Here comes some high praise: Portland Monthly's Karen Brooks boldly declares to have discovered "Portland's next great underground food experience" at chef Will Preisch's pop-up supperclub Holdfast Dining, which in recent months, has held court at Old Town's 10-seat KitchenCru. Brooks emphasizes the "freewheeling" unpredictability of Preisch's six-to-11 course meals, all of which "are complex without being complicated, thought-provoking but not pretentious, creative yet not gimmicky, and most of all, delicious." (Compare this to Presich's previous stint at the now-revamped Bent Brick, which leads to a few zingers: the concept, Brooks writes, "worked out as well as a blind date between Breaking Bad's Walter White and Mother Teresa.")
The overarching review theme likens Holdfast to a musical performance: Pacing between courses like savory corn-bread madeleines and pine-glazed rib eye "swings" and "segues." Gazpacho "dances" alongside its accompanying bread, squid arrives "with more bounce than Kanye West." There are illusions to missteps, but Brooks doesn't dwell: "Holdfast could go in any direction. But right now, Preisch is producing some of the best food to be found in Portland." [PoMo]
Meanwhile, the Oregonian's David Sarasohn seems cautiously pleased with cart-to-mortar Cambodian restaurant Sok Sab Bai, writing in the second paragraph that the cuisine "might not be quite ready for its own turn in the spotlight (at least not in Portland)," but SSB, at least, "will get your attention." Sarasohn gives the spot a "B-" grade: familiar fried appetizers are "admirable," grilled oysters and spicy wings are best consumed with sake, and entrees like the signature Nyno's Chicken Plate are "consistently welcoming and comforting."
But Sarasohn admits that the restaurant's traditional takes leave something to be desired: "clearly Cambodian dishes are a bit of a challenge." Amok trey, the country's national dish, is deemed "awkward" to eat; fried bass is "gently cooked if not very assertively flavored." Sarasohn closes his piece with an acknowledgment of SSB's daily specials and its seasonal patio, so perhaps the best takeaway comes in the introduction: expect some "unusual flavors" and a few surprises, even to the most enlightened fans of Asian food.
· All Weeks in Review [Eater PDX]
Photo of Holdfast courtesy Facebook