Photo of La Taq courtesy Avila/EPDX
What is Tex-Mex food, and does pit master Rodney Muirhead's new bar La Taq actually serve Mex-Tex? WWeek's Michael Zusman ponders the question briefly, then decides that the definition doesn't really matter: "There is every reason to believe La Taq will flourish because its not-too-spicy, not-too-bland border fusion cuisine is simple, reasonably priced and delicious." According to Zusman, Muirhead's menu seems custom-made for wet and wintery days: Props go to the pork ribs in chili verde, with corn tortillas for "hearty heaping, self-indulgent slurping and whatever other chow-down tactics one might employ." Chicken tortilla soup is "mouth-filling and memorable," queso fundido arrives "molten," and Kevin Ludwig's much-touted cocktail menu proves "dexterous."
The only downside seems to be the room itself: bar stools are deemed "butt bruisers" and it's evident that "high comfort is not a highlight at La Taq." But ultimately, the space provides a site for much "satisfied sipping and supping." [WW]
In his assessment of Cambodian cart-to-mortar restaurant Sok Sab Bai, the Merc's Chris Onstad makes the argument that "more refined" isn't always better: "the overall tone of the menu favors refinement and quiet flavors over the more primal stuff that put them on the map. It's solid stuff with shining moments, but I feel it's holding back in many places and I don't know why."
Onstad favors the bold: standout dishes include the Krueng beef ribs (dip them in chef Nyno Thol's signature "Da Sauce" for a "higher plane of umami and flavor"), crisp-skinned ginger fried bass, and the "fragrant" bowl of nom pa chok soup. But many menu items suffer due to their minimalism, including a beef ceviche that would've benefited from "more emphasis on the mint and peanut" and a salaw machu krueng spicy beef soup that seemed "more like homework at Grandma's than an exotic and escapist meal out." Service hiccups — a non-issue during SSB's cart days — often proved "maddening." Ultimately, Onstad still recommends the spot, but seems nostalgic for its days as a food cart: "I truly like Sok Sab Bai, but I wish they'd amp up the dynamism that built their brand. It's still there, but I feel like the suit and tie they donned put a damper on their original, rowdy spirit." [Mercury]
· All Previous Weeks in Review [Eater PDX]