A Power Lunch at Clyde Common

Generally, when people ask me about a power lunch spot in Portland, and they want something besides the traditional steakhouse like a Ringside establishment or Urban Farmer, my mind goes to Higgins to especially showcasing Northwest and local. This is followed further on the list with maybe Davis Tavern, Gruner, and Clark Lewis. Recently though, a new fantastic lunch option has been highlighted onto my radar that I would say immediately after Higgins now on my short list- and that’s lunch at Clyde Common.
Clyde Common menu Clyde Common interior, by the kitchen special board

Clyde Common offers a well rounded menu of options showcasing the season and region, without the questionable people hanging on the sidewalks like Davis Tavern and with a more modern, hip vibe like Gruner and Clark Lewis but more approachable food that is sophisticated but not fancy.
Clyde Common bar Clyde Common interior, taken from the 2nd floor Clyde Common interior main floor Clyde Common interior, open kitchen section

As you are waiting for your lunch party to assemble and read the menu, go ahead and order a snack – everyone will thank you. The roasted garlic cashews and house marinated olives and popcorn with tōgarashi, honey, and butter sound like very low key bar snacks, but are worth it as you will find yourself continually reaching into the bowl for more as you can’t help wanting to keep that tastiness lasting that balances salty and sweet and bit of savory. These snacks are available on the dinner and happy hour menu as well.
Clyde Common snack, house marinated olives Clyde Common snack, roasted garlic cashews Clyde Common snack, popcorn with tōgarashi, honey, and butter

If your party is a little hungrier, you can’t go wrong sharing a Clyde Common + Olympia Provisions charcuterie plate that includes meat goodies that vary depending on what is on hand, which could include (based on what I’ve seen on visits) sopressata, chicken liver or pork liver mousse, country pork pate, saucisson d’alsace or saucisson sec, chorizo navarre, lamb summer sausage, beef tongue pastrami, or various Ancient Heritage Dairy cheeses, as well as pickles, mustard & bread of course. Be sure to ask to see what your board will be boasting. It would be a great choice to accompany cocktails at dinner or happy hour too.
Clyde Common + Olympia Provisions charcuterie plate, here the board also happened to include some Ancient Heritage Dairy cheeses Clyde Common + Olympia Provisions charcuterie plate, here the board also happened to include some Ancient Heritage Dairy cheeses Clyde Common + Olympia Provisions charcuterie plate, here the board also happened to include some Ancient Heritage Dairy cheeses

One thing I appreciated is that there are plenty of vegetarian options to choose from – look in the Clyde Common small plate sections for options like a daily soup that I’ve seen vary from cauliflower soup to a summer vegetable gazpacho with basil; there’s also grilled sweet corn with espelette & lime aioli, cotija, and cilantro (warning a little messy to eat as you see it comes on the cob), seared cauliflower with salbitxada and parsley and or a simple green salad with fennel and grana (you can add grilled chicken or seared trout to any salad if you wish). One of my favorites is the simple small plate of fried shishito peppers with citrus vinaigrette,
Clyde Common daily soup, this is a cauliflower soup The Clyde Common grilled sweet corn, espelette & lime aioli, cotija, cilantro Clyde Common small plate of seared cauliflower, salbitxada & parsley and in the back a simple green salad with fennel and grana (you can add grilled chicken or seared trout to any salad as well) "Clyde Clyde Common small plate of fried shishito peppers with citrus vinaigrette

A large plate of house tagliatelle with arugula pesto, egg yolk, and fried spring onion satisfied hunger without going overboard to take you into naptime. And look how eggscellent it is (sorry couldn’t resist).
A large plate of house tagliatelle with arugula pesto, egg yolk, and fried spring onion satisifed hunger without going overboard to take you into naptime. A large plate of house tagliatelle with arugula pesto, egg yolk, and fried spring onion satisifed hunger without going overboard to take you into naptime.

If you are a meat eater though, I would definitely point out the lunch only special of smoked pork belly sandwich, slaw, Caroline style BBQ sauce served with salad or fries. Unlike most BBQ pork sandwiches, it’s a chopped version of the pork and not drenched with sauce so you can taste the meat and whisper of smoke. I’m also a fan of Carolina style sauce which is much lighter instead of the sweeter or spicier BBQ sauces (real Carolina sauce is more vinegary than this – the Clyde Common version is thin but not as acidic).
Clyde Common lunch only special of smoked pork belly sandwich, slaw, Caroline style BBQ sauce

The meat is juicy and moist, as you can see. I would have given up the fries and bun and slaw even just to eat a small pile of the smoked pork belly by itself.
Clyde Common lunch only special of smoked pork belly sandwich, slaw, Caroline style BBQ sauce Clyde Common lunch only special of smoked pork belly sandwich, slaw, Caroline style BBQ sauce

If you happen to come for happy hour or diner instead of lunch (or perhaps in addition to…), definitely don’t miss a special touch by Chef Carlo  Lamagna from his heritage and family of the Phillippines, the pork and shitake lumpia. It’s similar to an egg roll, but a Filipinio version that is crispier and meatier than what you would normally get from a Chinese style egg roll. This is such excellent drinking food that is just too underrepresented in Portland and the US in general. The dish shown below is a normal than average portion for my dining party and doesn’t represent a normal serving. But isn’t it the fanciest presentation of lumpia you’ve ever seen?
Clyde Common dinner and happy hour dish pork and shitake lumpia Clyde Common dinner and happy hour dish pork and shitake lumpia Clyde Common dinner and happy hour dish pork and shitake lumpia

I’m also so in love with the happy hour only saganaki and olive bread but not the way you think. Of course you can’t go wrong with seared cheese… but that bread is an unbelievable revlation, I actually savored and took smaller bites of the bread to make it last as long as possible because it is so delicious, more than the cheese. Usually I ignore the bread in meat and cheese boards to focus on the main event, but in this case the olive bread is the star with it’s buttery briochie with specks of olive embedded as surprises. Wow.
Clyde Common happy hour item saganaki and olive bread

To further confuse you on whether you should come here for lunch, happy hour, and/or dinner, I’ll just leave this survey of many of the Clyde Common House Cocktail (available all day) here. I am a fan of the happy hour at Clyde Common, as you can see, and that saganaki (and now I know I was missing out by not having the lumpia too).

  • Barrel Aged El Presidente with rum, blanc vermouth, Grand Marnier, grenadine aged for three months in a  bourbon whiskey barrel
    Clyde Common house cocktail of the Barrel Aged El Presidente with rum, blanc vermouth, Grand Marnier, grenadine aged for three months in a  bourbon whiskey barrel
  • Coffee Daiquiri with Appleton V/X rum, lime, Tia Maria and brown sugar
    Clyde Common cocktail of a Coffee Daiquiri with Appleton V/X rum, lime, Tia Maria and brown sugar
  • Barrel Aged Negroni with gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, aged for two months in a bourbon whiskey barrel
    Clyde Common house cocktail of a Barrel Aged Negroni with gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, aged for two months in a bourbon whiskey barrel
  • Daily Punch, this one happened to be Gin, Lemon, Pineapple and White Wine
    Clyde Common cocktail at happy hour, the Daily Punch this day included Gin, Lemon, Pineapple and White Wine Clyde Common cocktail at happy hour, the Daily Punch this day included Gin, Lemon, Pineapple and White Wine
  • Pacific Standard with vodka, lemon, ginger, honey, soda is also a happy hour special price cocktail
    lyde Common cocktail Pacific Standard with vodka, lemon, ginger, honey, soda is at special happy hour price
  • The Bourbon Renewal with bourbon, lemon, cassis, bitters is discounted at happy hour and my personal favorite cocktail
    Bourbon Renewal cocktail at Clyde Common with bourbon, lemon, cassis, bitters Bourbon Renewal cocktail at Clyde Common with bourbon, lemon, cassis, bitters

The happy hour burger is a good deal, but don’t overlook the Clyde Common Happy Hour dish of the Mussels that comes with lots of frites and is great with the Daily Punch or Pacific Standard
Clyde Common Happy Hour dish of the Mussels comes with lots of frites Clyde Common Happy Hour dish of the Mussels comes with lots of frites

And these desserts of a parfait and ice cream cake
Clyde Common dessert parfait, coconut tapioca, coffee caramel, cream Clyde Common dessert parfait, coconut tapioca, coffee caramel, cream
Clyde Common dessert of ice cream cake Clyde Common dessert of ice cream cake

So, which meal at Clyde Common do you want to come to?
An Uncommon Lunch at Clyde Common, courtesy of Little Green Pickle An Uncommon Lunch at Clyde Common, courtesy of Little Green Pickle An Uncommon Lunch at Clyde Common, courtesy of Little Green Pickle
Disclosure: I was treated to a lunch with other Portland bloggers by Little Green Pickle, but paid for my own meals at happy hour and another lunch at other times. I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

Clyde Common snack, roasted garlic cashews and popcorn with tōgarashi, honey, and butter Clyde Common + Olympia Provisions charcuterie plate, here the board also happened to include some Ancient Heritage Dairy cheeses Clyde Common + Olympia Provisions charcuterie plate, here the board also happened to include some Ancient Heritage Dairy cheeses, here with Barrel Aged El Presidente with rum, blanc vermouth, Grand Marnier, grenadine aged for three months ina  bourbon whiskey barrel

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Portland Penny Diner Happy Hour

I’ve been a fan of the breakfast/lunch at Portland Penny Diner for a while – see my post here – but they were only open 7 – 3 PM on weekdays. Curses! But now recently the PPD has extended their hours now to be open 4 – 11 PM midnight on Fri Sat), including a happy hour from 4 – 6 PM every day (Mon – Sat – they are closed Sunday). Yay! So here’s a look at the Portland Penny Diner Happy Hour and their evening menu.

The photos are from several visits, varying from a complimentary Open House event I attended where I was able to sample bites from the food and drink, as well as follow-up visits on my own dime.
Portland Penny Diner Portland Penny Diner is now open evening hours from 4-11 M-Th to midnight Fri Sat Portland Penny Diner is now open evening hours from 4-11 M-Th to midnight Fri Sat Portland Penny Diner is now open evening hours from 4-11 M-Th to midnight Fri Sat Portland Penny Diner is now open evening hours from 4-11 M-Th to midnight Fri Sat

With eight cocktails on tap, as well as two wine and four beer taps, Portland Penny Diner can satiate your thirst quickly. Barman Tony Gurdian has crafted a great list of balanced cocktails that he makes in small batches so they are always fresh and balanced (and are only $5 at happy hour!).
Portland Penny Diner sample of a draft cocktail by Barman Tony Gurdian Portland Penny Diner sample of a draft cocktail by Barman Tony Gurdian Portland Penny Diner tasting a sample cocktail on draft with Barman Tony Gurdian himself pouring the drafts Portland Penny Diner tasting a sample cocktail on draft with Barman Tony Gurdian himself pouring the drafts

There is also always a new daily punch just $5 all day every day until it’s out. One visit the punch was pisco, maraschino, darjeeling tea, lemon, oleo and prosecco.  The one I tried below was composed with Dickel White Whiskey, rum, Cointreau, lemon, oleo and Montucky lager.
Portland Penny Diner offers a Punch of the Day that's $5 until it runs out. Portland Penny Diner offers a Punch of the Day that's $5 until it runs out.

Don’t worry – those plastic cups are just free sample tastes at an Open House. Here they are compared to the actual size of the drinks I paid for later!
Portland Penny Diner tasting a sample cocktail on draft Portland Penny Diner tasting a sample cocktail on draft Portland Penny Diner cocktail on draft actual size Portland Penny Diner cocktail on draft actual size Portland Penny Diner cocktail on draft actual size Portland Penny Diner cocktail on draft actual size
I was most interested in a new section of the menu called Short Orders, which include are a shot with a paired item (another drink or food snack).

  • Whiskey & Beer Back
  • Tequila & Verdita. The idea of this was first created when Top Chef alums Chef Doug Adams and Chef Katsuji Tanabe collaborated at a dinner, and their bro love continues on with this Short Order menu item.
    Portland Penny Diner Short Order item of Tequila & Verdita. This was first created when Top Chef alums Chef Doug Adams and Chef Katsuji Tanabe collaborated at a dinner
  • Pisco & Grilled Pineapple with Espelette, Pisco is a bit like brancy and comes from South America, thus the pairing here. Espelette is the slightly spicy pepper you see on top of the grilled pineapple,
    Portland Penny Diner drinks - a Short Order (Pisco & Grilled Pineapple with Espelette)
  • Cachaca and Pickled Strawberry. Cachaca is akin to a Brazilian rum.
    Portland Penny Diner Short Order item of Cachaca and Pickled Strawberry

My food and drink adventure rule is always if I see something on the menu that I’ve never seen before or don’t usually see – that’s where the delicious adventure lies.

Portland Penny Diner Evening Food Menu is a collaboration between Vitaly Paley and Doug Adams includes a few soups and salads, including this tomato soup with crouton and basil (pictured is a sample that was passed at an Open House, not an actual full order).
Portland Penny Diner tasting a sample of the tomato soup with croutons and basil Portland Penny Diner tasting a sample of the tomato soup with croutons and basil

Then there are Fry Bread Tacos, varying from filled with house smoked pastrami, or soy braised pork belly, or my personal favorite the Hangtown Fry Taco with fried oysters, eggs, bacon and spicy mayo.
Portland Penny Diner tasting a sample food item, the House Smoked Pastrami Taco with russian dressing, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut
Sample of the House Smoked Pastrami Taco with russian dressing, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut and the full order of Hangtown Fry Taco with fried oysters, eggs, bacon and spicy mayo

For something a bit more familiar, there are single or double burgers with secret sauce and for vegetarians, a super flavorful Falafel Burger. The double burger (called the Deluxe Burger) is only $8 at happy hour (the regular PPD burger is $7 and not a HH special) so splurge on a double patty between 4-6. If you’d like, the burgers come on their own so order waffle fries, sweet potato fries… or Disco Fries (with gravy, pastrami, swiss, cheddar).
Portland Penny Diner's evening menu, super flavorful Falafel Burger feta, red onion, tzatziki, cucumber, tomato, iceberg, harissaPortland Penny Diner's evening menu, on happy hour get this Deluxe Burger with two patties, bacon, secret sauce, white onions, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, bread and butter pickles
Above you see sample of the and also the Falafel Burger with feta, red onion, tzatziki, cucumber, tomato, iceberg, harissa and the full Deluxe Burger with two patties, bacon, secret sauce, white onions, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, bread and butter pickles

More substantial PPD Plates include Buttermilk Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, Blackened Trout, or a Penny Pincher special that changes. I’ve seen the Penny Pincher vary from a Pork Taco Salad to Breakfast Chicken Hash, or check the chalkboard.

Who knows, you may run into either or both of these celebrity chefs (you see chef Douggie making his chicken back there? Another time chef Vitaly Paley was just sitting outside having a beer!). For photos of some of the chicken or trout plates, visit my blogger friend Marlynn at Urban Bliss Life and see her post on Portland Penny Diner!
Portland Penny Diner is a collaboration with chef/owner Vitaly Paley and executive chef Doug Adams (who you see on the right, making his fried chicken)
Portland Penny Diner Fried Chicken, from Executive Chef Doug Adams (this is a sample, not the actual plate you get from ordering) Portland Penny Diner Fried Chicken, from Executive Chef Doug Adams (this is a sample, not the actual plate you get from ordering)
Above Portland Penny Diner Fried Chicken, from Executive Chef Doug Adams (this is a sample, not the actual plate you get from ordering as that comes with mashed potatoes and gravy)

If you get a chance to try Portland Penny Diner, definitely get a fry taco, and maybe share the fried chicken, and try a draft cocktail or a short order!
Portland Penny Diner Evening Menu includes a few soups and salads, Fry Bread Tacos (varying from filled with house smoked pastrami and soy braised pork belly to fried oysters with eggs and bacon) to burgers with secret sauce and for vegetarians, a super flavorful Falafel Burger. More substantial PPD Plates include buttermilk fried chicken, blackened trout, or a Penny Pincher special. Portland Penny Diner Deluxe Burger with two patties, bacon, secret sauce, white onions, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, bread and butter pickles Portland Penny Diner drinks - cocktail on draft and a Short Order (Pisco & Grilled Pineapple with Espelette)

 

Have you ever had fry bread, or a fry bread taco? What do you think of the offerings of Portland Penny Diner, have you checked out the evening hours yet?

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Disclosure: Although many of the sample drinks and dishes you have seen were from an “open house” they had their first week or so of their evening hours that was open to media and the public, I returned other times and paid for full cocktails and these Short Orders as my own drink adventure.

Signature

Russian Dinner at Kachka PDX

Russian food is comforting and filling as you would expect from a country where it can get negative 30 below. For a country that has gone through so much famine and a generation with harsh memories of long queues for rationed food, what cuisine the people have been able to put together feels full of love and hope and celebration.

The cuisine has all the complexity yet simplicity of home-cooked, like you are at a family meal that has perfected and passed a recipe on through generations. The food feels emotional, with its contrast of plenty (though you will notice plenty of food showcasing mayo or pickles, or lots of flavors that may have been a way to make up for the small amount of meat since part of what you purchased may be rotten) with the reality of the harsh, melancholy heartbreak and hardship of Russian history.

One of my favorite restaurants when I lived in Chicago was Russian Tea Time (chef Bonnie Morales and husband Israel Morales are from Chicago too). When I moved from Chicago to Portland in 2008 I was disappointed by the lack of Russian cuisine in Portland. Then, after a few years I was thrilled when I got a bit of a taste with a Russian Pop-up at an early test of what would be eventually Da Net via Vitaly Paley’s Russian Pop-up back in March of 2013. Then, a month later, Kachka PDX opened as a permanent location to get a Russian cuisine fix . After completing a promise to myself to finish a book on Soviet food, I rewarded myself with several visits that I am now sharing with you. While DaNet, as I covered in a previous post, is a pop up Russian Experience with a set menu, Kachka is a restaurant you can visit any day and order your Russian meal a la carte.

Located at 720 SE Grand Avenue, Kachka doesn’t look like much from the outside with it’s rectangular, narrow long space that is dimly lit. Half the wall has fake windows, making you feel just like you were in a communal dining room with other comrades (well hello, I guess we are).

Stepping inside, you feel a bit like you are in a Russian living room with the utensils and napkins on the table in a flowery mug. , The tables are a bit cramped together to continue to give the requisite vibe of a communal space while thankfully, still having your own private table (no shared tables here unlike some actual communal table restaurants). A few kitschy references to Rodina (Russia portrayed as a Motherland) are scattered on the wall here or there to provide warmth, and there are a few pieces of Soviet political decor here or there as well.
Kachka PDX front Kachka PDX front host stand I came in early on a Monday for happy hour on a super cold rainy day and was treated to the ability to take this great shot of an almost empty Kachka. Several seats were taken only minutes after this photo. Bar at Kachka PDX is a nod to the propaganda of Soviet Russia times and Imperial Russia Kachka PDX simple Soviet nods on the wall

While my previous Russian restaurant experience offered more homey foods of the different regions of Mother Russia, Kachka focuses mainly on zakuski, which are small hot or cold super savory small plates that are meant to accompany enjoyment of vodka. The goal is to completely fill your table with zakuski and as you drink your vodka, always have a toast and a bite of zakuski along with spirited conversation.

With their offering of a vodka flight at a reasonable 30 grams times three, or ordering any individual at sizes of 30, 60, or 100 grams, it’s possible to get a taste of that tradition of drinking and eating without going overboard. You can go traditional vodka or the infused with additional flavor liquors (mostly vodka but not exclusively) like lemon vodka, rosemary vodka, chamomile vodka, horseradish vodka, cocoa nib vodka and more like caraway rye whiskey or Earl Grey brandy. My personal favorite is the horseradish vodka.

They also have some pre organized vodka flights for you, this one is the Mother Russia vodka flight with from right to left, green mark, hammer + sickle, and imperia. Even if you don’t think you like vodka, I really encourage you to try one of the flavor vodka in 30 grams in the spirit of what Kachka is trying to do.
Kachka PDX Vodka Flights: 30 grams x 3 of curated vodka. This one is the Mother Russia flight with from right to left, green mark, hammer + sickle, and imperia Kachka PDX Vodka Flights: 30 grams x 3 of curated vodka. This one is the Mother Russia flight with from right to left, green mark, hammer + sickle, and imperia Kachka PDX Vodka Flights: 30 grams x 3 of curated vodka. This one is the Mother Russia flight with from right to left, green mark, hammer + sickle, and imperia Kachka PDX 30 g of lemon infused vodka

If you come at happy hour though, or you just want something a bit more with your vodka, check out the cocktails featuring some of those flavored liquors or vodkas. For instance, for a while there was the Baba Yaga with chamomile vodka, liquore strega, lemon. A constant cocktail offering (and also $5 at happy hour) is the Moscow Mule with vodka, lime, homemade ginger syrup, ginger beer. I will count that for you as trying Russian vodka too and getting into the spirit of zakuski.
Kachka PDX Happy Hour drink of the Baba Yaga with chamomile vodka, liquore strega, lemon Kachka PDX Happy Hour drink of the Moscow Mule with vodka, lime, homemade ginger syrup, ginger beer

Now let’s look at some of the drinking food, aka zakuski. The much raved about “Herring Under a Fur Coat” cold zakuski is beautiful, and it seems to be the glamour shot that represents Kachka in most media avenues that I see Kachka mentioned in.
The famous Kachka PDX dish of the Herring Under a Fur Coat, a 7 layer dip but russian. and actually a salad, with herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo, eggs. The famous Kachka PDX dish of the Herring Under a Fur Coat, a 7 layer dip but russian. and actually a salad, with herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo, eggs.

I did love the dish, but I also highly enjoyed different mayo Russian salad, perhaps even more so then the Herring Under a Fur Coat. That mayo Russian salad I’m referring to is the Duck Olivier. This cold zakuski is a take on salat Oliver, a traditional Russian salad that as I learned from reading Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking (you can read my review of that book here), has lots of variations representing regions and even the type of person you are (privileged, peasant, artsy dissident…) in Russia. This is the most popular salad in Russia.

This cold salad includes diced boiled potatoes, carrots, brined dill pickles, green peas, eggs, celeriac, onions, diced boiled meat – in this case duck, and all mixed with mayonnaise. Kachka’s version uses duck meat and crispy duck skin, and duck fat mayo. Um, yummm. Fantastic. This is the salat Olivier that is my gold standard to beat and measure all salat Olivier or any potato salad.

Kachka PDX cold zakuski of duck Olivier, a cold salad that includes diced boiled potatoes, carrots, brined dill pickles, green peas, eggs, celeriac, onions, diced boiled meat - in this case duck, and all mixed with mayonnaise. Kachka's version uses duck meat and crispy duck skin, and duck fat mayo Kachka PDX cold zakuski of duck Olivier, a cold salad that includes diced boiled potatoes, carrots, brined dill pickles, green peas, eggs, celeriac, onions, diced boiled meat - in this case duck, and all mixed with mayonnaise. Kachka's version uses duck meat and crispy duck skin, and duck fat mayo

The lesson with either of those Russian salads, whichever one you try, is don’t be afraid of the presence of mayo. As I was enjoying these two dishes (2 different visits), I thought about the book I read, and how containers were hard to find during the Soviet era, and so mayo jars were very commonly used to hold anything and everything. Mayonnaise, similar to sour cream, dill, stews and oven baked pies, are a critical part of Russian food.

For a simpler cold zakuski that is vegetarian, try the brindza pashtet, a sheep cheese and paprika spread with scallion served with lavash.
Kachka PDX cold zakuski of brindza pashtet, a sheep cheese and paprika spread with scallion served with lavash Kachka PDX cold zakuski of brindza pashtet, a sheep cheese and paprika spread with scallion served with lavash Kachka PDX cold zakuski of brindza pashtet, a sheep cheese and paprika spread with scallion served with lavash

Or feel luxurious and fancy with one of the Caviar & Roe dishes – the most affordable one is the House Cured Steelhead, but during my visit we went for the prettier Beet Cured Whitefish. All the Caviar & Roe dishes are served with yeasted blini, challah, chive, butter, and sieved egg to make your little piles of bite sized vehicles for the caviar. The Blini here are small and thin, lighter and almost approaching crepe compared to the more richer decadant pancake Blini of DaNet.
At Kachka PDX, feel luxurious and fancy with one of the Caviar & Roe dishes - the most affordable one is the house cured steelhead, but during my visit we went for the prettier beet cured whitefish. All the Caviar & Roe dishes are served with yeasted blini, challah, chive, butter, and sieved egg to make your little piles of bite sized vehicles for the caviar. At Kachka PDX, feel luxurious and fancy with one of the Caviar & Roe dishes - the most affordable one is the house cured steelhead, but during my visit we went for the prettier beet cured whitefish. All the Caviar & Roe dishes are served with yeasted blini, challah, chive, butter, and sieved egg to make your little piles of bite sized vehicles for the caviar.

When it comes to hot zakuski, in particular the Horseradish Vodka pairs perfectly with this dish Crispy Beef Tongue with citrus marinated rhubarb, roasted garlic, chive blossom, and buckwheat cracker. Similar to the Herring Under a Fur Coat and the Duck Olivier, I think this Crispy Beef Tongue represents what Kachka is all about – the homey weirdness of some traditional Russian cuisine but elegantly and expertly refined to a fine dining level fit for a czar.
Kachka PDX Hot Zakuski of crispy beef tongue with citrus marinated rhubarb, roasted garlic, chive blossom, buckwheat cracker Kachka PDX Hot Zakuski of crispy beef tongue with citrus marinated rhubarb, roasted garlic, chive blossom, buckwheat cracker

My favorite hot zakuski is the khachapuri, which is smoked sulguni cheese wrapped in dough, sort of like a pita quesadilla. It’s not as doughy or thickly cheesy comforting as an authentic Georgian khachapuri and the adjika is not nearly intense enough, but I can have this one with vodka anytime for dinner so I give points for accessibility and context for this take on the Georgian national dish. The more like a pita bread version here also has a slight crispness that is a great contrast to the oozy cheese, but be careful with your fingers as its less dough layers from that hot cheese to you too!
Kachka PDX Hot Zakuski of khachapuri, which is smoked sulguni cheese wrapped in pillowy dough -- like a crunchwrap and a cheese calzone had a lovechild. Kachka PDX Hot Zakuski of khachapuri, which is smoked sulguni cheese wrapped in pillowy dough -- like a crunchwrap and a cheese calzone had a lovechild.

You should not miss the melt in your mouth dumplings – be it the meat ones like this Siberian Pelmeni with Beef, Pork, Veal and Onion or if you get the vegetarian version of Tvorog Vareniki with Farmers Cheese and Scallion. Do not miss this, it is a must order.
At Kachka PDX do not miss these Russian Dumplings of siberian pelmeni with beef, pork, veal and onion and also on the happy hour menu! Kachka's tvorog vareniki, a dish of scallion and farmer’s cheese filled dumplings that are just melt in your mouth, and also on the happy hour menu!

There are only a handful of main dishes, which rotate in and out with new items. During the winter months, I was surprised to see a traditional dish called kulebyaka of multi-layered pie filled with black cod, red chard and crepes, served with creme „eurette. This is a time consuming dish – even at Kachka it takes 30 minutes to prepare from when you order. And it’s huge- enough to feed 2-4. I was glad I had a chance to try it while it was on the menu (it was rotated out in the spring menu).
Kachka PDX, a traditional dish called kulebyaka of multi-layered pie filled with black cod, red chard and crepes, served with creme „eurette Kachka PDX, a traditional dish called kulebyaka of multi-layered pie filled with black cod, red chard and crepes, served with creme „eurette Kachka PDX, a traditional dish called kulebyaka of multi-layered pie filled with black cod, red chard and crepes, served with creme „eurette Kachka PDX, a traditional dish called kulebyaka of multi-layered pie filled with black cod, red chard and crepes, served with creme „eurette

End your meal with some tea (or start with some if you come in on a cold windy rainy day like I did!). If you happen to come during happy hour, besides the pelmeni and vareniki dumplings which are both on the menu, there is also the option of the Red October with lamb meatballs, adjika, cheese all on a hoagie roll. It’s definitely the largest food item on the happy hour menu.
The biggest item on the Kachka Happy Hour menu is this Red October with lamb meatballs, adjika, cheese all on a hoagie roll.

Because you can order a la carte Kachka gives you control of how many dishes you fill your table with, or simply order the zakuski experience and let the kitchen fill your table on your behalf. Zakuski plates are mostly small to encourage a lot of sharing and trying of a variety of dishes. As you can see everything is plated beautifully and elegantly rather than home style casual, which provides an atmosphere of luxury on the plate contrasting with the humble around you in the restaurant decor. It’s a feel of public communal dining hall but you are given individual party privacy and elevated take that made me feel a bit like a peek into the nomenklatura or privileged class of Russia. I can’t think of a better place in Portland to celebrate the art of zakuski in such an upscale way.

As a coincidence, I saw the day before this post was scheduled to be published that Eater just created a “One Night” feature on Kachka, which includes video and gorgeous photos giving you a peek at one night at Kachka – take a look at One Night at Kachka here. Eater’s feature piece does include pictures of every single thing on Kachka’s menu, at least in May, and a video on how they make those delectable dumplings. Also, it’s just a super cool feature that takes advantage of the web (I recommend seeing it on a computer as the design doesn’t translate as well to mobile though it’s still better than most any other article you would read online in embracing telling a story using all the media available).

Kachka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What about you? Have you been to Kachka? Is there anything about Kachka that I’ve shared that makes you curious to give it a try? What did you think of the Eater feature if you perused it?

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Martinis at Bartini, and a 3 Course Dinner at Urban Fondue

Today I am in Los Angeles to help throw my sister’s wedding shower tomorrow. Later, there will be a bachelorette getaway in Montreal, Canada in September. Unfortunately, there is no shindig here in Portland, because I might have proposed some martinis at Bartini. Still, if you have a special occasion coming up soon, you might consider Bartini and Urban Fondue.

Ideally, you will start next door at Bartini. There, you will peruse their menu of 100 martinis and pick one to kick off your date – be it a romantic date or friend date. If like my friend and I, you come after work, you can practically be stealing these martinis at the happy hour prices (half off) making them in the range of $3-4 but still at full price pours! A huge deal!

Bartini atmosphere

The happy starts at 4pm and goes to 6:30pm Tuesday-Saturday and again 9:30pm-close, but is all night on Sunday and Monday.

There are a large variety of martinis to choose from here, for instance:

  • Cosmopolitans varying from Lavender Cosmo, Pomegranate Cosmo to Plum Cosmo, Sparkling Mandarin Cosmo, and Watermelon Cosmo
  • Lemon Drops, varying from Sweet Tea to Violet Lemon to Tuscan Rosemary and more flavors
  • Fresh and Fruity Martinis, including Very Mango, Bird of Paradise (shown below, a combo with coconut rum, mango puree, and pineapple juice and a bit of cinnamon), Hypnotic Strawberry, Peartini, etc with various fruit possibilities
    Bartini, Birds of Paradise martini with coconut rum, mango puree and pineapple juice topped with a dash of cinnamon
  • Aromatic Martinis such as White Elderflower, Ruby Rose, Sweet Nasturtium and a few others
  • Clean and Serene Martinis such as Bellinitinis with 8 possible flavors shaken and topped with champagne, Blue Eyes (with simple vodka, blue curacao and lemon twist), French Kiss or English Cucumber Martini. Below, you see the French Kiss martini, vodka swirled with a hint of strawberry puree and topped with champagne
    Bartini, French Kiss martini, vodka swirled with a hint of strawberry puree and topped with champagne
  • Herb Martinis, varying from Basil Berry and Lemon Basil to Rosemary Grapefruit and Juniper
  • Spicy Martinis, my favorite being the Diablo with habanero pepper infused vodka, passion fruit puree, cilantro and fresh lemon
  • Bold Martinis, which I question how martini they are as they include ingredients like tequila and bourbon in here.
  • Decadent Martinis, which seem to mean desserts turned into martini form, given the list that includes Bananas Foster, Caramel Apple, Chocolate Kiss, Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie, Oatmeal Cookie, Rainbow Sherbetini, Snickertini etc. The Oatmeal Cookie Martini really is like liquid oatmeal cookie, I can never resist getting one. It’s concocted from butterscotch and Irish creme liqueurs shaken with cinnamon liqueur and cream
    Bartini, Oatmeal Cookie martini with butterscotch and Irish creme liqueurs shaken with cinnamon liqueur and cream

After 1 or 2 martinis, go next door to Urban Fondue where you have made your reservation. Make sure you do make a reservation- you never know if it will be a busy night because of a celebration of an anniversary, birthday, bachelorette party or any girls’ night out.

You can order each fondue a la carte, or you can choose to have a 3 Course Dinner at Urban Fondue that starts with your choice of a cheese, then a broth, and then a dessert fondue. I think the best fondues they offer are the cheese and the chocolate ones, so you can certainly just come here for appetizers or for dessert if you wanted. We ordered the 3 course.
Urban Fondue menu

To start, I recommend the Ruby Port Cheese Fondue with white cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere cheeses, finished with caramelized sweet onions and port wine.
Urban Fondue menu, Ruby Port Cheese Fondue with white cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere cheeses, finished with caramelized sweet onions and port wine Urban Fondue menu, Ruby Port Cheese Fondue with white cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere cheeses, finished with caramelized sweet onions and port wine Urban Fondue menu, Ruby Port Cheese Fondue with white cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere cheeses, finished with caramelized sweet onions and port wine

They have other options of cheese combos, such as a simple smoked cheddar, brie and gorgonzola topped with hazelnuts, tomato basil with smoked cheddar, or a white cheddar with roasted caraway. All yum right? The cheese fondue only comes with bread, but you can add for additional cost extras such as asparagus (which is what we did), mushrooms, sausage, or fruit (pears, grapes, apples).
Urban Fondue menu, Ruby Port Cheese Fondue with white cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere cheeses, finished with caramelized sweet onions and port wine

For the entrees, it is a broth fondue, and you have the choice of 5 different broths and half a dozen kinds of meat/seafood combination plates that you can dip in the broth for cooking, varying from baby lobster tails or Carlton Pork to New York strip loin or Tiger Prawns, and they also have a vegetarian option with tofu and other vegetables. All the meat options do have a few vegetables and a couple raviolis to balance out all the meat and seafood on your plate.

This is nice in that even though you are sharing the broth, you can customize your selection of what you want to eat. It may not look like much when it first comes to the table, but it does add up as you eat each piece 2 at a time (using your 2 skewers). Make sure you use the skewers for dipping in the fondue, and then when it’s cooked transfer it to your other plate that you eat with a fork so you don’t cross-contaminate!

To the left you see the Chef’s Cut entree with thin sliced Carlton pork and local New York strip loin seasoned with marjoram, extra virgin olive oil and spices, and the one to the right is the East Meets West entree with Carlton pork, local breast of chicken, east coast scallops and Tiger prawns.
Urban Fondue, the broth courses with meats you cook. To the left you see the Chef's Cut entree with thin sliced Carlton pork and local New York strip loin seasoned with marjoram, extra virgin olive oil and spices, and the one to the right is the East Meets West entree with Carlton pork, local breast of chicken, east coast scallops and Tiger prawns. Urban Fondue, the broth courses with meats you cook. To the left you see the Chef's Cut entree with thin sliced Carlton pork and local New York strip loin seasoned with marjoram, extra virgin olive oil and spices, and the one to the right is the East Meets West entree with Carlton pork, local breast of chicken, east coast scallops and Tiger prawns. Urban Fondue, the broth courses with meats you cook. To the left you see the Chef's Cut entree with thin sliced Carlton pork and local New York strip loin seasoned with marjoram, extra virgin olive oil and spices, and the one to the right is the East Meets West entree with Carlton pork, local breast of chicken, east coast scallops and Tiger prawns.

When cooking the meat, you want to keep it in the broth for a certain amount of time, so Urban Fondue provides you these cute little hourglass timers to help you keep track.
Urban Fondue, cooking timers for the broth fondue

To further customize the experience, they bring out all these dipping sauces for you to try with your broth cooked meat/seafood. There are a whole bunch of different ones, complimenting the meat and seafood in different ways:

  1. Lime Chili
  2. Wild Mushroom Demi Glace
  3. Bavarian Balsamic Grain Mustard
  4. Au Poivre Peppercorn (really good with the steak)
  5. Thai Peanut Sauce
  6. Blackberry Ketchup
  7. Basil Pesto
  8. Meyer Lemon Hollandaise
  9. Smoked Tomato Aioli
  10. Lemon-Garlic Butter with Parsley and Caper

Urban Fondue menu, dips for the main course, the meat and broth fondue Urban Fondue menu, dips for the main course, the meat and broth fondue Urban Fondue menu, dips for the main course, the meat and broth fondue

I was pretty full but we still had dessert to go! One of the strengths of Urban Fondue is their dessert fondue options- they have almost a dozen options, varying from simple chocolate with whipped cream or chocolate with hazelnuts to more complex chocolate combinations such as a Rocky Road Fondue with chocolate with marshmallow ganache and peanuts, a Heathbar version with chocolates and chunks of Heath bar, Marionberry Cheesecake Fondue with cream cheese with marionberry and lemon puree and graham crackers, or a Caramel Cognac… yeah. We picked the Tiramisu fondue with creamed chocolate swirled with espresso and topped with lady fingers
Urban Fondue, dessert fondue of Tiramisu fondue with creamed chocolate swirled with espresso and topped with lady fingers Urban Fondue, dessert fondue of Tiramisu fondue with creamed chocolate swirled with espresso and topped with lady fingers

One thing Urban Fondue does is do special occasions right- in addition to the normal accompaniments to the dessert for dipping like banana, cheesecake, cookie dough, and pound cake, they brought out a special birthday lit plate that included pretzels, strawberries, more cheesecake and a bit of caramel sauce!
Urban Fondue birthday surprise

So that summarizes a happy hour at Bartini followed by our 3 course dinner experience at Urban Fondue. Thank you S for taking me out for this wonderful dinner for my birthday. Sometimes they have Groupons so be on the look out for that too!

Have you been to Bartini or to Urban Fondue? What do you think you would want to try?

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PaaDee Happy Hour

I have been meaning to visit the restaurant PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี (it’s name means bringing good things) ever since I heard the name and their desire to provide authentic street food and home food from Thailand. Yet, it was only recently that I finally got around to it. I had been hearing amazing things about their restaurant within a restaurant, Lang Baan (which means back of the house) and decided I couldn’t go to Lang Baan until I had experienced where it began, PaaDee.
PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี in Portland PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี in Portland

This restaurant definitely lives up to its name. I was having a very mixed day- sad, irritated, annoyed, introspective. By the end of my happy hour visit, I was in good spirits. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

First of all, what a deal! Happy hour is only served 5-6pm in the dining room, but is served all night at the bar??!! Wow.
PaaDee Thai comfort food Happy Hour Menu

The happy hour items include 6 snacks and 3 dishes which you would normally find from street cart in Northern Thai cities (most of my experience has been in Chiang Mai, with a little in  Bangkok). Of the 9 items, I sampled

  • Muu ping, a grilled pork skewer.
    PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Muu ping, a pork skewer
  • Neua Yang, a steak and sticky rice appetizer
    PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Neua Yang, a steak and sticky rice appetizer
  • Peek gai tod, fried wings glazed in Sriracha fish sauce. If you come here, you must get this, happy hour or not.
    PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Peek gai tod, fried wings glazed in Sriracha fish sauce. If you come here, you must get this, happy hour or not.

In terms of cocktails, I tried 2 of the happy hour cocktails: the Strawberry Pineapple Infused Shochu, on the rock was refreshing with a bit of sweet citrus that made it way too easy to drink. The next was The Waterfall cocktail, with Jinro shochu, shrub, muddled cucumber, lemon and thyme which I thought was the better drink personally
PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, a happy hour cocktail of Strawberry Pineapple Infused Shochu, on the rocks PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี The Waterfall cocktail, with Jinro shochu, shrub, muddled cucumber, lemon and thyme

Not on the happy hour menu, but we continued on anyway…
PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี in Portland, menu

Tao hoo tod, fried tofu with crushed peanuts and white sesame sauce. This was ok- I think I’ve had better, especially considering some high quality fresh tofu that is available in Portland. This was the only time I thought their sauces fell short, as I enjoyed all the other sauce accompaniments you see in this post.
PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Tao hoo Tod, fried tofu with crushsed peanuts and white sesame sauce

Kanom gui chai, which are pan fried chinese chive cakes served with a sour soy sauce. These chive cakes were the size of my palm. And there were 3 of them! Yay! I was happy that F got to try these because often the best dishes in a Thai restaurant are not vegetarian friendly (ahem- see the fried wings above), but these are vegetarian and really good! I have a real soft spot for anything with gui chai, which are chinese chives. I’ve only seen them sold in Asian markets so I don’t usually get to cook with them.
PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Kanom gui chai (3) ขนมกุ่ยช่าย -pan fried chinese chive cake, sour soy sauce

Kanom Jeen Gang Keaw Gai, a green curry noodles dish with chicken usually (but we substituted tofu), Thai eggplant, bamboo shoot, red bell peppers, grachai and basil. Gang Kiew means green curry, and the Kanom Jeen refer to these thin white noodles. This is the way my mom serves green curry when she makes it.
PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Gang keaw tofu แกงเขียวหวานเต้าหู้- Kanom Jeen Gang Keaw Gai, a green curry noodles dish with chicken usually (but we substituted tofu), Thai eggplant, bamboo shoot, red bell peppers, grachai and basil. Gang Kiew means green curry, and the Kanom Jeen refer to these thin white noodles PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Gang keaw tofu แกงเขียวหวานเต้าหู้- Kanom Jeen Gang Keaw Gai, a green curry noodles dish with chicken usually (but we substituted tofu), Thai eggplant, bamboo shoot, red bell peppers, grachai and basil. Gang Kiew means green curry, and the Kanom Jeen refer to these thin white noodles PaaDee Thai comfort food พาดี, Gang keaw tofu แกงเขียวหวานเต้าหู้- Kanom Jeen Gang Keaw Gai, a green curry noodles dish with chicken usually (but we substituted tofu), Thai eggplant, bamboo shoot, red bell peppers, grachai and basil. Gang Kiew means green curry, and the Kanom Jeen refer to these thin white noodles

F was very patient with me as I tried to follow through with my goal from the last Portland Bloggers workshop which was focused on photography and practice with more kinds of shots that try to tell a story with the food.

I definitely want to come back- but I got full all on appetizers so had no room for the other dishes that caught my eye, mainly the Gai Grop Sam Yan with crispy chicken, cashews, scallions and dry chilies over rice and the Plaa trout tod nahm pla, which this fried whole trout with fish sauce sounds just like what my family would order, but it also comes with apple salsa so.. what? I want to see what this is!

Everything I had did remind me of something I would expect to taste in Thailand, so it was very authentic. The flavors are a complex mix of what Thai palates look for- salty, sour, spicy, sweet. The atmosphere doesn’t have the real Thai feel/charm that Andy Ricker’s Sen Yai does, but honestly neither does Pok Pok (and this doesn’t hae the hustle bustle and long wait Pok Pok does). Honestly the fact I am comparing it equally with Andy Ricker and with Thai street food in actual Thailand says it all.

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