RECEIPTS FROM SUPERBITE look like those monumental tree-killers you get at Safeway: a veritable scroll, chronicling the last few hours’ worth of serendipitous bites and balanced cocktails. It sits in your wallet until you find it at work weeks later and get jealous of past you.
SuperBite, the new space from chef/owners Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton of the insanely popular Ox, manages to capture the culinary excitement of its parent restaurant and yet distinguish itself from the original—like The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II. The Dentons have said they wanted to create a restaurant full of seemingly mismatched flavors that taste great together, with smaller plates so the bold flavors don’t overwhelm eaters, but compel them forward.
Mission accomplished. Here, the bill will be about $60 a person with drinks and tip, but it’s a luxury worth indulging in. The former Grüner space is reworked with Mediterranean blue-and-white tiles, white walls, and an open cooking station, where the chefs will personally bring your dish to your table to explain what’s in it. The menu’s 25-plus items are divided into bites, plates, and platters, and the welcoming servers do a good job explaining how best to order.
Those bites? They are indeed super. Ranging from $3 to $11, they’re clearly the driving force behind the whole concept, including the menu’s highest achievements and its biggest disappointments. The “SpaghettiOs” ($7) is a bowl of butter noodles’ true purpose in life—al dente rounds coated in Irish butter, parmigiano, and fresh truffles. Its simple perfection shows the level of creative competency that went into SuperBite. It’s also a bowl I want in front of my face at 2 am.
Grilled shiitakes glazed in sweet French wine ($3) are given a puff of miso-porcini marshmallow, imparting decadence and earthiness in one mouthful. A crispy sweetbread deep fried in rice flour ($7) is a visitor from the Ox menu, but here it’s uninspiring, lost in a creamy tonnato sauce in a boat of too-bitter radicchio.
Take time with the cocktail and wine menu. Bar manager Beau Burtnick, who has also shaken and stirred at Angel Face and Shift Drinks, plays with Fernet, brandy, mescal, and fruit oils. This is perhaps best exemplified with the bourbon- and mescal-based El Camino Royale ($13), served up over a giant cube, with smoked maple and grapefruit oil; it’s a cocktail that only glances in the direction of sweetness. It’s the kind of drink you order, and then so does everyone else at the table. Draft wines—including a Willamette Valley SuperBite White ($10) and a Gamay ($12) from Division Wine Company—were both batting above their price.
Move from bites to plates, where the coq au vin ($14) lives on the menu. This dish is an icon in the making, with toothsome duck hearts wrapped in bacon, while a slab of liver-slathered toast soaks up the morel-infused red wine sauce. It’s a lot of offal wrapped in the inviting presentation of a French classic.
A blackened zucchini over a yogurt-thick burrata and a cured eggplant chorizo ($14) is sublime and provides a bit of green before diving into my personal favorite: the grilled lamb T-bone ($17). The dish is a lady on the plate, but a freak in your mouth—seared rare lamb with a tangy and salty feta yogurt over deep-fried bread. With almonds and acidic green olives, it hits pretty much every spot—flavor, salt, texture, fat—in just the right way.
Of the three large platters (oh lord, there’s 20 ounces of ribeye for $80 screaming my name), we tried the pork shoulder confit platter ($40). It’s a monument of fork-tender meat resting in an irresistible jus with morels and green beans, with a hazelnut chimichurri and plate of buttery egg noodles with poppy seeds adding layers of interest. Our table of four had enough for leftovers, which didn’t make it through the night.
The bite theme carries through to dessert, where a spoonful of triple-cream cow’s cheese is topped with a candied cherry and truffled pistachio ($3), or (my favorite), a Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese coated in chocolate and dates with a roasted cashew ($3). It’s about all we could handle after our meal, although the larger malted chocolate mousse ($8) with crispy sunchoke chips was also rich without being over the top.
The Eastside has held the balance of Portland’s great restaurants for at least a decade—so with its refined service, inventive cooking, and, yes, higher price point, SuperBite is just what downtown needs.