Monday, July 06, 2009
Not Just Another Meat Market
We could have had the alignment adjusted, the oil changed and our tire pressure checked, since our table was just about where the lift would have been. But it had been removed to make room for tables, chairs and an expansive open kitchen.
Salt cod fritters with aioli.
The bar on one end of the room, where the shop tools, belts and diagnostic machines had sat, still serves a healing purpose, since bartender Evan Zimmerman makes his own medicinal bitters, tonics and infusions to soothe the aches and pains (and nerves) of patrons. Unfortunately, though he has a reputation around town as a master of the craft, the drinks we ordered from the menu of specialty cocktails were underwhelming.
Dave's chorizo margarita, which he ordered in honor of the evening's meaty theme, contained chorizo-spiced tequila, sours and agave nectar. While one could argue the wisdom of ordering a sausage-inflected cocktail, it was barely a decent margarita, suffering from a lack of citrus-y punch and a balance of sweetness. My N.S. Pimm's, made from Pimm's No. 1, ginger and cucumber soda, had an excess of cucumber flavor, and the ginger was so thick (though oddly not overpowering) it made the drink a muddy mess.
Teres Major with romesco.
But fear not, because the mechanics in the kitchen under the direction of master meat guy Ben Dyer know what they're doing with all things footed and finned. Our starter of house-cured salt cod fritters with aioli rivaled those at Toro Bravo, the browned and crunchy exterior giving way to a creamy, smooth center. The fritto misto of razor clams and squash blossoms was good, though the braised shortrib and mozzarella risotto fritters were curiously absent any short rib flavor. Our OMG moment, however, came from the foie gras torchon, a slice of the most buttery, creamy and heavenly foie I've ever had, augmented by a nearly unnecessary pistachio butter and fig mostarda.
The best part of the meal, as you may have already guessed, were the mains that included Dave's 12-hour smoked brisket (top photo), my Teres Major, a shoulder "tender" with romesco and Mr. B's reuben. The brisket, a bronto-sized hunk that covered most of the plate, was deeply smoky and lightly sauced and got a big two thumbs up from our house smoke-meister.
The shoulder was a perfectly cooked medium rare, as ordered, with a barely smoky romesco and a sprinkling of finishing salt that gave a nice brightness and crunch. The corned beef in the reuben, while really good, didn't reach the bar set by Kenny & Zuke's, Mr. B's standard for reubeny greatness. It wasn't helped by the overly tart house-made sauerkraut or the extreme greasiness that turned his plate into a grease pit. The fries that came with the sandwich, however, were terrific, especially when dipped in the aioli left from our apps.
The service at this new entry on the dining scene is attentive and experienced, even thought it's clear they're still working out the kinks. Word is that the sandwiches served during the day are fantastic, and the butcher shop is getting a reputation for its selection of unusual cuts of meat and more-than-fair pricing. Overall, it's still early days at the Market, and I'm excited to see how it develops as it finds its stride.
Details: Laurelhurst Market, 3155 E Burnside. Phone 503-206-3097 (restaurant), 503-206-3099 (butcher shop).