I've written before about how certain chefs just have a "feel" for food. When they put ingredients together, it just works. Chef Anthony Cafiero at Tabla gets it. Two other recent, and equally satisfying, restaurant experiences here in Portland further illustrate that delicious point....
The fact that I don't make the trek to Oswaldo Bibiano's great Mexican restaurant Autentica more often is an oversight that has to be corrected. Bibiano, who is originally from Guerrero, Mexico, is making some of the most interestingly flavored food in town, Mexican or otherwise. He has a way with chili's that absolutely makes your mouth light up. Not just from the heat, but from the electric flavors infused into his dishes. For me his Pollo en Mole Guerrerense, a half chicken covered in a darkly colored, house made mole (easily the best version in town), always satisfies. Mole is a dish that shows who takes shortcuts and who goes the distance. Needless to say Bibiano's 30-ingredient mole is like running a marathon of sensual delights. Rich, intense, so many flavors that are perfectly balanced. Awesome stuff. Sis had the Barbacoa de Res, which was also excellent with tender, slow cooked beef that that was pungent and layered with flavor. Bro-in-law had the Chuleta de Puerco, a thick cut Carlton Farms pork chop that was served with a delicious dried chili mole. w's Pescado con Hueso was the one weak spot in our entrée lineup. She thought the roasted fish steak was a bit bland, especially compared to the other dishes, which had flavors that were practically overflowing the plates.
To end at the beginning here's my recommended starter: Tostada con Puerco Frito...think about it... shredded fried pork with black beans, cabbage, cotija cheese, and pickled jalapeño on a whole crispy tortilla. Let me restate: shredded fried pork. Get it? The guacamole is a very credible version (but if you want to make the best version ever at home, try this!), but the chopped pulpo (octopus) app didn't really work for w and me. Oh, and margaritas, delicious ones at that...lots of 'em!
I mentioned on twitter what an exceptional meal I had at Laurelhurst Market Monday night. Someone commented back that she "hearts Laurelhurst Market". After this last experience, I heart Laurelhurst Market, too! I gave a quick review previously after my first visit to LM, and this last meal only reinforces that these dudes know their way around various cloven hoofed beasts better than virtually anyone in town. Again, that "feel" for your product is in abundant evidence. With my friends DOR and Bar Avignon owner RG along, we indulged in a meat fest of epic proportions. How epic? You know you're going all in when you have a charcuterie plate for dessert! The highlights.....
Foie Gras Torchon...served with almond butter and peaches, with three small biscuits to spread the goodness upon. Amazing, the almond butter a surprising and satisfying accompaniment to a great piece of foie.
Gazpacho...feeling we needed to introduce some form of non-protein into our meat-centric meal, we had the excellent pureed gazpacho. I'm not a big gazpacho guy, but the LM bowl with bits of Dungeness crab sprinkled on top is one I'd eat any day.
Salt Cod Fritters...not quite up to Toro Bravo standards, but very, very close. A nice amount of cod, and a delicious aioli dipping sauce. Aioli...is this the greatest condiment ever, or what?!
Beef Brisket with a house made bbq sauce...I'm not quite sure how to describe how mouthgasmic this piece of beef was. Hmmm...tender, succulent, fatty in that melt in your mouth way. This is the best piece of brisket I have ever had, with crusty bits on the outside, moist, incredible juicy fork-tender meat that is cooked perfectly. The sauce is rich, but doesn't overpower the meat. A sensual, almost...oh, fuck almost, it IS...a sexy piece of meat! Makes me feel nothing but pity for those poor vegetarians out there who are living but half a life.....
Rib-eye with Roquefort butter and Bavette with romesco....the other two plates to hit our table, both cooked exactly medium rare, with a rich beefy taste. The blue cheese butter and romesco each, like the bbq sauce on the brisket, complimenting and not stealing the show. The quality of the meat cuts at LM is absolutely stellar.
French Fries...some of the best in town. Different in a thicker, more American way than Castagna Café's perfect potatoes, but delicious none the less. But actually perfect with this type of food. With yet more aioli dipping sauce, so how bad can they be?
Charcuterie plate...after all the above gluttony (with pre-dinner drinks...I highly recommend their daiquiri with crème de violette....and two bottles of wine, and other stuff) we opted, with great restraint I think, for the small charcuterie plate to help wash down one last bottle of wine (a fab 2006 Thevenet "Morgon" Beaujolais).
Laurelhurst Market is the best steak house in Portland, a beacon of beefiness that I will go back to again and again whenever my cholesterol drops to those dangerously low levels!