I've had a lot of excitement in the last few days from getting to go to multiple Feast events, but I still managed to make time to try out a new cart. That cart is Duende, a labor of love by owner Kenneth Mata. Kenneth, whose real name is Fernando(He goes by Kenneth because every other person in Spain is called Fernando, or so he says) moved here from the south of Spain with his family when he was only six years old. He grew up in a Spanish household eating the food of Andalusian Gypsies and has a large repertoire of family recipes that he now offers at his cart. He takes great pride in cooking his family's food for the public and I can see why, because it's fantastic. I've eaten at his cart twice now, and I can say it's already one of my new favorite places in Portland.
I went to dinner at Duende this evening after the rain passed and ordered the albodigas. The ones on offer today were lamb and onion. They had a light crispy breading with a moist meaty center with no gameyness. Sitting beneath the meatballs was a medley of roasted tomato, chunks of garlic, onion, pine nuts, raisins, and rosemary. Sweet, savory, and herby. Just a total flavor bomb. I loved it. A couple pieces of toasted rustic bread from Grand Central were served on the side to use as a scoop. It was a great deal at $9.
My brother accompanied me and ordered the tortilla de papa. It came with a small paper cup of some alioli, which had an intense buttery garlic taste. He was raving about it for hours. I only got a couple bites(he wouldn't share more than that), but it was easily the best I've tried. Better than Toro Bravo. $8
I first ate here on Wednesday and had the gambas al ajillo: flash fried prawns in a sauce of garlic, olive oil, red chili, sherry, and parsley. The prawns were topped with a few strips of julienned red pepper as a garnish. They were cooked perfectly, with a light firm texture. The sauce was very rich and flavorful, and I appreciated the large hunk of bread supplied for sopping up the left overs. It was not unlike shrimp scampi, and as with the other things I tried, I thought it was great.
Kenneth puts a lot of care and pride into everything he cooks. He won't put anything on the menu unless he wants to eat it himself. Check this place out. It's seriously good stuff, and the price is not bad at all.
3207 S.E. Hawthorne
Portland, Oregon 97202
Wed – Sun: 12PM to 8PM