Image of Old Salt Marketplace courtesy Avila/EPDX
Both WWeek and the Portland Mercury visit NE Portland's Old Salt Marketplace this week, and come away with the same verdict: It's a game-changer, both a "Renaissance restaurant" (according to WW's Matthew Korfage) and a "burgeoning young empire" (writes the Merc's Chris Onstad). Let's start with the similarities: Both reviews open with a commentary on Old Salt's multi-use space (Korfage's "pleasure dome of food" versus Onstad's "concept-o-ganza"), then follows it up with a metaphor or two about the aesthetic. "If Ned Ludd had a younger, rowdier cousin — more Wild West than lumberjack mansion — it might look like Old Salt's dining room," Onstad writes.
Both reviewers express love for chef Tim Wastell's meat dishes, described by WW as "uniformly wonderful." Beef tasted "as if I could taste not only the beef but the grass the cow had eaten," while pork was described as "overwhelming" its accompanying side dishes. Onstad, meanwhile, also likes the "excellent" duck plate and "flavorful" pork dish, which featured a "rewarding chew." Both men unabashedly praise for the spot's biscuits — which "hover near perfection" (Onstad) and "tasted like reconstructed heaven" (Korfage).
The negatives? Onstad identifies an oversalting problem ("for me, to consistenly cry uncle by the end of the meal is telling"), while Korfage is less enthused about the appetizer menu, dubbed a "jumbled affair." (Buffalo-style cardoons are "grotesquely intense," while a tempura salad "wore out its welcome.") Ultimately, Old Salt "has the makings of becoming a quintessential Portland eatery" (WW). Or, if you prefer the Mercury version, "It's a comfort-food bull's eye, and it seems to give far more than it asks in return." [WW, Mercury]