Simpatica Dining Hall, Laurelhurst Market
828 SE Ash St; 503-235-1600
3155 E Burnside St; 503-206-3099
The sudden appearance of a giant leg of prosciutto swinging from an industrial pipe signaled in 2005 that something different was cooking below the former La Luna rock club. As other Portland food venues were tweaking the genre of the restaurant, Simpatica started from scratch, turning the simple urge to cook for people into a weekend-only supper club, and a raw, industrial space into a living room. No two menus have ever been the same, but each one digs excitedly into the meat lockers of the rock-’n’-roll butchers behind the scenes. Then came Sunday brunch, still the best in the city, with killer biscuits, perfect eggs Benedict, and two-hour waits in the hallway. Last year, owners Ben Dyer, Jason Owens, and Dave Kreifels broke ground with Portland’s first indie steak house, Laurelhurst Market, featuring artisan charcuterie, a notable lack of cigar-chomping ambience, and an eye-catching butcher counter up front. These guys have tapped the Portland spirit and found a gold mine.
What’s new? Dyer’s homage to his Hawaiian roots, Ate-Oh-Ate (2454 E Burnside St; 503-445-6101), should do wonders for shaved ice and kalua pig—and make Spam much more than a punch line. ?
1401 SE Morrison St; 503-234-2427
Nostrana is a vision for the times: a local legend (former Genoa co-owner Cathy Whims) cooking the food she loves; sophistication without the intimidation; real food from the best local farms and purveyors; and moderate prices. This is Italian home cooking as it should be—stripped down to let the ingredients shine and swelling with the perfume of wood fire. Neapolitan pizzas served whole and unsliced, as in Italy, are the stars. But almost every category appeals, as Whims transforms an impressive repertoire of regional Italian favorites into a changing daily array of dishes grown and raised on our own turf, like homemade mortadella with fresh Chester blackberry mostarda, or braised lamb with dreamy heirloom polenta from Ayers Creek Farm, hand-milled to order. A breakaway hit when it opened five years ago, Nostrana found its true self in the past year. Now it’s burning brighter than the imported wood oven.
?What’s new? Having split from her original partners, Whims created the place she always wanted, down to a bar with local fruit sodas. At $25, the new three-course Farmhouse Dinner is the deal of the moment (Tuesday and Wednesday nights only; reservations recommended). ? ?