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PDX - Basta's Fungus Affair

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PDX - Basta's Fungus Affair

Jill-O | Sep 15, 2004 01:57 PM

OK, here's what four Portland Food Group folks had among us at Basta's Affair di Fungus:

-Mushroom crostini w/black trumpet, porcini & chanterelle ragout

-Grilled porcinis

-Suppli of black trumpet filled w/ricotta & pecorino

-Arugula and masutake salad

-Soup: yellow chanterelles w/smoked proscuitto, shallots

-Chanterelle ravioli w/fr. tomatoes, carmelized onions, smoked proscuitto

-Rabbit in puff pastry w/white chaterelles & porcini fricassee

-Poached lattarula (white) figs w/quail egg zabaglione & creamy honey sauce

My personal favorites were the first three courses. The garlicky ragout on the crispy crostini was great. The grilled porcinis were simple but perfect - meaty, smokey, earthy - just fabulous.

The suppli were smaller than their arancini (rice balls) cousins from the south of Italy, around the size of golf balls. Inside the crisp breading was a rich amalgam of black trumpet mushrooms and rice around a center of pecorino-spiked ricotta. They were great, and I could have made a whole meal out of them (w/a side of those grilled porcinis!).

The salad that followed was a brilliant progression of courses IMHO. The richness of the suppli was cut by the bright bitterness of the arugula. We were told that masutake means "smell of Fall" and when I tasted the mushrooms alone, it definitely evoked autumn for me...or maybe I've been in OR too long? ;o) The greens were sparingly dressed in a lemony oil and there was a grating of cheese on top. A very nice salad overall.

I'm not a huge fan of soup, in general, but this soup was good. It was rich and creamy with pieces of chanterelles and proscuitto, nice attention to texture. Again, a nice progression from bitter greens brightly dressed to rich and smokey soup.

The ravioli were OK. The pasta was nice and delicate and the fresh tomatoes, carmelized onions and smoked proscuitto was good too... But, where the smokiness of the proscuitto worked in the soup, where it was a flavor note in a whole bowl of chanterelle goodness, here it overpowered the shroom flavor in the ravioli. Everything individually about this dish was very good, yet the whole was lesser than the sum of its parts.

The penultimate dish was rabbit in puff pastry w/chanterelle and porcini fricassee. The rabbit/shroom fricassee was delicious - savory and tender and flavorful. Because the sauce on the plate was very loose and the fricassee in the pastry very moist, my puff pastry was a soggy mess. It was kind of disgusting, really. I ate the fricassee and left the rest, wondering why they chose such a presentation - especially when they had to prepare so many of them at once for service...for surely the waiting time they spent from kitchen to table didn't help the situation. Tasty, yet I found it disappointing.

Dessert was disappointing to me too, but I don't really love figs or honey. IMHO, the figs weren't really flavorful, and though the zabaglione (egg custard cooked on top of a stove instead of baked like creme brulee or creme carmel or flan) was great - there wasn't enough of it!!! The honey (again, not a flavor I love) made the whole dish too sweet as the figs and the zabaglione were already sweet. Oh well. No big deal to me, really.

We had two bottles of wine. The first, an Amarone, was very tasty (around $80). I have had other Valpollicella wines, but never an Amarone before and it was very nice indeed. Full yet soft, fruit before a touch of tannin, velvety finish. Jamesongrrl, tell the fine folks, what was that Amarone we drank?

The second bottle we had was a Fontodi, Chianti Classico Riserva, “Vigna del Sorbo.” ($60) It was a very nice chianti that they had on special for the night's meal (it's $100 on their regular list). Different in style from the Amarone, a bit heavier and more tannic, less fruity but deeper. It actually paired very well with the ravioli and the rabbit.

So, ALL of the food was $35 per person. Anything you drink other than water, you pay additional for - wine, coffee, etc. This is a huge steal of a deal as they serve some things family style and there's often a chance for another portion of certain things you might be fond of (like those suppli!). There was way more than enough food - I passed off partial plates to my fellow diners on several courses, knowing I would not be able to finish every course. Service is very good, and they use great glasses for service, always using the right glass for the right wine (and asking us if we minded waiting for a clean set of big glasses or would we mind using others - we waited). And, there's parking at the restaurant, a bonus on NW 21st to be sure (Basta's is on NW 21st at Flanders).

Overall, it was a very good meal. I am not deterred by a lackluster course or two when there were 7+ of them overall and most of them were great. The company, of course, was top notch, as always!! ;o)

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