All these years later, I still miss Cafe Azul. The depth and complexity of Claire Archibald's cooking, the regional dishes that I have yet to see on any other menu in town, not to mention the excellence of the bar (here's to you, Nancy!). Sigh. And my heart still skips a beat with anticipation when I hear talk of another "authentic" Mexican restaurant about to open. Could it be? Maybe? Please?
So it was with high hopes that we ventured to the latest entry in Portland's Mexican sweepstakes, Trebol on North Albina. And, to cut to the chase, I found it good. Some items were bordering on very good, though none I had on my two trips were great. Homemade tortillas, interesting sauces, lots of vegetarian options and a complete lack of yellow cheese.
I'd put it in the same category as Taqueria Nueve, a fun, semi-funky place to hang out, especially for drinks and appetizers. The guacamole was excellent with that creamy avocado flavor up front, not overly sexed-up with other ingredients. The jalapeno vinaigrette on the mixed green salad had just the right heat level to make it interesting but not overwhelming, and the shrimp in chipotle sauce was good if a bit lacking in the depth that chipotle chiles can bring to a dish. And the red and green chile sauces that accompany their tortillas were really some of the best things on the menu.
It should heat up when the outdoor dining season arrives, since it has a street-side patio that will give diners a front-row seat for people-watching. And maybe, just maybe, they'll step over that line from good to great. I'll certainly be hoping.
Details: Trebol Mexican Restaurant, 4835 N Albina Ave. Phone 503-517-9347.