Portland Variety is aptly named: serving a menu that well ... has variety. Although mostly dominated with Spanish offerings such as pintxo surtidos there’s also Turkish influences with the baby eggplant byaldi or fusion dishes like the warm mushroom salad with yuzu dressing.
The mushroom and arugula salad ($15) looks deceptively plain when presented – a mound of barely plain leaves dotted with dressing and pine nuts. But, upon digging into it, there’s a treasure trove of sweet honey mushrooms whose warmth ever so lightly melts the manchego cheese shavings. The yuzu dressing adds a well-balanced acidity but is salty enough to flavour everything despite there not being an abundance covering the arugula.
Easily edible for brunch, dinner or even dessert is the house-made ricotta cheese ($11) – in fact, I highly recommend it for dessert if you’re a cheese plate fan. The soft creamy ricotta was warmed through to give off a light whiff of the cheese’s essence. Pile on a good helping onto each crostini, since there’s so little bread, then top with a chopped hazelnut, slice of sweet pear and drizzle of honey to make a bite that combines crunch and comfort.
After waiting half an hour the 22oz rib eye ($48) arrives. Perhaps a little overcooked for my medium rare tastes and slightly too lean for rib eye (my friend fittingly described it closer to being a strip loin), it was nonetheless still tender. The porcini rub provided great flavouring but started flaking off as you ate it leaving a slightly dusty residue on the tongue – perhaps on account of being cooked too long.
The steak is served with a side of caramelized onions providing some sweetness to the dish. Personally, I enjoyed it better with the cassava fries ($8) we ordered which were blisteringly hot and crunchy. However, your liking for the fries will largely depend on what piece you get, as my friends and I soon found out. The ones cut from the outside of the root vegetable are fluffier (really what you want in a fry) while the inside pieces were so hard that even my steak knife had its work cut out for it. Portland Variety should consider only using the less dense pieces for their fries and save the harder ones for something else – perhaps a stew will show up on their menu next?
When our dessert of beignets ($7) arrived my heart sank – who took the large fluffy airy beignets and turned them into hard looking Tim Bits?! Begrudgingly, I cut into one and found it surprisingly airy in the centre. Upon taking a bite, they were actually light and delicious. It was the salted caramel sauce that fell short as it’d be more appropriately described as a ‘spread’ then a dippable sauce. My friend, who does more baking then I, noted it’s likely due to the sugar being cooked too long that it started to crystalize. Who knows, maybe some cream mixed into it would help liquefy it into a smoother dip – as it did have good flavours. And if that doesn’t work, just stick with the more forgiving chocolate ganache instead.
* Mark purely based on food
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!
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