Ocean's 11 (AM to PM) 

Sea Change in Casual Dining at the Micro-Restaurant Row

food1.7-570x300.jpg

THE HOURS of the four restaurants in the Ocean—a new dining row on NE Glisan—are synchronized, meaning (a) you can count on them all to be open the same 12 hours a day (11 am-11 pm), seven days a week. And (b) you can assemble a meal from any of the four, allowing a lunch or dinner party to go on a bit of a shopping spree (Ocean tenants allow their neighbors' food anywhere within). Each concept is tightly focused, and you can get a substantial, high-quality meal for around $10 at any of them. Here are my recommendations for getting the most out of this well-executed new destination.

___________________________________________________________

24th & Meatballs, 2341 NE Glisan, 282-2557, 24thandmeatballs.com

PREMISE

Tabla Mediterranean Bistro, mothership of this mix 'n' match meatball outpost, loaned generous amounts of skill and finesse to the menu here. Heroes, panini, and pasta are elevated about as high as a casual kitchen can take them.

WHAT TO GET

The piccante meatball hero ($8.50) with tomato basil sauce and buttery, melted mozzarella is one of the best sandwiches in the city. It's perfect in terms of flavor, texture, size, value, quality of ingredients, and ease of eating. A carefully chosen, crusty-yet-pillowy Fleur de Lis roll stays dry on the outside, doesn't grow mushy inside, and provides a great nutty flavor. Three slightly spicy, tender, and juicy pork meatballs are ladled in, topped with sauce and a generous kerchief of cheese, and then broiled.

The meatballs are also excellent on spaghetti or rigatoni ($8) with the spicy pork sauce or the surprisingly light house-made hazelnut arugula pesto. Given the quality and portion size, it's easily the best pasta deal in the city. For $4, pair either of these mains with a remarkable kale, pumpkin seed, and dried cranberry salad dressed with a thick, sweet, slightly smoky sherry vinaigrette.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Basa Basa, 2333 NE Glisan, 971-271-8260, facebook.com/BasaBasaPDX

PREMISE

Basa Basa serves crisp, lightly battered Korean-style chicken wings flavored with three fresh, expertly balanced Asian fusion sauces.

WHAT TO GET

They will happily mix and match sauces within an order, so trying all three in an initial "test" batch is a good way to start. The Original is sweet and spicy with fresh ginger, and the fresh teriyaki is tweaked to a rich perfection. The Basa Ono includes fish sauce, so while it is cut in the traditional manner with lime juice, those who find even a whiff of nuoc cham too strong will be happier with the other two. With sides of white rice and a mayonnaise-based macaroni salad, an order of six wings ($10 for the Basa Box) is enough for a meal. Don't miss the "ramen fries" ($2.75): They are a rare example of seasoned fries that are worth trying again. Chefs John and Caprial Pence put together a blend of orange rind, coriander, and other hard-to-deduce flavors for a dusting that works nicely with the potato, and a smooth, creamy garlic dipping sauce adds a well-matched, cool counterpoint.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Uno Mas, 2337 NE Glisan, 208-2764

PREMISE

Oswaldo Bibiano (Autentica, Mextiza) puts his trademark sophistication on a menu of 21 tacos at this slick, pared-down taqueria. The offerings are ambitious, the success rate is high, and if "gourmet taco" didn't sound so oxymoronic, that would be a good way to describe these.

WHAT TO GET

The quality and flavor in each taco make $2 a fair price despite the petite presentation. Small, sturdy, fresh corn tortillas hold a generous mound of your selected fillings, and a squeeze-bottle salsa bar of a half-dozen fresh, house-made concoctions (I wish the puree of fried jalapeños was a standard at all Mexican restaurants) encourages experimentation. Favorites were the caramelized pastor with a paper-thin slice of fresh pineapple, a genuinely spicy prawns endiablado with a complex, layered chile sauce (seafood tacos are $3.75), chicharrón folded into cool, chunky guacamole, and a sweet, juicy chorizo. A "chef's choice" plate of 12 tacos for $20 is buried on the chalkboard menu, but is a great introduction to Bibiano's talents.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Slowburger, 2329 NE Glisan, 477-5779, slowburger.net

PREMISE

Slow Bar's cult-favorite burger achieved escape velocity and is now the centerpiece of its own tightly focused restaurant.

WHAT TO GET

Slowburger offers four versions of their half-pound, Painted Hills natural beef burger, starting with the onion-ring-topped classic ($8). The bun is a seeded Grand Central brioche that's strong enough to stand up to the juicy patty, but mercifully less dense than a traditional brioche. The patty itself is draped with thick, melting Gruyère, then topped with those signature thick onion rings and dressed with tomato/pickle relish, aioli, and butter lettuce. While I like a little more char on a burger, this is objectively a high-quality offering. Crisp quarter-inch fries ($2 for small, $3 for large) are good alone, or you can power up by adding "stinky cheese" ($4/$5).

___________________________________________________________

All restaurants in the Ocean offer vegetarian versions of their items, as well as beer and wine, and are open from 11am-11pm, seven days a week. Visit the Pie Spot cart out back for dessert.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Comments are closed.

Related Locations

Readers also liked…

People who saved…

From the Archives

More by Chris Onstad

Most Commented On

Top Viewed Stories

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC

115 SW Ash St. Suite 600
Portland, OR 97204

Contact Info | Privacy Policy | Production Guidelines | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy