Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
I’ve been a fan of Andina since immediately after it opened, so when Roxi and I found ourselves in the Pearl District in Portland on a drizzly fall Saturday, it was an easy choice for lunch.
Fortunate enough to be seated at one of the roomy window booths, we could peruse the busy, buzzy interior or watch the passersby stroll through the rain. You could tell they were native Pacific Nor’westers for the most part because they took little notice of the rain, walking calmly along, no futile dodging of raindrops or ducking of heads or waving of newspaper-umbrellas.
We wisely opted for shared small plates…a word of Andina advice: the food is so good, and so wonderfully diverse, that as good as the main dishes are (and they are, they are) the small plates are always a good choice because you get to sample more of their offerings!
It seemed fitting to begin with a cocktail, so in keeping with the Peruvian theme I ordered Pisco Sours, a drink I enjoy but have rarely. This was superbly executed by someone who knew what they were doing behind the bar. Served in a martini glass, with just the right admixture of egg white to generate a foamy, creamy body, and with that particular and unmistakable pungency of clear Moscato brandy, it had the puckeriness of fresh lime juice, a touch of lime zest, and a drizzle of Angostura bitters on top of the foamy cap. Both a good start, and my obligatory Pisco Sour for the year!
Immediately following the cocktail, our sopa dal dia arrived, a luscious, creamy, hot potato soup---and perhaps one of the best creamy-style potato soups I’ve ever had! Made from Yukon Gold potatoes pureed with a touch of cream, lightly laced with herbs, and beautifully crowned with diced red peppers, a dollop of Peruvian causa (more later) and super-fruity-fresh olive oil, this was a soup to linger over! If this is on the menu when you’re there, order it! You won’t be sorry.
Then the small plates arrived to prove that we had ordered wisely (okay, it’s not difficult to order wisely in Andina, since everything is so good, but still…) First the Pimiento Piquillo Relleno, a mild red pepper stuffed with nutty quinoa, cheese, and Serrano ham. Then an impressive rendition of Empanadas Caseras de Carne. Mind you, the empanada can be a gamble in some South American restaurants, ranging from dull and thudding lumps of soggy dough and tasteless filling to fluffy, flaky little crescents with lovely spiced grilled meat, savory cheese, and studded with pungent little raisins. Andina’s version is very much the latter; these were truly wonderful, examples of empanadas at their best.
CAUSA! Finally we were delighted by a dish I make a point of ordering when at Andina: Causa! Causa is a traditional Peruana food consisting of a thick Yukon Gold mashed potato and lime juice mix formed into a small tower, then studded with various ingredients---in this case, the Causa Mixta Kikkei, large juicy chunks of ceviche-marinaded ahi tuna flecked with herbs; white, flaky, fresh, succulent and sweet Dungeness crab meat; and all topped with a quinoa-crusted and tempura-fried prawn!
As if this wasn’t enough, the plates were ‘boosted’ by a side plate of triple sauces (a mild peanutty Thai-ish sauce, a delicious spicy mango-passion fruit I’d love to have a couple of jars of, and a jalapeno-spicy verde sauce, sort of like a chimmichurri), which we played with liberally. This was enhanced by baskets of light, fluffy Andean bread laced with poppy seeds. Caution: Addictive!
Trio of Sauces (Go for the middle!)
The wine? I lobbied strongly for one of the truly interesting and impressive whites on the list, but Roxi was adamantine for Rioja. So we had Rioja. Unfortunately, neither of us was impressed by the 2005 Palacios Remondo Rioja. Mind you, I have tremendous respect for some of the wines Alvaro Palacios has made; and he certainly has had a profound effect on the “New Spain” style of wines---but this was not very well integrated, showed raw sweet vanilla-oak in front, a hollow and expressionless middle, and a slightly charry, bitter, tart berry finish. I’ll be charitable and say perhaps it’s going through a phase. Perhaps. And perhaps it is a wine I will never be fond of.
The desserts were as intriguing as the rest of the menu---but we couldn’t take any more freight on at that point, so we elected to walk it off instead, and traipsed our way through the always delightful and colorful warehouse-district turned fashionable spot that is the Pearl. If you’ve been to Portland recently, you’ve been there. If you haven’t, when you come to Portland, you’ll go there. And if you do, you should go to Andina. You’ll thank me later.