1818 NW 23rd Pl.
In restaurants, there are lots of things I can forgive. Overcooked food isn't one of them. In almost every case, I like food rare or just done. Broccoli that's still crunchy, beef that's bloody and flavorful, and even pork that's cooked just enough not to give me trichinosis. Patanegra--while a pleasant, friendly restaurant--loses my vote because nearly everything is overcooked.
A new tapas restaurant on the outskirts of the NW 23rd shopping and dining mayhem, Patanegra is, in theory, an intriguing destination restaurant. They have a huge tapas menu of 16 cold items, and even more hot ones. The cold plates include ceviche, unsalted anchovies, tuna tartare, and roasted zucchini with goat cheese in a fig vinegar reduction. Hot items range from octopus tossed in olive oil and garlic with potatoes, to braised rabbit, to spicy pork, to stuffed squid with scallops, etc. In print, each dish sounds creative and delicious, but Patanegra just doesn't do any of their inventions justice.
The much-anticipated octopus was cooked too mealy and spiced with enough garlic to keep me from getting laid for a month. The accompanying purplish potatoes were waterlogged, something like what you would get from Wendy's. As a recommendation from the waitress we ordered the spicy pork, which was a major disappointment, served in a plain tomato sauce that tasted like it was from a can. Beyond that, the first bite I ate was a giant piece of spongy fat. Granted, I'll eat a little beef gristle every once in a while, but a mouthful of fat is, well… pretty damn gross.
Further missteps were the scallops, which were slimy, seemingly defrosted, and served with a bland risotto. The beet and goat cheese salad featured beets that were limp and no better than the ones I get from the canned foods aisle. Probably the biggest disappointment was the rabbit, served in strips, which had been in a frying pan too long, and tasted like it could have been chicken. As a disclaimer, all of the food was edible and didn't make me sick, it's just that nothing was anywhere nearly as good as it sounded.
I did actually like the ceviche, which was made of big, plump shrimp and fish in a perhaps excessively sour sauce, but regardless, I dug it. Also, Patanegra has some of the nicest servers I've experienced in Portland. It's refreshing to be waited on by someone with a modicum of kindness, rather than just a big chip on their shoulder. Other notables include the restaurant's huge tables, its bright, airy dining room, and a cute bar if you want to stop by for a snack. Sadly, though, if they don't pull it together, I'm not sure if you do want the aforementioned snack. Patanegra seems to be doing everything right, except for the food. I'd love for them to stick around and make a mind-blowing seafood and rabbit paella, or a succulent lamb stew, because otherwise, well… Let's just say this: A restaurant without good food is like a whorehouse without hookers.