Monday, August 08, 2011

Memorable Meals: Nostrana, Autentica, Tabla

The blurby nature of this grouping in no way reflects the quality of the meals at these three establishments; each was deserving of a full post on its own. Chalk it up to laziness on the writer's part.

I hadn't been to Nostrana for lunch for way too long, so when a friend that I hadn't seen for way too long wanted to meet on her lunch hour to catch up, it seemed like the perfect fit. It was a sunny, warm day and Nostrana had added a bevy of brightly colored umbrellas to the patio in front of the restaurant, as well as a bright canvas panel to block the breeze that seems to constantly flow up some invisible chute from the river. Most of the windows on the river side also slide open, so even if you're sitting inside it feels like you're dining al fresco, and diners are encouraged to adjust them to suit their tastes. And speaking of taste, there are few lunch menus in town as dependably awesome yet accessible as that found here. From salads to pizzas to the piatti lunch specials, there is almost no way you can go wrong. And splitting a salad, particularly their version of a Caesar made with radicchio or the albacore (left), and a pizza is not looked down upon. The wines by the glass, while terrific choices all, can almost double the cost of your lunch and I haven't had the courage to ask to split a glass, so I tend to stick to iced tea ($2.50).

Details: Nostrana, 1401 SE Morrison St. 503-234-2427.

* * *

A warm summer evening and meeting friends for dinner meant finding a restaurant that offered outdoor dining, wasn't too expensive and served killer drinks. Additional points were awarded for proximity to home. Fortunately, before we got to the spreadsheet stage (yes, it has happened…we're very nerdy around here), someone mentioned that Autentica has a charming patio (top photo), fabulous margaritas and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. And, since again I hadn't been there in WTL (way too long), we made a date. We were ushered through the restaurant to a tiny back door that opened onto a spacious patio with plantings of tall cannas separating the long space into two "rooms." With the walls painted in bright, Mexican-inspired colors, we felt like we were back  in Mazatlan on the Plazuela Machado. The margaritas came almost instantly, and we dove into our guacamole, ceviche and queso fundido with handmade tortillas and chef Oswaldo Bibiano's signature trio of stunning chile salsas. Our entrées, including an enchilada platter, a filet of whole trout with a garlic epazote purée and a fall-apart tender carne asada with black-eyed peas (above right), were all crazy good, especially with a second round of those delicious margaritas. With that dinner in mind, I can't wait to try his new venture, Mextiza, scheduled to open on N Killingsworth later this summer.

Details: Autentica, 5507 NE 30th Ave. 503-287-7555.

* * *

When it's time to celebrate a major anniversary with a dinner out, we tend to go back to a favorite that never disappoints, is not outrageously priced and where we'll be treated like family. That's a pretty tall order and a very short list, and you'll not be surprised that, for us, Tabla on NE 28th is at the top of it. Not only is chef Anthony Cafiero a warm and funny guy who has a gas playing with his food, he gets that food from frequent trips to local farmers' markets. I know because I'm constantly running into him on whatever day of the week he needs to restock, loaded down with armloads of heavy bags and waving fronds. The night we went with my brother and his lovely bride, Anthony was offering his $28 three-course dinner with the likes of an appetizer of sous vide farm egg with ham, green beans garlic scapes and ricotta cream, a pasta course of Cavatelli with calamari, garlic and piquillo peppers with the Mar y Montaña (above left) entrée featuring Spanish octopus, pork chop, ajo blanco, cilantro and carrot foam. As I've mentioned before, Cafiero is still having huge fun making foams, infusions and smears without taking away from the real flavors of his market ingredients. And that's always worth coming back for.

Details: Tabla, 200 NE 28th Ave. 503-238-3777.

No comments: