After I visited Tasty n Alder as part of Portland Food Adventures for dinner (it was a set prix fixe for the event), I wanted to also try their lunch menu. So I visited twice in the past month, during their soft opening month. Today marks their official opening as a restaurant now, and they will not only have their lunch and dinner shift, but be open between that as well and have a happy hour. They have not announced their reservation policy yet- not sure if it will be differant than the other two restaurants which are geared to be walk-in and so only take reservations above a certain size group.
Now, I realize that this is still during their soft opening, so I am waiting to see what happens now that they are officially open in March. However, I did notice that the restaurant was really hopping already- Gorham’s reputation from Toro Bravo and Tasty n Sons is already generating interest and filling the seats. And clearly, people are happy to get a chance at his cuisine on this side of the river.
I first tried for a Sunday brunch, but there was already a 45 minute wait. So, my first visit for their everyday brunch was actually a weekday lunch, and I ate at the bar. I started out with Bloody Mary of Dim Summore with hoisin, lime, sriracha, ginger. I then had a half order of the Patatas Bravas with over easy eggs and aioli, and my main was the Korean Fried Chicken with short grain rice, house kim chee & egg two ways (boiled and sunny side up).
Still, despite the busyness, the bartender was quick at making sure I had a menu and water, and the food came from the kitchen very quickly- the out of town visitor next to me had just received his check and before he could sign it, I already had my Patatas Bravas. And, it was the bartender who told me that I could have a half order so I would have room for the Korean Fried Chicken. I was in and out in just a little over 40 minutes.
Of these three items I ordered, none stood out in terms of bowling me over with deliciousness however. The Dim Summore was the best, with an interesting blend of spicy with sour and funky. The Patatas Bravas were oversauced for me and became soggy potatoes, and the same problem with the Korean Fried Chicken which after I diluted the sauce with rice, the boneless chicken hunk had a great crunchy texture that tried to survive under the sauce. Maybe they made my dish a little too fast in trying to keep up the pace with service.
There were more items on the menu I wanted to try though… I was curious about the Bim Bop Bacon & Eggs, and I admired the plate of The Alder Burger with Cascade Natural chubut cheese & hazelnut romesco I saw coming out of the kitchen as I left, and what about that Duck Duck Steak dish…so I went back for a second lunch.
This time, I sat at the kitchen bar seats. This second opportunity gave me a chance at the Bim Bop Bacon and Eggs, as well as a temporary new small plate that appeared during this visit, Chipolata Sausages from LaughingStock Farms. It also let me witness firsthand how they oversauce that Korean Fried Chicken- yeesh one spoonful of the sauce is enough when tossing that deep fried chicken, you don’ t need that second ladle… I also observed how awesome the bartender is, mixing up all the drink orders and serving those at the bar seats but also stepping in to help get dishes from the kitchen window to tables quickly. Again, I was in and out within less than 40 minutes.
The Chipolata sausages were small but every bite was as good as the Nurenberg sausages I recall when I was in Germany- Chipolata sausages are seasoned with different herbs and spices, but it tasted so fresh and with the perfect grill that I had no reference but another country where sausages are a source of national pride and specifically one that is a famous regional delicacy for close comparison.
Meanwhile, the Bim Bop Bacon and Eggs starts out with rice that is topped with vegetables (such as here carrots, spinach, kimchee, bean sprouts), a chili pepper paste and an egg that you mix up all together. When they place the rice in the bottom of the bowl I think they put some sort of sesame oil so that the rice touching the bottom gets crispy. The Bacon they refer to in the name of the dish turns out to be not just regular bacon, but a a sweet grilled Korean pork belly.
I also got to try the other two Marys- they offer four and the Tasty Mary I’ve already had at Tasty n Sons, and so that left the Cuate Mary with chili infused tequila, tomato, pimenton, and calabrian chili, and then another offering called the Dockside with gin, kummel, tomato, old bay, and shrimp. Both were kickin!
This time lunch was wonderful, full of punches of flavor with every bite and sip. I’ll be back…