3731 SE Hawthorne
As Portland gets bigger, it gets trendier, and more niche restaurants pop up. In the last decade or so, we've acquired upscale Vietnamese restaurants, highbrow diners, exclusive gourmet family style dining, martini bars, vegan and raw food options, fancy fondue spots, and of course, a resurgence of tapas. Portland's tapas row (NE 28th near Burnside) houses some of the city's most compelling restaurants, including Noble Rot, Tabla, Navarre, and the nearby grandfather restaurant Colosso (located on NE 19th and Broadway).
Navarre is my favorite tapas restaurant in town, offering fresh, simple dishes and delicious wines at an amazingly affordable price--and now they offer it again on Hawthorne. At the newest incarnation of Navarre, called Bar Pastiche, owner John Taboada marries his vinegar-spiked cuisine with the immaculate desserts of co-owner Cheryl Wakerhauser, creator of Pix Patisserie.
The best way to eat at Bar Pastiche is to sidle up to the bar and choose from the attractive creations in the long glass coolers that line the counter. Something like ordering pastries in a bakery, you point to each item you'd like, and they're delivered on small, simple white plates along with tiny silver forks.
Both my cohort and I arrived at Bar Pastiche starving to death, so we managed to order nearly everything they offered. A turnip and carrot salad with pesto was made with grilled vegetables that were seared beautifully dark on the outside. An octopus salad was made up of generous chunks of the chewy sea-meat, marinated in a delicious, slippery red sauce.
We tasted and traded countless culinary designs, including a deliciously understated egg salad on a brioche, a rich cheese spread with pimentos on toast, and a cream cheese and lox roll coated on the outside with chard--looking something like an ornate seaweed wrapped sushi roll. We celebrated over a dense cake-like Parmesan flan blanketed with thin slices of ham, a meatball sandwich that hinted of vinegar, and pungent marinated rabbit on crispy bread. It was a meal so varied and thrilling we almost wanted to order the whole thing twice.
Of course, though, there was dessert to be had. Each sugary creation is, like the savories, pint-sized, so even if you're stuffed you can order at least one. My friend and I decided on the carmelized Grand Marnier cream puff, and the justly named Opera. The cream puff had a hard crispy layer of caramel on top, and a light pastry puff stuffed with cream that only hinted of liquor rather than overwhelmed. The Opera was a rich, theatrical display of almond cake layered with chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream. Also impressive were the dense chocolate truffles paired with a slice of blue cheese--ooh-la-la, how deliciously Français!
What sets Bar Pastiche apart from its parents is not only that it combines the savories of Navarre and the sweets of Pix, but that you can enjoy them in any quantity. Each little plate costs one to three bucks, and glasses of wine run from cheap to steep (around $5-12), which means you can load up on treats or relax and casually enjoy dessert and port. There are few restaurants that allow you to take up space without racking up a huge bill--but Bar Pastiche distinguishes itself by delivering exactly what you want.