First Tastes: Sweet, Savory, Salad

Portland is full of delicious food, so here are some first impressions on the latest tasty things I’ve eaten recently in town.

Dahi Papri Chaat | Bollywood Theatre. I ate lunch there a while back and really enjoyed the meal, but the dish that has really stuck with me is their Dahi Papri Chaat. It starts with a base of housemade garbanzo bean flour crackers, then topped with small dark chickpeas, little cubes of potatoes, yogurt, cilantro, tamarind chutney, all dusted with chili powder and topped with sev, a kind of crunchy noodle made from chickpea flour paste. I had something like this at Dosa Hutt in Flushing a few years ago, and have been hoping to encounter a similar dish since. It’s quite saucy and very flavorful; a true flavor bomb. I love the contrasts of cooling yogurt and spicy chili powder, earthy chickpeas and tart chutney. I could eat this every day. bollywoodtheaterpdx.com, 2039 NE Alberta Street, Portland 

Pain au Chocolat | Nuvrei. On our way to take a walking tour of the Pearl, we arrived a little early and decided to find some breakfast nearby. Whipping out my AroundMe app, it told me that coffee and pastry shop Nuvrei was only a couple blocks away. I’m so glad we chose to stop in—the pastries were excellent all around, including one of the best croissants I’ve had in Portland. But even better than that was the chocolate croissant, served still warm from the oven. The pastry itself was buttery and flaky, and the chocolate inside was plentiful and sweet but just bitter enough. I can’t wait to go back. nuvrei.com, 404 NW 10th Avenue, Portland

Dutch Baby | Beeswing. After a Sunday hike in Forest Park we headed to Beeswing, a lovely brunch spot in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood. One of their specials that day was a Dutch Baby, which is a variant of a pancake. I used to make them all the time in my trusty cast iron pan, with lots of butter, topped with lemon and powdered sugar (classic). Beeswing’s version was smaller and more elaborate, topped with summer berries and Mascarpone cheese; there was a little custard under the berries, too. I liked how tender it was on the inside, the crispness on the outside, and that it was just the right amount for two people. I would get this again. beeswingpdx.com, 4318 Northeast Cully Blvd, Portland

Summer Salad | Tabor Tavern. On a very hot day in Portland we left our uncomfortably warm apartment to seek refuge with a friend who invited us over to luxuriate in their cool air-conditioned house. We did a little work, had a little conversation, and then got hungry, so we headed to Tabor Tavern. The “heat wave menu” was in full swing (i.e. no grill action) and summer salad sounded tasty, light, and refreshing—a bed of arugula topped with chèvre, roasted garlic, onions, and blackberries, all dressed in a honey sorrel vinaigrette. I was particularly impressed with how fresh and unblemished the blackberries were. I look forward to trying the burger next time. tabortavern.com, 5325 E Burnside Street, Portland

Pepperoni Slice | The Crown. These days, when I hear “NY style pizza” I think of the round pies cooked in a gas oven, not those baked in coal ovens—they are both legit styles of NY pizza, of course, but when the term, “NY style” is used outside of NY, it’s usually in reference to the pies cooked with gas. Plus, who has a coal oven outside of NYC? The Crown’s oven uses gas.

The pepperoni slice was HUGE—easily the size of two NY street slices. One thing I love about a good NY slice is the crunch you get for the first split second as you bite into it; I missed that in this slice. The pepperoni was also too thin for my taste; over my years in NYC I came to prefer smaller yet thicker pepperoni that have a flavor punch and cup eagerly when heated in the oven.

Overall, I liked the flavors in this slice—the sweet and tangy notes, the mozzarella that was appropriately rich and salty, and it was certainly filling as a slice should be. The crust tasted a bit like sourdough (I love sourdough) but the texture did not resemble that of your classic street slice or the coal oven pies you’d get at Lombardi’s, John’s, or Arturo’s. Maybe there really is something to the assertion that it’s all about the water when it comes to NY pizza.

I’m looking forward to returning to  to get a better idea of their concept of pizza, and try a few non-pizza menu items, as well as their cocktails. (After all, they do promote themselves as “a cocktail-centric bar.”) imperialpdx.com/the-crown, 410 SW Broadway, Portland

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Bridgetown Bites is written by Meg Cotner, a food loving freelance writer, editor and published author in Portland, OR.

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