The Mercury's Chris Onstad feels conflicted after four visits to "Bunk-Mex" spot Trigger, thanks to the impressive pedigree of co-founder/chef Tommy Habetz, "To give a member of the beloved Bunk family such mixed marks," Onstad writes, "feels like stepping on the pirate flag of a young and dynamic restaurant scene." While chips-and-queso, Texas chopped salad, and fajitas earn praise, cheese-laden options like enchiladas and quesadillas "are a struggle... the sheer volume of cheese had me wary after a few bites, and hurting after half the dish." In sum:
"Its full potential has yet to be realized — but it's a good start. The place has heart and the best intentions, as shown in details like delicate, intensely beefy smoked brisket, pitch-perfect queso (the proudly down-market dip of American cheese and pico de gallo), handmade flour tortillas, and professional attention to presentation. Its shortcomings are excessive use of fat, untuned salsas and sauces, and expensive but slapdash cocktails."
But Onstad remains optimistic, given Habetz's reputation: "with a slightly expanded menu and renewed attention to detail, his proven brand of hedonism can work here, too." [Mercury]
In a review with an interesting "temporary closure" disclaimer — that resulted in further seating restrictions in the space — the Oregonian's David Sarasohn tackles the "sunken-profile" Tanuki, bestowing the "restaurant that is not a restaurant" with a B+ grade. Per Sarasohn, chef Janis Martin's cooking transcends the dark interior and intentionally under-the-radar mission:
"If Tanuki doesn't want to be considered a restaurant, it shouldn't serve baked trout in nori butter, the fish crumbling into the rich warmth around it. It shouldn't have vibrant pork belly in a spray of grated radish, or bits of spiced hamachi with long shreds of crisp cucumber and sheets of nori to be assembled into do-it-yourself hand rolls, a definitional challenge to the 'No sushi' principle."
Other dishes elicit adjectives like "unexpectedly addictive" (the bacon cheese kimchi bun), "lush" (black cod), and "intensely flavored" (tofu with soy and ginger); animated pornography on the flat-screen television gets a brief mention. "However it sees its identity, Tanuki is a place of intriguing, sometimes exquisite flavors." [OregonLive]
Meanwhile, Portland Monthly's Kelly Clarke visits N. Williams' Oro di Napoli, which is still "struggling for definition" after chef Kenny Giambalvo's pre-opening exit. On the plus side: Neopolitan pizzas with "pillowy, pinkie-thin crusts heady with char and sea salt," and a guilty-pleasure pizza frita, "a decadent, deep-fried Neapolitan street-food classic tasting like a ricotta-oozing, salami-stuffed elephant ear." The downside: a mis-matched room, "wildly inconsistent" desserts, and a muddled concept. But there's hope: "Oro Di Napoli isn't quite golden yet, but the potential for a neighborhood gem shines." [Portland Monthly]
· All Previous Week in Reviews Coverage [Eater PDX]
Image of Trigger courtesy Avila/EPDX