant experience and we will most definitely return.
As part of my Tapas Showdown Throwdown, we ventured into Bar Vivant, the new-ish venture by the folks at Pix. Although I plan to talk about the entire experience separately, I felt the cheese plate especially worth mentioning. Most items on the menu are much much cheaper ($1-5), the cheese plate weighed in at around $10. Really in cheese plate standards, it’s a bargain.
We chose the plate with 3 cheese varieties, which came with a candied pear, mixed nuts and berries, quince and sliced baguette. It was almost too much cheese to eat. Almost. As seen below, I inserted a highly precise measuring tool (wine bottle cork) onto the plate to illustrate how thickly sliced pieces of cheese we were given:
Thank you, Bar Vivant. Thank you for being an example of how it should be done. In all seriousness, though, it was high quality and high value and most definitely a reason in and of itself to go to this place. Go here! You can find it near NE 22nd and Burnside. I want this to work, but not so much so that I cannot find a seat when I wander in.
The first place we’ve decided to go to to do this “research” is Patanegra. This place has been around since forever for a reason: it’s good. But how good is it? I guess we will know at the end of it all. Since small plates require ordering many items and thus, many dollars, my husband and I have recruited another couple to go on this adventure with us.
We have a reservation. An early one, really, 6:30. When we arrived, there were a few people sitting at the bar, and two other tables. We were greeted and seated promptly. Upon reviewing the menu, the standard items can be found here. I like that it is a standard list of standard Spanish tapas items; the gent who served us was obviously the owner and obviously Spanish. That immediately gives it a bit of cred in my book. He is friendly and lists off some delightful specials, we start with white wine from their extensive list of reasonably priced wines, along with the standard beginner items: chorizo platter ($14), assortment of cheeses ($12) and the cornerstone item that ought to be on every tapas list: tortilla (large, $9).
The tortilla comes out first, cold, the way I like it. One thing I like to do when going for small plates, is to anchor it with a more hearty item. The tortilla is such an item. I wish that there were an aioli to go along with it, but no matter, we are off to a great start. The large gives you 4 wedges and lucky for us, there were 4 of us, so it worked out fine.
The next items to appear are the chorizo and the cheese.
Although I’m pretty sure there are 4 different meats listed on the menu, I’m also pretty sure that only 3 different kinds appear on the board. They were tasty. It’s difficult, when it comes to salamis: there are many fantastic ones out there that blow my mind, that I cannot say this is the best I’ve had, but it is really solid, nonetheless. I just wish there were more of it. This is by no means a slight against this plate, it was good for sure, but my standards are getting pretty high these days.
We also dig into the cheeses. Pictured above is $12 worth of cheese. It is not the best value in cheese plates I have ever had, but it certainly isn’t the worst. I’ve been straight up offended by the amount of cheese offered up in other places, and not in a good way. Knowing how much cheese I can buy for my money, I wish they were a little more generous here. There were sliced pieces of stale-ish baguette, mildly toasted to go along with. The cheeses were nice. I liked the selection. I couldn’t quite hear what they were, as the place is starting to fill up and get pretty vibrant at this point.
We ordered our next round: ham wrapped dates ($14), and salt cod fritters ($12).
These came out pretty smoking hot. I must confess that these are not usually my fave, but the sauce that came along with was a bit spicy and a bit delicious. They are also a good size, but sadly, as you can see, there are 5 fritters and 4 of us. It always seems to go this way. Oh well. We all had one. One of my fellow diners cut the last one in half, not able to bring himself to be “that guy.” The other half sat there and grew cold (until I broke down and ate it later).
Along come the dates, which again, I’m not usually a huge fan of, but am willing to give it a shot. These did not really change my mind. Here lies a plate full of ham wrapped dates, they did not all get eaten. Maybe they really were not great, or maybe there were too many of them.
At this point, the entire place is bustling. There might be one or two open tables, but that’s about it. Our server/owner is the only person who is the server in the place, and he is hustling from table to table. We have now run out of wine and could become desperate if something doesn’t happen soon. Luckily, my secret prayer for wine was heard, and he appears. This time we order red, along with the special empanadas ($10) and the ling cod ($15).
Ah! 4 hot empanadas arrive in short order. There may only be one guy working the floor (along with the hostess, who fills waters, takes plates), but the kitchen keeps cranking it out. The same sauce that we received with the fritters accompanies the empanadas and we are all glad of this. These were a delight. Too bad they are the “special” and not a regular item. We gobbled them up post haste. Fabulous.
The ling cod special also arrives.
I wish I could cook fish as well as this was done. It was perfectly flaky but not over or under cooked, which is usually where I get all sorts of sketched out. The fish was resting on a nice ratatouille, with a mild red pepper sauce on top. The fish had a nice salty seasoned taste to it. I was happy.
At this point, we ordered the creme brûlée for desert (not pictured). The crust was nice, but it was chilled, which wasn’t my thing. A bit creamy and sweet. It almost seemed like custard instead.
There is an espresso machine on the premises, so we were able to get macchiatos to go with dessert. Those were nice. Although coffee in this town is fantastic, too many places in town are only doing drip or french press. I’m getting sick of people not investing in a good machine and short cutting it by charging me big dollars for french press coffee. It’s not novelty; it’s cheap. I have that when I go camping.
Our total bill for 4 people was around $250, which included 2 bottles of wine. We had a lovely time, the ambience was nice. The service, although it fell off for an almost critical moment, was knowledgeable and engaged. The food, was quality, although some items were a bit smaller than I’d have liked, and some may not have been my first item choice. But all being said, I would and will go again. That says something. There are definitely items that we did not get that I would like to go back for.
On my quest to eat at all of the shops the Oceans have to offer, I’ve once again dragged my co-workers down for a lunchtime burgerfest. Luckily, we got there right about 11:30, just before it got really kind of busy. On a workday lunch hour, it’s best to really keep the whole affair to about an hour, even if the boss is out with the group. First thing I noticed was the beer tap with the lovely hop that signifies Double Mountain, but like I said, it was a work lunch so none of this for me today, sadly. The girl at the counter was a bit aloof, and certainly a little bit of a snit. I consider not returning, based on her behavior.
The menu offers 3 meat burgers and a seasonal. There is a token veggie offering as well, but I’m not going into that. Another thing to note, is that the is they offer any of these burgers in slider form. The burgers are huge, half pound numbers and the sliders are 3oz. As the curt little lady at the counter told me “that is a little less than half the size of a regular burger.” No geniuses working here folks, just great mathematicians. Nevermind if you don’t get the joke.
I ordered two sliders and they are more than plenty for me. I got the #3 (blue cheese, pancetta, and grape tomato relish), the seasonal (jalapeño, bacon, and pickle), and an order of the fries. The fries are delicious by the way, covered in sea salt and for me, the perfect cut. After my food sat at the counter for awhile (along with other outgoing items from the kitchen), we took it upon ourselves to gather our own food by reaching over the counter, as the girl working there couldn’t be bothered with delivering food while it was still warm. That being said, we all started digging in. Every burger comes out piled high, no matter if it is a slider or a regular sized burger. I began with the #3 thinking the seasonal would be too strong in flavor for me to really get into the flavor of the other one.
Even the mini is significant in size, I’m immediately sorry I got 2 plus and order of fries, only because I am not going to be productive at work for the rest of the afternoon. I forgot to order my burgers more well than rare, but that isn’t as much of a problem when you get the mini. Besides, my burgers got to sit up on the counter, like I said, for a few minutes before my friends took action on their own. The grape tomato relish was a really nice touch. The pancetta was salty and delicious, as was the cheese. I couldn’t really taste much of the burger but it seemed like the meat was good quality.
After downing the first mini, I embark on the second. Those who cannot do a touch of spice ought not go for this one. I love spicy and this burger was spicy due to the raw jalapeños topping it off. To be honest, it is a nice concept, but there was a little too much going on with this one to be able to tell what flavor was happening. I liked it, but I wouldn’t say that this, or the first one, was the best burger I’d ever had. I know, Slow Burger is supposed to be one of “the best” burgers here in Portland, but I just don’t see it. Yes, they were creative and put a lot of interesting and high end tasty stuff all over the place, making it interesting. But the burger itself doesn’t stand out in any way. It was more like a fancy wrapped present, but once you opened it, you got a pair of socks. I kind of think that “the best” burger can stand on its own, regardless of the pomp around it. This is the case here. Did I like it? Yes. Will I go again? Yes. Is it one of the best burgers I’ve had? No. I’d still give that a tie between the G&G or Freehouse.
One thing I really like about Bin 21 is their happy hour. That, and the fact I can find a good place to sit, bring or not bring my kid, and the service is always relaxed and friendly. Obviously, the people here care about what they are doing. They have a nice happy hour, starting with a reasonable glass of wine or beer and the wine pours are generous. These people want you to enjoy yourself and they want you to come back. I hope you will, I want to see it work. Not too much though, because I still want a table open for when I show up.
On a birthday dinner for my husband, we started with a cheese plate. I would like to show you the photo of the abomination that was presented to us. For $20, you too can be presented with what I would compare to the wine taste. As in, “yes, it is good, we shall have the rest…” although there was no “rest” just an embarrassingly small amount of cheese, on the largest plate I’d ever seen. I might add, the table was small, so a giant, mostly empty plate really stood out. It was as if they wanted to accentuate the fact that they were serving a small amount of food to us, as if to thumb their nose at us. I’m not sure if they realize that there is a New Seasons Market only blocks away. I might have been better off had I bought cheese there, brought it in, and paid a “corkage” fee, like I might with wine, knowing there is at least 100% markup. Maybe it would come to this. The 1/4 of a thinly sliced apple, during apple harvest season, added a nice touch. Hopefully the objects in the picture don’t appear larger than they were; the top cheese slice(s) were wafer thin and about 2″ x 2″, the middle piece was less than 1/2″ thick, as was the bottom piece. The cube of quince, which was the size of a bouillon cube, added extra insult upon the injury. On a scale of 1 to 10, this cheese plate is about a 4. That is because at least the cheese was tasty, and the apple was in season. However, I would recommend you give this a pass, and save your money for dessert.
I am a lover of cheese. And nothing makes me happier than the sight of a great cheese plate on a menu. One of the great things about living in Portland, is the access to great cheese. I live blocks from a Whole Foods, and they have a fantastic selection. Even better, I live within walking distance to Foster and Dobbs, which is a pretty serious cheese situation. Our farmers markets are packed with fresh and not so fresh cheeses, I mean, I can even go to the nearby Trader Joe’s and get a great cheese set up, and not spend much to have it. So what is the story with the cheese plates in restaurants in this city? Some are to die for and some are downright embarrassing. This category will specialize in cheese. It’s my own little experiment. My own personal rant maybe. This section will be growing as I go, so follow along with me on my journey. Hell, I’m likely to even share my own cheesemaking experiences, if I go through with them. We shall see how that goes. Maybe brewing our own beer is enough….for now.
The chances are, the more people make a big deal out of something, the less likely I am to like it. Or even go to it. I, probably like many Portlanders, am a Contrarian. You call something restaurant of the year, I will call it rubbish. Nothing ever lives up to the hype. Knowing this, I’ve been hesitant to try out Smallwares, which has opened up in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood, a mere hop from my house.
I booked a reservation using OpenTable, because I try to get points whenever I can. The family came along, because I noticed they had a kid’s menu, so to me, that says I’m saving babysitting right off the bat.
We were welcomed by a friendly staff, who seated us immediately. The place wasn’t exactly hoppin, but it is a bit early with a child in tow. The atmosphere is kind of what I would expect from a place that serves Asian inspired small plates. Take that how you wish.
I started with The Gin, which had kaffir lime leaves, marionberry shrub, and lime. It shows up in a large tumbler and had great pucker power. I liked it, but it’s hard for me not to like booze. The husband ordered The Vodka, which had benedictine, lime juice, bitters and black pepper. It showed up in a little girly glass, but don’t be fooled, it was strong tasting. We started with the kimchi, which had cabbage, daikon, and pear. It was solid, but a little sweet. It wasn’t the best kimchi I’ve ever had, but I’d get it again. Then the eggplant appeared. Chunks of eggplant with chinese sausage come on top of a tahini yogurt dressing. There wasn’t a whole lot of the chinese sausage, and it was sweet with more of a salami consistency. I liked it, the vinegar dressing and the tahini made an interesting flavor.
We waited a little while for our third item. It gave us some time to put our hands on our wine glasses to warm our wine. I appreciate a place that serves a decent sized wine pour, and serves it in a real wine glass. Unfortunately, not only was it pretty cold inside, but the wine storage area must have been even colder. It was basically refrigerated red wine. Good thing it arrived early so I could try to bring it up in temp. For $1 you can get noodles or rice for a child. There are various add-on’s to that. We went with chicken and veggies, which brought her meal up to $4. A fairly substantial sized bowl with noodles, chicken, and veggies show up, and the child chowed on it happily for the entire time. She even ate some of the kale. Of course, I ate some of the kale too. It was tasty, almost sweet, none of the bitterness I usually associate with kale. This means, next time I come I will order the kale salad. Finally, our somen noodles arrive with its various dressings. We were told it was more “substantial,” but I’m not sure that that is true. I’m not sure if its not true either. It was a bowl of semi-spicy noodles with some dressings and it was nice. That was all of the food we’d ordered, and I wasn’t sure if we ordered quite enough. But, the dessert menu came and there was cinnamon ice cream with Coava coffee and condensed milk. I don’t think I’ve seen Coava mentioned at any restaurant I’ve been to, maybe I’m not paying attention. But I was this night, so that is what we got. A small bowl with a scoop of the ice cream shows up with a tiny pitcher containing coffee and condensed milk, which was poured over it. Super tasty. We devoured it in about 60 seconds. Sadly, this item was $8. I’m thinking it could have been either a little less expensive or a little bigger. That isn’t really the going rate for a small scoop of ice cream and maybe 4 tablespoons of coffee and milk. However, everything on the menu was interesting and tasty enough, that the husband and I decided we would be back. We’d probably order all things we hadn’t tried this time, which shows how curious we are about it.
With something great, comes something disappointing. It kind of pains me to say it. I want it to be good, but maybe it is because I feel more sorry than good about the lunch I had. How many times do I have to eat somewhere, when I know it isn’t going to be any better than it was when I first came? There was nothing wrong, per se, about the meal or my experience at all. I know I am not a huge wing fan, but I sometimes like to think that maybe I could be. I guess it just isn’t the case for me at Basa Basa.
My friend and I came for a weekday lunch and were the only people there. Someone came and left, I’m not even sure if they got anything while they were there. Back to my story. I ordered the Basa Box, which is 6 wings with rice and mac salad and weighs in at $10. For six wings. For six chicken wings. I just thought I’d clear that up. Let’s get the sides out of the way: white rice (nothing to say), mac salad….meh. It was okay. I’ve had better and I’ve had worse. Seems like it was a bit flat. I think there was more macaroni and mayo in it than anything else. The wings come in 3 flavors, so to make it easy on myself, I got 2 wings in each of the flavors. All of them came out hot and crispy, and smelled good so I was excited.
I started with the Basa Ono, which is a Thai inspired cilantro seasoning. It was a bit sweet and a bit tasty. But the problem is that the coating slides right off and then I’m looking at goose-pimpled chicken skin, which doesn’t really appeal much to me. I moved on to the Basa Yaki, which was a bit teriyaki and a bit flat. Finally I get to the Original, which is the Korean spicy. It kind of reminded me the General Tso’s chicken you can get from a grocery store hot bar (like Safeway). I wanted it to be better, but it just wasn’t. The chicken itself maybe could have been more cooked, I am sketchy about chicken, and having the batter come off and exposing an ugly chicken wing was hard for me. It really wasn’t terrible, but for the $10 I spent, I’m pretty sure I’d be happier at one of the other places. That’s probably why no one else was in there.
The most telling part about the whole experience, was as we walked back to my car, my friend asked me which of the wings I liked best. I didn’t have an answer. Not because they were all so great that I couldn’t choose between them, but more that they were all so lackluster that I almost forgot immediately after we left what it was I had. Nothing stuck out. I hate to say this, but I don’t see it lasting.