After a badly needed, though seemingly all too short nap and shower(s) we headed off to dinner. And yes, we were walking there.
Past the First Presbyterian Church, headed into a part of Portland called the Alphabet District in Northwest Portland. Up funky and eclectic 23rd (often called "trendy-third") Avenue. Trendy eateries and boutiques, next to dive bars, next to New Age Bookstores, this tree lined street sure has character. The Missus told me; "this is what Adams Avenue wished it looked like...."
Taking a left on Thurman onto quiet NW 23rd Place is a rather new; and much heralded restaurant named Ataula. The Chef, Jose Chesa is from Barcelona and I noticed quite a few familiar names when looking over the menu online; "Montadito", Pa amb Tomaquet, Berenjena....." spilled off the menu. We were just a few months removed from our trip to Barcelona and Spain. Any meal that would vicariously take us back was something to be treasured. I also noticed that Ataula had won many accolades in the rather short time it had been open. So it was really a no brainer.....
What was also a no-brainer was getting there early as Ataula does not take reservations for parties of less than 6. Good thing is; they open at 430pm....and we managed to get there via footmobile at just past that time.
The dining area is pretty simple, with high ceilings, though the hard surfaces really reflect the sound and it was pretty hot in the place on this day.
The best way to describe the nice folks here is....well....enthusiastic with a nice dose of Portland friendliness.
We started with the Pa amb Tomaquet, the classic Catalan bread rubbed with tomato and drizzles of Olive Oil.
The olive oil really lacked the nice, strong grassy flavors that we enjoy and the tomatoes, while sweet, lacked a good acid bite. The kitchen was a bit over zealous in the use of salt in this as well. It wasn't bad, but it won't make us forget the Pan con Tomate we had at Bar del Pla. Sometimes it's the simplest dishes that are the hardest.
The Empanadilla; this one filled with oxtails and Jamon Bellota, no cutting corners here; real Jamon de Bellota, acorn fed Jamon is used here.
Man, these were so crisp, the filling so rich and beefy, without being salty; hints of an almost red bell pepper flavor with a touch of heat. This would have been perfect with some kind of sauce, alioli, or like Galician Empanadillas, where a Sofrito (Spanish style - tomato based) is used in the filling to add that touch of acid.
Still these were delicious.
You might recall in my Le Pigeon post, I mentioned that while the Grilled Short Rib dish was our overall favorite entrée; it was not my favorite single "bite" of the trip. Meet my favorite bite:
This is Ataula's take on the classic tapa, the Cojonudo. It is pretty much a Cojonudo, but the presentation is plain beautiful; the quail egg perfect; the yolk soft and runny, the edges crisp. The chorizo had a mild spice, but lots of smokey paprika flavor; that slice of piquillo pepper just balanced everything out. The crisp crostini added a wonderful crisp component.....the perfect bite.
The theme of taking classic Spanish tapas and adding a spin to make the dish both fun and familiar was on fine display when the Berenjena arrived.
If you've read any of our posts on Spain you'd sort of recognize this dish. In places like, say Los Huevos de Lucio in Madrid, sliced, fried eggplant, would be served with a thick Salmorejo sauce, much like what I make in my recipe. Here, the eggplant is fried with a crisp exterior and creamy interior and shaped like fries. Instead of the salmorejo, a garlic forward romesco sauce is used. The seasoning danced on the edge of being too salty, but the other spices, hints of cumin and coriander, helped balance that out. A really good dish.
The Costilla was interesting.
The confit boned pork rib was wonderfully moist and tender, but I'd have enjoyed a bit of textural contrast. The sauce; which was claimed to be "salmorejo" really cancelled out the flavor of the pork. It was too strong and on the salty side.
I really wanted to try the "Pulpo" and I'm glad we did.
The thinly sliced octopus was super tender and full of flavor....the pulpo flavor hadn't been masked. I loved the simply dressed greens; each type, from the arugula to the various lettuces had their own taste sensation; bitter, aldehyde flavors, and so forth. The pine nuts went so well with the vinaigrette that you could probably just eat pine nuts and dressing. If anything, I thought the shaving of the parmesano reggiano was too thick and large...it was too much for a bite in terms of milky-saltiness. That's splitting hairs though, as this was a fantastic dish.
And the really amazing thing? Along with two "Spiced Sangria", the bill came out to less than $60! Just think what something like this would cost in San Diego? Plus, no tax!
What a wonderful meal....we'll be back.....
1818 NW 23rd Pl
Portland, OR 97210
After dinner we headed across the street to the Organic Market where the Missus picked up several different apples...Her dessert.
We then headed down 23rd.......but in a moment of mercy (I think She was feeling the mileage too), I saw that my (now) favorite bus line, the #15 headed back into downtown.
Of course after getting back to the hotel and taking (yet another) shower, the Missus decided that we should....take a walk of course!
You gotta love some of the window displays.....
And then there were the "window displays" that were actually real! This rather scary looking dog with the evil eyes....was an actual poodle. It was standing totally still......
When the dog moved it made us both jump!
As we headed back to the hotel I saw the Missus looking at Her iPhone. She told me, "let's go around the block this way...." When I asked Her why, She said "my app is saying that we've walked 12.65 miles today....I want to make it an even 12.75." Say what? But of course I went along....and according to Her handy-dandy app we walked 12.75 miles and the next morning my body felt every step! But we were on vacation so I'm supposed to feel that way...right?