Friday, August 02, 2013

Anniversary Extravaganza: Keepin' It in the 'Hood

Dave and I have been married a long time. A really long time. The single digits have stretched into double digits and the double digits are stretching into the mid-double digits. We tend not to make a big deal about the five and ten-year landmarks…none of the "we did Venice for our tenth and are planning Bali for our twentieth" stuff.

The bar at Expatriate.

This year was all about the neighborhood, an especially handy choice considering two very promising places had recently opened up within blocks of our house. Expatriate (left), a new bar owned by former St. Jack's behind-the-stick mastermind Kyle Webster and his wife, Iron Chef and Beast-mistress Naomi Pomeroy, is emerging as a contender on Portland's sizzling bar scene. Open just a couple of weeks, the bar-and-snacks-with-a-sandwich menu revolves around classic cocktails with Webster's signature twist and Pomeroy's exploration of Burmese (read: Asian-y) street foods.

Webster's signature spot-on cocktails.

We were there early and, while the vibe was congenial, we could tell that this place works best when daylight has faded and the back bar's gilded dragons can glow eerily in the flickering candlelight. The Chinese sausage corn dogs were gorgeously tasty but lacked the structural integrity to be able to stay on the stick for dunking in the mustard and sweet sauces provided. Our cocktails were spot-on, the service was friendly and efficient, and I'm planning on giving this place plenty of space to develop over the next few months.

The spectacular beef tartare.

Dinner was just a short jaunt away at Ben Meyer's new butcher shop-cum-restaurant Old Salt Marketplace. Think a rustic, everyday people's version of another Ben [Dyer's] Laurelhurst Market and you'll get the vibe. Opened in mid-May, we'd bought a few cuts of the grass-fed beef and house sausages to throw on the grill, finding them lusciously juicy and shockingly affordable.

Albacore loin and greens.

Taking a couple of seats at the bar, we ordered cocktails along with their beef tartare and bone marrow appetizers. That's when we got a hint about the portions here—they're not in the taste-of-this, bite-of-that category. They're more on the Fred Flintstone-opens-a-restaurant scale. The beef tartare was a dinner plate spread with a finely ground mesh of the freshest, ice-cold meat and minced shallots topped with a dollop of smoked paprika aioli and a scattering of purslane, with paper thin slices of toasted rye for scooping.

The marrow bones (top photo) arrived on their own platter, two bronto-sized leg bones roasted and crossed over leaves of heirloom greens and chopped tomatoes, some pickled, with "croutons" of the rich, buttery house buttermilk biscuits rambling about.

Beef, padrones, tomatoes.

Our entrées were similarly impressive: Dave's albacore loin was perfectly seared on the outside, warmly rare in the middle and served on a large bed of greens tossed with grilled, sliced peaches, plums and a generous smear of sauce. My choice of ribbon-like slices of tender beef and rib slices was a gorgeous pile accented with first-of-the-season charred padrone peppers and tomatoes in a beef jus.

Both were more than we could finish alone, each really enough for two, which makes me think we'll be returning to share plates unless the offerings sound too good not to have leftovers with eggs the next morning. And while Venice and Bali sound like great places to visit someday, I can't imagine the eating will be any better than what we found so very close to home.

Expatriate, 5424 NE 30th Ave. 503-805-3750.
Old Salt Marketplace, 5027 NE 42nd Ave. 971-255-0167. 

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