ANDINA BAR FOOD
Had happy hour with the PortlandFood.org crew at Andina on Friday. (Pictures linked below, plus the picture included here.) The bar menu is split into three main sections (for food, that is): CEBICHES, MARISQUERIA, and PARA PROBAR Y COMPARTIR.
There are over a dozen ceviches in many different styles. They range from $7 for vegetarian "ceviches" to $13 for mixed seafood. We tried two: the "de pescado '5 Elementos', a traditiona cebiche of fresh fish (can't remember what kind, $10.50) and the mango verde y langostinos, a green mango and prawns cebiche ($11). I thought both were quite good. The fish was extremely fresh, had a bright flavor, and a nice firmness. It was mixed with julienned red onions and microgreens. The green mangoes had a nice crunch to them and slightly sour taste that went well with the sweet meat of the shrimp. It was also served with microgreens and julienned onions. Both tasted very good.
We didn't have any of the shellfish, but thye have selections of oysters and clams on the half shell, plus shrimp cocktails. You can also get a "frutos del maro" which includes a selection of these plus smoked mussells starting at $30.
The plates for tasting and sharing number nearly 30. They range from soup to stuffed avocados to fried shrimp to smoked fish. They have three pricing cateogries: small plates for $4.50, medium for $8, and large for $14.
We ordered several of these in the medium size:
* yuca rellena a la huancaina: cheese stuffed yuca with an aji amarillo and cheese sauce. Four columns of golden-brown battered yuca with a creamy interior set on a square black platter. Actually they kind of looked like twinkies set on end, but tasted oh so much better. Sauce down below wasn't spicy at all.
* pimiento piquillo relleno: piquillo peppers (a Spanish sweet pepper) stuffed with cheese, quinoa, and serrano ham. Instead of columns, these were cones. They looked like four little gnome hats standing on the plate in brilliant red with multicolored oils underneath. There were both a black and brown quinoa inside, I believe. I thought these were great as well. The earthy quinoa and sweet peppers and ham really balanced each other. (Pictured below.)
* chorizo: a simple platter of sliced dry chorizo. I thought it was good quality stuff. Shows their definite Spanish influences.
* Anticucho de corazon: Marinated beef heart kabobs with a salsa verde. I thought the beef had a nice strong flavor, but were a little tough. The sauce that came with both kabobs was good. I think it was mainly avocado and cilantro. (Only $2 at happy hour for small plate.)
* Anticucho de pollo: Marinated chicken kabobs with the same salsa verde. These were much more tender and still quite tasty. (Only $2 at happy hour for small plate)
* Palta rellena de cangrejo y langostinos: Avocado stuffed with crab and prawn salad. Very tasty little crustacean salads on top of quartered avocado, a sort of salad nicoise on the side.
* Chicharron de langostinos: Crispy golden prawns studded with quinoa. Perfectly cooked tender shrimp battered in quinoa that added a nice texture and toasted flavor.
We finished with a dessert, their Dulcitas, a sampling of little desserts, chocolate coated chocolate ice cream bon bons, little cookies sandwiching dulce de leche, pyramid-shaped coconut macaroons, marzapan fruit, and little cream puffs. I thought all were tasty. (This is also priced at $4.50, $8, $14 and we again got the middle one.)
There aren't a lot of especially good deals during happy hour, but you have lots of choices for snacking/sharing/tasting and the prices are fair. The drinkers seemed quite happy with the array of drinks, too, which did seem interesting and appropriate to the restaurant. I'm sure they'll speak up.
Got a copy of the normal menu and the dishes seem to be continually improving. Prices range from $15 to $29, but I think they're trying to make the preparations fit the price. eg, their arroz con pato has ducks in three forms -- magret of breast, confit of leg, and seared foie gras -- for $27. For $22 you get "confit" of monkfish in aged serrano ham with stuffed peppers. These are among their novoandina creations. The more traditional dishes are all under $20 and are things like stews. Each time I've gone, the meal has been better and this last one, even though it was just bar food, has me encouraged to spend the big bucks.
btw, the bar area is very comfortable with large, well-padded booths on one side, round tables with built-in lazy susans in the middle, and a padded bench under the large windows on the other side. There's a gas fireplace, too.
After Andina, I decided while I was in the neighborhood I'd check out DF. Couldn't remember where it was and drove around and around and around trying to find it. Finally called Nueve to find out. (Northrup and 11th.) Checked out the menu and decided to go ahead and have a bite.
Very open and somewhat chic decor. Large art, simple tables with orange plastic, yet comfortable chairs, that look like they were bought in the Pearl. There's a long bar area with plenty of stools. There's also a rounded raised area along the windows.
The menu is broken into several categories: cocteles (seafood cocktails), ceviches, caldos (soups), al ajillo (garlic sauteed items), mole poblano (daily changing preparation), otros platos (various dishes from salads to guacamole to tacos platters to steak or fish). Prices for entrees range from $11 for the taco platters to $15 for the cheapest caldos to $19 for the paella and $19 for the cabrito criollo (braised goat, probably kid). I asked about the desserts when I was done eating, but they only had three and none excited me. They don't have a dessert menu yet and are "working on it".
I ordered the mole poblano which came on smoked turkey breast with rice. The rice was nicely cooked and the turkey was tender and surprisingly juicy. I didn't think it was especially smoky, however, and the skin still had a lot of its fat and no crispiness. It might as well have just been removed. The mole, which is made in-house from scratch, was quite good. It had a sweetness but wasn't overly sweet, more the sweetness of dried chiles and fruits than sugar. It had a tone of chocolate, but it wasn't overwhelming. It was balanced. The nuttiness added nice depth and it was sprinkled with sesame seeds and pepitas. I enjoyed it and thought it was worht the $16, though it wasn't a fantastic deal. Hey, it's the Pearl.
I didn't see too many other dishes, but I did see one of the caldos. As previously described, they're a pho/caldo fusion. The waiter who fumbled here and there on describing dishes said they were authentic and that the chef had seen them on a recent trip. But I'm skeptical. They came in big bowls with chopsticks, ceramic spoons, and a side of herbs, etc. In the soups were noodles. While I'm familiar with noodle soups in Mexico, this is clearly a fusion item. Which is fine with me. I think they should actually be proud of that.
Anyway, my initial impression is that it's a good addition to Portland's mid/upscale Mexican scene, enough different from the others to be worth a visit. I'm still looking for that Azul replacement, though, with a focus on Oaxacan specialties. If Calaca was just better or about half the price, that'd be something.