After the seemingly endless maze of delayed permits and derailed plans that plagued chef Scott Snyder since he signed his lease in March, construction has officially begun on Levant, his upcoming "French Arabesque" restaurant on East Burnside.
Inspired by the cuisines of the Sephardic Jewish Diaspora, Levant will transform the former Alder Pastry and Dessert location into a 40- to 50-seat escape with geometric tiles, a full bar, open hearth, and rich Middle Eastern flavors.
"I grew up in a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish household with brisket and matzah balls," says Snyder, "but a lot of my family lived in Israel and would visit, bringing their flavors and recipes. To me, this food is different, exotic, and neglected in the modern American food scene—not many people are playing with it."
Levant's menu will dive into traditional flavors from North Africa and the Middle East, using techniques from Snyder's classic French culinary background. Think Kosher charcuterie, plenty of preserved lemons, and refined plates using the spices, herbs, and sauces from the region: "I'm trying to steer away from the 'bread and dips' idea of Middle Eastern food. If we use hummus, it'll be a component of an entree, as opposed to a big bowl of the stuff to fill up on before the main event."
Snyder has been collecting vintage Palestinian cookbooks, and although many of the dishes will be authentic representations of traditional Middle Eastern dishes, the space won't be Kosher or Halal: "We're trying very hard not to be political. It's about the food, and celebrating the fact that everyone in this region shares these dishes."
Just as the menu will combine ancient flavors and new world techniques, that mash-up of eras will be reflected in the space's decor. The 2300-square-foot restaurant will feature reclaimed wood, rustic fabrics in blue with brown accents, an open kitchen with geometric tile work, and a floor-to-ceiling L-shaped bar with a library ladder (a cocktail program is in the works from to Portland bartendress Lydia Reissmueller).
The restaurant will be anchored around a custom-designed 6-foot-wide open hearth for open-fire grilling, roasting, and rotisserie, with a central log burner designed by Snyder himself. To counterbalance the flames, the dining room's windows will slide open to the outdoor patio (set to open Summer 2013).
Levant is slated for a December opening, so stay tuned to Eat Beat for more information as it rolls in.
2448 East Burnside Street