Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pre-Opening Party at Cava

You've probably noticed it already. I've got a soft spot for new restaurants, especially small-scale efforts by people passionate about their dreams. So when friends Randy and Amy announced a couple of years ago that they were going to open a place called Cava, where neighbors could gather for a good meal at reasonable prices, I knew they had a potential hit on their hands. Especially with Randy's crazy good taste in food and drink and Amy's warm and creative spirit.

Then when I got the e-mail announcing a pre-opening party last week, it was all I could do not to run over to be the first in the door. And now that I've been there, all I can say is that they've done their vision proud. It's on a corner of lower Foster Road at 53rd that's been begging to be discovered, where they've taken a rundown former community center and created a warm and inviting Euro-pub that feels like home-away-from-home.

Not too big and not too small, the walls are a deep, gorgeous earth-red color, with a wood bar in the back topped by a large antique mirror (left). Simple wooden booths line up along a side wall and tables and benches are scattered around the room. The tap beer list is short but awesome, with selections like Ninkasi Red and Terminal Gravity IPA, and the wine list shows a deep but well-edited appreciation for European and NW values.

The menu is an equally well-edited document, especially considering the tendency these days to try to do too much and then not be able to do anything particularly well. They've got a nice array of starters, entrees and desserts that tend in the direction of Mediterranean and American bistro cooking, and if the blur of dishes that were flying out of the kitchen at the party are any indication, Chef J. B. Tranholm (right) is a talent to watch out for.

He was plating up tastes as diverse as braised Moroccan chicken with couscous, tiny burgers that rival the best in town with fries and aioli on the side, along with a slice of heavenly pork loin on a bed of fresh cranberry beans with sauteed green beans and a drizzle of pesto dressing. Then pastry chef Anja Spence was sending out samples of creme brulee with little Mexican wedding cookies and delicate nut brittle, a chocolate cake that made me think the late Shaker's Cafe Big Ol' Chocolate Cake had been reborn, and some tarts that appeared but were lost to the crowd before I could grab some.

They're still waiting for a couple of murals to arrive and there's just a bit of painting left to do, but they're planning to open next weekend (Oct. 5). If you call you may be able to snag a seat for their soft opening (Wed., Oct. 3). I have a feeling this spot is going to become a Portland staple, and they've got the crew to make it happen from the get-go. And if you do go, say hi from GoodStuffNW!

Details: Cava Tavern, 5339 SE Foster at 53rd. Phone 503-206-8615.


Katherine Gray said...

Gorgeous photos! This new place sounds fabulous. I can't wait to try it out!

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Katherine. They've worked hard to make it a place for neighbors and families to hang out...they even have a kids' menu with artwork by Amy that kids can color!