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Levant--French-Arabesque in old Alder spot


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#1 Egads

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 04:28 PM

I've been driving past the former home to Alder Pastries on 24th/E. Burnside for months, and have seen the construction moving along. It is now "Levant," a self described "French-Arabesque" spot. Menu looks pretty dang interesting, I have to say; would really like to hear from anyone about their experience:

 

 

Grilled Vine Leaf Wrapped Nabulsi, Dukka, Harissa Olive & Lemon Salad      9

Spicy Morrocan Carrot Salad, Black Olive, Parsley      10

Beet Salad, Walnut Oil, Savory Granola Shanklish Cheese Dressing      10

Cauliflower, Yogurt, Tahina, Urfa Biber Pepper Pickled Raisins, Mint      10

Frisee Salad, Lamb Bacon, Potato, Poached Egg Sumac Dressing      11

~

Fried ANCHOVIES, Fennel, Meyer Lemon Aleppo Pepper Emulsion      9

Tombo Crudo, Avocado, Amba, Red Chili, Cilantro      14

Seared Stuffed Squid, Chickpea, Bitter Greens, Zhoug      12

Chopped Chicken Liver, Carmelized Onion, Manischewitz Grilled Challah      11

Braised Veal Breast, Prune, Ras el Hanout Celery Root, Tahina      15

Tongue and Tail Crepinette, Braised Savoy Cabbage Brown Butter Hummus      15

~

Rose Scented Duck Breast, Dirty Freekah, Date Honey Glazed Turnip      23

Hearth Roasted Lamb, White Bean, Dried Apricot, Yogurt      24

Sturgeon, Charmoula, Farro, Sunchoke Puree      22

Fava Bean Falafel, Mushrooms, Quinoa Butter Braised Leek & Black Radish      18

 

http://levantpdx.com/

 

Tues-Sat: 5-10pm

2448 E. Burnside

503.954.2322

 



#2 FoodKid

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 07:40 PM

I didn't gather it would become this based on the OLCC notice on the door. It said Pickled Porkchop LLC.



#3 Jill-O

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 07:48 PM

WOW. Can't do full post now, but get your asses over here before it's all crowds and a wait. Excellent meal...and only open a week. Great food, great service, and a fine value for the quality and the attention to prep. Full post tomorrow on what we ate and drank. If you haven't had dinner yet, get over here, while you still can get a table at 7:48pm.
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#4 gal4giants

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:11 PM

love the taps 



#5 vrunka

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 11:09 PM

We went there last week on their second day open and I concur with Jill -- this place is pretty special. Everything we ate was excellent (well, the fried smelt was actually kind of mealy, but it looks like they've replaced it with anchovies which is a better choice). We had the nabulsi, cauliflower, beets, duck and smelt. The duck was seriously outta sight. Plus it came with what's going to be my new rapper stage name: Dirty Freekah.

 

When I first heard about this place, I wasn't too excited since we already have a lot of Middle Eastern places in town, but this is no hummus and shwarma house. They're doing really interesting, unique dishes with a lot of flair and skill. The space is really nice, too. I can't believe it's the same place as our dear departed Alder. Only the floor looks the same.

 

There were a couple of minor service issues, but since they'd been open less than 48 hours, I'm not too concerned about it.

 

The price point was just a little high for me -- our total bill for two came to just under $100 before tip. But it seems like this is becoming a trend in Portland. More and more mid-to-high range places averaging about $50/pp. I guess I'm okay with that if it means food of this quality. Do be aware when you go, though, that the lower priced small plates are indeed quite small.



#6 vrunka

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 11:13 PM

Oh, yeah -- I forgot to mention the desserts. We had the lemon semolina cake and the kanafeh. The semolina cake reminded me of Indian sweets only not so sweet which was great. I really fell in love with the kanafeh. It was a very mildly sweet cheese in crisp shredded pastry. The roasted pear sorbet was ridiculously good. I think I'd order that dessert again just to have that again. The kanafeh itself tasted bland to me on the first couple bites, but developed into a really interesting, complex flavor as I kept eating. So, so good.



#7 Jill-O

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:02 AM

Middle Eastern Standard- Bourbon, Tamarind, Orgeat Orange, Lemon $8
Black Lime Rum $5
Spicy Morrocan Carrot Salad, Black Olive, Parsley 10
Fried Anchovies, Fennel, Meyer Lemon Aleppo Pepper Emulsion 9
Braised Veal Breast, Prune, Ras el Hanout Celery Root, Tahina 15
Tongue and Tail Crepinette, Braised Savoy Cabbage Brown Butter Hummus 15
Hearth Roasted Lamb, White Bean, Dried Apricot, Yogurt 24
 
Above is what we had plus 2 glasses of wine, a cup of coffee, and the semolina cake dessert...total tab was $117. Completely worth it, definitely a good value for the quality of ingredients, skill of the prep, awesome service, and interesting dishes. Very nice space, comfortable seating, tables not all on top of each other, beautiful flatware, great glassware...a lot of thought and effort went into this place.
 
The Middle Eastern Standard cocktail I had was beautifully balanced, a touch of tamarind to provide a bit of earthy tang, that wonderful almondy flavor of orgeat I love so freakin' much and the brightness of citrus - served on the rocks with a great candied ginger slice garnish. The mini cocktails are 2oz or so pours of infused liquor with garnish. Sue's Black Lime Rum (with a healthy piece of fresh orange) was not my thing at all, but she loved it.
 
The carrot salad was a plate of roasted carrots on a carrot puree with herbs and chopped oil cured olives and garnished with yogurt. Simple and delicious. I asked about the squid, specifically what the zhoug was - it's a condiment made with peppers (either green or red, here it's green and made with serrano chiles) and herbs...including cilantro...which I do not eat. I realized then that I needed to ask what had cilantro in it and what didn't, since the menu was not telling me that. So I explained to our server and I asked about the dishes overall and she went back to the kitchen and asked. Then she came back and warned me against the squid as it had cilantro in the stuffing, in the beans, and it was also in the zhoug. She also said that the sturgeon would be a bad choice for me as well.
 
I really appreciate that. I decided to do more small plates and no entree, Sue is a HUGE lamb freak (I always seem to partner with lamb lovers) and decided to share the carrots and anchovies and have the lamb as her main (with a taste of the crepinette). The anchovies were lightly coated and fried and the fennel was also very lightly battered and fried and was deliciously juicy inside with a crisp exterior and the Aleppo pepper flavored mayo was addictive. It was every bit as good as the Toro Bravo version which is very similar.
 
The nose and tail crepinette was lamb, very finely chopped and made into a loose patty held together (I think) with caul fat, on top of braised cabbage on a ridiculously rich and delicious bed of brown butter hummus. YUM!!  So good. It is a small serving, but it is a complete plate, with every part working together to create a rich and delicious whole. Our excellent server Maggie asked the kitchen to hold back the firing of my veal so it would arrive with Sue's lamb main course, which was a very nice touch.
 
OMG the veal. I miss veal. This was some stellar veal breast...baby brisket, very tender. It was a small portion, but again, it was a complete plate with the celery root puree and the prunes (which added a nice sweetness to the dish). It was comforting and delicious and I could eat a much larger portion of that. Here's hoping that might come on future menus as an entree. Nice balance, beautiful plating...I'm still drooling thinking about it.
 
Sue had the lamb which was a very impressive plate. It was basically lamb 4 ways - chop, shoulder, leg, and sausage over beans. The leg is cooked hanging in front of the open wood-fired oven/hearth and they give it a spin and it slowly twirls and cooks. Sue was hypnotized by it, I think. It was delicious for lamb, but lamb is just not my thing. It was most definitely Sue's thing...she was kind of autistically rocking with sheer pleasure over how delicious it was.
 
We asked about wine pairings, and there are a lot of varietals represented on the menu that I had never heard of - some interesting stuff. We couldn't decide, not knowing the wines, and so we were brought small tastes of two wines each...so nice. And we both enjoyed our glasses. Glass pours are in the $9-$14 or so range and there is a nice short sherry list as well.
 
I ordered the lemon semolina cake for dessert. It was a kind of basbousa, but very dense and in the shape of a roll, covered with crushed pistachios, with a nice little pile of various citrus sections alongside. Light and delicious...
 
This place is special and delicious and though I agree, it's a bit pricier than I would like, it's worth bit of a splurge.
 
BTW, here's the cocktail/drinks list (wine list not online):
 
-House Cocktails-
 
Phaedon- Olive-Oil infused Gin, Dry Vermouth, Coriander Bitters, Lemon Skin $9
The Only Way Down- Tarragon Vodka, Apricot Brandy Lemon, Seltzer, Rosemary $8
Middle Eastern Standard- Bourbon, Tamarind, Orgeat Orange, Lemon $8
Silver & Gold- Blanco Tequila, Seasonal Citrus, Madeira Maraschino $9
Hexed & Vexed- Plum Brandy, Ramazzotti Bianco Vermouth, Lime Peel $10
Gin Rummy-Hibiscus Gin, Spiced Rum, Sweet Vermouth Pineapple Gomme Syrup $9
Ebony Fizz- Rye, Arrack, Lemon, Black Sesame Syrup Egg White, Seltzer $9
Pillow Talk-Brandy, Saffron Honey Cream, Tumeric, Ginger Cardamom, Pepper $9
Hammam Echo-A Rye Toddy spiced with Raki, Chamomile Lavender, Sumac & Salep $9

 

-Mini Cocktails-
 

Chamomile Whiskey or Black Lime Rum $5

 

-Tap Beer-
 

Heater Allen‘Pils’ $5
Boneyard IPA $5
Upright ‘No. 7 Saison’ $5
Breakside‘Munich Dunkel’ $5

 

-Bottled Beer-


Dog Fish Head‘Midas Touch’ $7
Ale Smith‘Anvil ESB’ (22 oz) $10

 

-Sans Alcohol-


Sun Worship-Sour Orange, Lemon, Honey & Lavender $5
Alexandria-Salep, Palm Sugar, Sweet Spices $6
Fez- Avocado& Almond Milk, Lime Leaf $7
Pomegranate Soda $4


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#8 abefroman

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:03 AM

We went there last week on their second day open and I concur with Jill -- this place is pretty special. Everything we ate was excellent (well, the fried smelt was actually kind of mealy, but it looks like they've replaced it with anchovies which is a better choice). We had the nabulsi, cauliflower, beets, duck and smelt. The duck was seriously outta sight. Plus it came with what's going to be my new rapper stage name: Dirty Freekah.

 

When I first heard about this place, I wasn't too excited since we already have a lot of Middle Eastern places in town, but this is no hummus and shwarma house. They're doing really interesting, unique dishes with a lot of flair and skill. The space is really nice, too. I can't believe it's the same place as our dear departed Alder. Only the floor looks the same.

 

There were a couple of minor service issues, but since they'd been open less than 48 hours, I'm not too concerned about it.

 

The price point was just a little high for me -- our total bill for two came to just under $100 before tip. But it seems like this is becoming a trend in Portland. More and more mid-to-high range places averaging about $50/pp. I guess I'm okay with that if it means food of this quality. Do be aware when you go, though, that the lower priced small plates are indeed quite small.

on price point- has no one noticed that the price of raw ingredients has steadily been climbing and is only going to go higher. expect to pay $50/person or more for a nice dining experience with well prepared food. 



#9 Jill-O

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 11:11 AM

I do get that abefroman, and these are high quality ingredients. The entire experience is well above the price point and combined with the delicious food, well, this is a very good value for the money.

 

It is worth noting that the entree sized plates (ranging $18 - $24) are an even better value for the amount of food you get. The smaller plates are definitely appetizer sized, but even at $15 each the veal (which is always expensive) and the crepinette (which has several components and labor-intensive) are worth it, IMO. Yes, if you have those two and a drink you are already at $35-$44 without anything else...

 

I know food prices are climbing higher (I work in a food-related nonprofit and track relative increases in food costs, look at the USDA projections, etc.) but unfortunately, my salary isn't. I get that folks need to charge what they do, and that is why I go out less often at that price point these days...and why I am pickier about where I go when I am ready to spend $100+ on dinner for two. And, I really appreciate when, like at Levant, I am getting a $100pp experience for $50pp.

 

Chatted with the chef and planned for the future: happy hour, brunch service, multi-course chef's tasting menu (possibly at it's own chef's table)


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#10 mymil

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 11:51 AM

I went in last Friday and sat at the bar. To echo others, it was good and I'm looking forward to going back! I'm glad to live very nearby.

 

I had the Phaedon (Olive-Oil infused Gin, Dry Vermouth, Coriander Bitters, Lemon Skin), the Frisee Salad (Lamb Bacon, Potato, Poached Egg Sumac Dressing), and the lamb.

 

I wanted to try one of their more ambitious cocktails, but the Phaedon fell flat for me. It had a recognizable olive oil flavor that just didn't seem to complement the other components.

 

The salad---basically just salad Lyonnaise---was really good except for the egg. The yolk was almost completely solidified. The sumac dressing was excellent and tart.

 

The lamb was really good, cooked perfectly. The sausage (I thought it was a meatball) was perfectly seasoned. The yogurt was overpowered by the strong flavors of the lamb and apricot, however, and didn't add much in my opinion.

 

I was struck by how few seats there are in the dining room! The space seemed larger when it was occupied by Alder.



#11 ExtraMSG

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 01:00 PM

I do get that abefroman, and these are high quality ingredients. The entire experience is well above the price point and combined with the delicious food, well, this is a very good value for the money.
 
It is worth noting that the entree sized plates (ranging $18 - $24) are an even better value for the amount of food you get. The smaller plates are definitely appetizer sized, but even at $15 each the veal (which is always expensive) and the crepinette (which has several components and labor-intensive) are worth it, IMO. Yes, if you have those two and a drink you are already at $35-$44 without anything else...
 
I know food prices are climbing higher (I work in a food-related nonprofit and track relative increases in food costs, look at the USDA projections, etc.) but unfortunately, my salary isn't. I get that folks need to charge what they do, and that is why I go out less often at that price point these days...and why I am pickier about where I go when I am ready to spend $100+ on dinner for two. And, I really appreciate when, like at Levant, I am getting a $100pp experience for $50pp.
 
Chatted with the chef and planned for the future: happy hour, brunch service, multi-course chef's tasting menu (possibly at it's own chef's table)


It's also worth noting that Portland continues to be one of the cheaper cities to dine in.
The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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#12 Jill-O

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 01:03 PM

All pics by Sue Brown (and borrowed from her FB page ;o).  (I need to get a flickr account or something so I can upload photos from my newish iPhone, haven't dealt with that yet...)

 

 

 

This is the black lime rum mini-cocktail with their extremely cool flatware...the knives sit up on their blade.  RIght in back of that cute glass is theopen hearth/oven with the hanging, spinning leg of lamb.

 

188871_10151266651297084_1875567112_n.jp

 

Lamb:

 

164456_10151266719642084_38212919_n.jpg        

 

 

Crepinette:

 

483774_10151266719707084_333138231_n.jpg

 

Carrot salad:

 

483838_10151266719752084_1287973387_n.jp


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#13 vrunka

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 04:01 PM

I don't think the prices are at all unreasonable. It's just that I can't afford to drop a hundred bucks for dinner all that often, alas.

 

Also, I forgot to say: big kudos to them for developing some NA cocktails. We non-drinkers of Portland salute you.



#14 Laksa

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 05:37 PM

I am a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi so I was eager to give Levant a try.

In Portland the distinction between restaurants where it's all about the food and the ones where it's all about something else is perhaps at its starkest. There are lots in the former category, but I can't quite add Levant to the list. Somehow it's too fussy with the change of tableware between courses and the little dots of goo around the tombo crudo. Not to mention the vested waiters. I suppose that's the French influence. But give me quajado and shakshuka at Tasty's any day of the week.

The cocktails were good. I'd like it a lot better if they loosened up a little, filled the plates a little more, and got over themselves a little bit.

#15 Angelhair

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 06:09 PM

I sort of hate that the blades of the knives touch the table.

 

But I'm with Laksa in that I prefer homey over haute-y.  

 

Though I am disappointed that there is no bread coming out of that oven, the lamb smoothed things over.  And the cauliflower dish will certainly lure me back.



#16 mymil

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 09:40 AM

I also hate knife blades touching the table, but you can balance them blade-side up.

 

Of their cocktails, so far I've tried Phaedon, Middle Eastern Standard, and Hexed and Vexed. The last, Hexed and Vexed, was the best of them---spiritous, not too sweet, nicely balanced by an absinthe rinse.



#17 ELH

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 02:14 PM

For me, it's not that the knives are touching the table, it's that they're incredibly awkward to use.  Style over function, I'm afraid.  Another style thing that bugs me - the two-tops are way too big - you end up sitting too far away from your dining partner to make conversation comfortable.

 

Style aside, the place is amazing.  The lamb, which Jill described, is unbelievably good; best I've had in my life.  Perfectly roasted, incredibly tender without being at all soft, not a spot of gristle or any challenging connective tissue.  And the flavors . . . interesting and balanced - delicious without hitting you over the head with too much chili, cumin, or the other spices that all too easily can dominate this kind of food.

 

The beet salad is also incredible, with some sort of crispies (sesame-puffed rice?) adding just the right contrast to the smooth beets (they call it something like "savory granola" on the menu).  The grilled sardine made me swoon.  I could eat one every night.

 

Just incredibly good all the way around.  Despite those damned knives.  And the forks aren't much better.



#18 bwolff

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 08:56 AM

Had opportunity to eat here last night and I echo the raves.  Perhaps the most striking thing the beautiful presentations.  The dishes were relatively complex with many components that were perfectly cooked and worked well together.  Wife said they were the best carrots she'd ever had. I had tombo, veal and crepenette.  All were very good, (Roe raw tuna with uni might beat the tombo by a hair). Agree with the comment above that it is clear tremendous care is being lavished on every aspect from sourcing to preparation to presentation.  I can't remember the last time I had so many menu questions because many of the ingredients were unfamiliar, but all in all a wonderful experience.  



#19 Kernel

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:47 PM

Rather harsh review of Levant - especially so coming form PoMo, which often seems more fanboy than critic. 

 

http://www.portlandm...w-february-2014

 

I've never been. Seemed like there was a good bit of positive talk about this place early last year but I've heard very little lately.  



#20 ExtraMSG

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 01:31 PM

I've never been either.  But all the reports from people I've heard follow Brooks's criticism that it's inconsistent, that it hasn't settled itself, and that it needs to focus on perfecting some dishes rather than constantly changing the menu.


The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole & Kenny & Zuke's