Review: Toro Bravo. Portland, OR.


Toro Bravo
120 NE Russell St
Portland, OR 97212

Toro Bravo is a small tapas restaurant in Northeast Portland. It is the brainchild of Chef John Gorham (as well as the brunch darling Tasty n Sons). It is in a small building next to the Wonder Ballroom, a local music venue. The day I went, there was an indie electro-pop concert happening, so hipsters walking around were in no short supply.

The interior was a nice open set up. There are some individual tables and some communal ones. We got placed on the edge of one of the communal tables and since it was a tuesday night there was no wait.

First up I had a charcuterie board. All the charcuterie was made in house and was fantastic. The chorizo (top left) was amazing. It was topped with Sherry jelly, which was more interesting to me than enjoyable. The duck liver mousse terrine with morels was absolutely amazing as well. I may have found a new fungus love in morels.

Next up were the salt cod fritters with aioli. Yea, I took a bite before I took a picture. I love aioli! These were good. The salt cod was pulled apart before it was fried, making the resulting fritter much smoother than expected.

After that I ordered squid ink pasta with anchovy syrup, hazelnuts and egg yolk. The pasta is made fresh in house (of course) and is amazing. I was asked afterwards if the squid ink added anything to the pasta and I answered that I wasn’t sure, but the pasta was really good. I’m not sure my palate is sophisticated enough to pick up on the squid ink. I thought the hazelnuts were a bit unnecessary and ended up not eating most of them.

I was still hungry after the pasta, so I ordered one more plate. For those not familiar with the concept of Tapas, it’s basically a set up in which you order a bunch of small plates and make a meal out of it. This is a concept I can totally get behind.

I ordered the spicy merguez sausage on grilled flatbread with French fries and buttermilk cheese. The flatbread was amazingly good, if you go here, please get a flatbread dish. The sausage was insanely hot and while tasty, I had to labor to finish it. The fries were good, but nothing special.

For dessert I had the churros in chocolate. A group at our (communal) table got some and they looked good (as you can see from the photo), so I went for it (with a side of ice cream for good measure). Sadly, they were a bit of a disappointment. Not quite sure what was off about them (I think it was amount of nutmeg). The chocolate was good and so was the ice cream.

Overall, this is the kind of local, everything-made-in-house, from-local-producers-and-farmers, that you come to expect in Portland. This is a seriously great restaurant in the middle of a city full of them.

RATING: ****
Toro Bravo on Urbanspoon

Review: Riffle NW. Portland, OR.

Riffle NW
333 NW 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97209

“There’s not a lot of good seafood in Portland.” This is common rhetoric you get from Portland locals when talking about the food scene of their beloved town.

It took this Texan by surprise and no one had a good reason for it. After I suggested that maybe Portland wanted to differentiate itself from Seattle a bit and focus on something different, everyone replied “Maybe.” No one was quite sure.

All that being said, there is an obvious hole in the market. A seafood restaraunt for the locals. One that can hang with all the amazing places Portland has to offer. Enter Riffle NW.

Riffle sits in the building where another restaraunt used to be (50 plates). Having never been there, I wasn’t terribly sad that it was gone (a friend I met for dinner was). I on the other hand was quite excited as the reviews for this place have been outstanding.

The menu looked amazing. (Side Note: I’m a complete sucker for typography on menus and good typography in general. Riffle hits all of these out of the park. Attention to detail was phenomenal on their print and interiors).

After reading about their ice program (seems like a weird thing to say), I knew I had to order a cocktail. An old fashioned is generally my drink of choice. The ice cubes are carved down daily from a solid block of ice (with a chain saw I believe). They’re pretty amazing. And the old fashioned was quite good as well.

The first food I ordered was a quail egg and sea urchin shot. I had seen it on their menu online and knew that it was something unique that I wanted to give a shot (no pun intended). For some reason I didn’t expect the quail eqq to be raw as I’m not a big fan of raw eggs. But that in mind, the sea urchin was awesome and the quail egg didn’t take away from it too much. I would probably enjoy it more the next time, knowing what to expect.

Next I had some shrimp ceviche. It was quite tasty as these things go. Very clean tasting. Nice citrus and pepper flavors. Can’t go wrong.

The main course was octopus and potatoes in a chorizo cream sauce. It is seriously one of the best seafood dishes I’ve ever had.

Chorizo and octopus are one of my favorite combos. Olympic Provisions has a small plate of baby octopus and chorizo that I love as well.

I could have eaten 3 of these plates, and sorta wanted to. I say that as a bit of a knock on the portion size, but I realize that a huge portion would probably cost $100.

For Dessert, I had the whiskey chocolate cake. Honestly, it was the only down note of the meal. A bit bland and didn’t do much for me.

The coffee was great. It came out in a mini bodum french press from which the server poured the glass. The coffee itself is from Sterling Coffee Roasters, a local portland roaster. I’ll make it a point to stop by one of their shops and give them a review. This cup definitely earned it.

Overall, I’d say this place is definitely the spot if you’re looking for a great cross-section of an amazing bar, great seafood and terrific ambience. I can guarantee this will be one of the best seafood joints you will ever eat at. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt with the dessert.

RATING: ****
Riffle NW on Urbanspoon