Thursday, May 28, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: Laurelhurst Market

A good sign a restaurant knows its meat: You walk in the front entrance and are immediately greeted by their cooler which is filled with their housemade charcuterie, patés, and trays filled with their more European cuts of beef. I don't remember The Ringside or El gaucho ever showing off their pieces of beef before they cook them. Walking into the front door at Laurelhurst Market on 32nd and East Burnside last night and having that experience only served to heighten my expectations. Thankfully, the meat mavens running LM lived up to almost all of them. Seeing as how they hail from the Viande/Simpatica meat mecca, it comes as no surprise. I went with two other carnivorous types, and we ate our way through a fair amount of the menu. It all only served to make me look forward to a return trip..

Walking into LM, which was built out of the gutted remains of an old convenience store of the same name, you turn left at the meat cooler to enter the light filled dining room. The tables are spread around the room, with the bar curiously hidden behind a half wall on the far side. I only say curiously because they are taking their cocktails seriously at LM, hiring Evan Zimmerman, one of the cities best bartenders. I love watching the action at the bar, and it's odd to see it cut off from the rest of the room. On this warm spring evening they had a few tables arrayed out front, and he big roll up door was wide open, adding to the airy feel of the room. The three of us were seated by the hostess at a table in the middle of the room, and that was where the only glitch of the night occurred. Being the thirsty sorts, we were anxious to explore our beverage options. But for 15 minutes servers kept walking past us, doing that "glancing at the table but not enough for us to engage" thing. Apparently there was some confusion as to whose table it was, to which I can only respond it shouldn't take 15 minutes to figure out. In any event, soon after we had cocktails...a superb sidecar for me and a negroni for my friend AWB which could have used a lemon twist..and wine on the table while we checked out the menu. And there is plenty of temptation on the LM menu.

We started out with their pork rillettes with pickled rhubarb and grilled bread; the house-cured salt cod fritters with aioli (left); the steak tartare (below right); and the Mozzarella, housemade and served with asparagus, bitter greens, and balsamic. All were really delicious. I especially was impressed with the lightness of the salt cod fritters and the dish I can't believe isn't on more menus, the steak tartare. The LM version, mixed with vodka, chives, shallot, and an egg yolk, was chopped and chilled perfectly. This is something I became obsessed with in Italy, and to know I can have it any time within minutes of my house is good news indeed! The rillettes was also moist, tender, succulent under the layer of pork fat, and the mozzarella was exceptionally balanced. The richness of the cheese and dressing played off perfectly against the bitter greens.

For an in between course (and no I can't explain why we needed an "in between course", we just did. I mean, why do certain people "need" fourth meal? Besides the fact that they have no self control or self worth? I mean the fourth meal people, not us.) we shared a bowl of their version of the classic Belgian dish moules frites. They offer it in three different styles. We opted for the seemingly more classic Dijon Crème Fraiche broth, which was excellent. Te mussels were small to medium sized, just as they should be, and the frites were wonderful. Seasoned with salt and herb, they were crispy outside, pillowy inside, plenty of potatoey flavor, and even sitting in the broth they held together. Nicely done.

Then it was on to our reason for being here. The cool thing about the LM menu is they offer cuts you usually don't see at most steak houses, which seem to stick to the filet-rib eye-New York formula. Here my Steak frites was a beautifully charred piece of hangar steak, tantalizingly medium-rare, in a marchand du vin sauce with more of those addictive frites. DOR had the bavette steak with romesco (left), also medium-rare, again with that perfect char and a pungent romesco which may be the ultimate sauce with everything grilled. AWB had the Smoked Tri-tip (below), which had the usual tri-tip chew, but not too much, with a striking smokiness and a silky béarnaise sauce. All three were absolutely stellar and perfectly cooked. Again, obviously guys who know how to handle meat, and are meticulous about what comes out of the kitchen and don't mind educating the public to other options beyond the normal. The salads come as extras, in a small and large size. We shared a fresh Arugula with lardons topped with two poached eggs in the large format which was easily enough for four.
We finished off with a lavender crème brulée and a dark, rich chocolate cake of some usual I didn't grab the dessert menu in the haze of an evenings end. The brulée was outstanding, one of the best I've had in a long time. Plus the wine list is varied with something for every taste, and well priced. All in all an impressive showing for a kitchen that has only been cooking for about a week. It wasn't that busy when we were there so it'll be interesting to see if they can keep it firing as smoothly when the line is jammed. I hope so, because it is such a nice "steak house" option that gets you away from the over-priced and uninspired chains.
Laurelhurst Market on Urbanspoon
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Italian ideals at Scopa in Healdsburg, Ca.!


Nico said...

I can't believe you had all that between the two of you, but I envy your appetite! I'd love to try the steak tartare one day and go for steak-frites... (although, being Belgian, I am always skeptical about the fries)

I was wondering.. (for future reference) Did you order the steak on the two pictures (bavette / tri-tip) medium or medium-rare? They look like they are perfectly done for my taste!

bb said...

Nico....let me clarify: There were THREE of us, although I'm flattered to think that I could eat that much with one other person along! All the steaks were a perfect medium-rare.

dds said...

Hooray for the in-between course! AND the "fourth meal" much food, so little time....

Your reviews have been out of control and out of this world lately. I can't decide if I'm resentful or grateful. Keep eating and posting while I keep trying to figure that out.

bb said...

dds...our mantra: more (good) food is always a good thing.

I've been on a bit a of a food bender lately. All things must come to end....I think....because my one man restaurant stimulus plan isn't really a viable personal financial plan.