Right after we moved into our NE Portland neighborhood I made a complete food of myself after smelling the intoxicating aroma of smoky barbecue coming from someplace nearby. I wandered down the street, nose in the air, trying to discern from which back yard it was wafting. Fortunately, the surprised neighbor I hailed from the sidewalk was kind enough to offer me a rib rather than sicking his dog on me.
Now comes a glimmer of hope that…be still my heart…we may be blessed with an establishment that truly understands this most diverse of culinary traditions. Troy McLarty, an alum of Chez Panisse and, more recently, at the much-lauded Lovely Hula Hands, has opened Bollywood Theater on NE Alberta, and a recent lunch there with a friend bodes well for the future.
Charmingly appointed with Indian tchotchkes and wall murals, Bollywood Theater does much, much more than get the sound track right. The menu, comprised of small plates of street food as well as curries (called Thali Meals) and vegetable sides, knows its samosas from its chutneys. The papri chaat, housemade crackers topped with chickpeas and potatoes drizzled with yogurt, tamarind chutney and cilantro, were fresh, creamy and crunchy and a great starter to munch on while we decided what else to order.
Goan-style shrimp was several big, juicy, tenderly moist shrimp in a rich coconut chile sauce with saffron rice. The beet salad, chunks of roasted beets with coconut milk and curry leaves, was one of the best beet dishes I've ever had and may be making an appearance here at the house this summer. I have to say that the dal, described as lentils simmered with spices, was a little blah compared to the other dishes but was far from disappointing.
Suffice it to say that this is a great, reasonably priced place to stop in for a snack or meal, and one that may draw you in again with its magical allure.
Details: Bollywood Theater, 2039 NE Alberta. 971-200-4711.
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Another magical place that draws me back again and again to its deep Southeast location is the Eastmoreland Market & Kitchen. Partly it's the Brigadoon-like surprise of finding not just a cute little café buried deep in the tony neighborhood surrounding Reed College, but more because of the consistently outstanding quality of its offerings, almost all of which are made on the premises.
Afternoons are dedicated to the previously mentioned coffees and menu items, plus beverages that include beer, wines and sodas. There's also the "market" side of the mathematical equation, which offers a broad selection of imported foods, meats and cheeses plus basics like boxed cereals and sundries, and they do a good business in take-out cold cuts and dinners from the kitchen before they close in the early evening.
I'd encourage you to seek out this little under-the-radar gem whether or not you've got errands in the neighborhood. It's that good.
Details: Eastmoreland Market & Kitchen, 3616 SE Knapp St. 503-771-1186.