Photo of Ataula courtesy Facebook
In Portland Monthly's April issue, restaurant editor Karen Brooks claims to know the "secret" behind the success of chef Jose Chesa's tapas spot Ataula, and it's personified in an order of patatas bravas: "It's signature Chesa: stupid-good but incredibly smart, informed by modernist know-how but as accessible as a tater tot." On the tapas menu, Brooks finds several dishes deemed "addictive classics in the making," including the mini coca, the "high comfort" beef-and-potato bombas, and squid-inked rossejat, which is "like an Almodóvar flick: dark, complex, and thrilling."
Not everything works: Brooks finds both the lamb shoulder and veal sandwich "bland," and the seafood paella sometimes arrives with its necessary crisp bottom. But she's charmed by Chesa and his impressive pedigree (she points out Chesa' time working under legendary chefs Alain Passard and Santi Santamaria, tracing how their influences make their way to the Ataula menu). Ultimately: "It''s a place to take food nerds or your folks for something rare: comforting flavors backed by finesse, family secrets, and a deep claw of Barcelona grit from a guy hiding a small galaxy of Michelin star–experience under his apron." [PoMo]
WWeek's Martin Cizmar wonders why Broder Nord newish dinner service finds the restaurant "bizarrely empty," a particular head-scratcher considering a recent dinner "turned out to be the best of many meals I've had from the Broder twins." Among the best dishes: a "flawless" sole in lemon-dill pesto, the comfort-food beef a la Lindström, and an aquavit-cured gravlax, whose "charms are subtle, but substantial." Some dishes, however, are lost in translation, including a potato gratin (Janssen's Temptation) with a distracting anchovy undertone and the odd-sounding cabbage rolls "served with a gravy of pureed turnips below and a sweet-tart lingonberry jam."
The evening cocktail menu is the same as served during brunch, so perhaps the moral here: Craving Swedish meatballs and a Bloody Mary without the wait? Broder Nord is open for dinner. [WW]
The Mercury's Andrea Damewood starts this week's review with an acknowledgement: "It would be easy, as a food critic and all around Judgey McJudgerson, to hate on Tilt in the Pearl District." She rattles off a few reasons why: its "blue collar" branding, overly descriptive menu, and a clientele of "characterless young professionals who seem to spawn spontaneously from behind Anthropologie." But she seems to come to terms with the spot, overtly criticizing just two things — undercooked pie dough and a fried chicken dinner that "needed help" from Tabasco — and deeming the rest "bankable, if not transcendent," thanks to "huge galoomphing portions that hit all of the salty, fat, and sweet points we needed it to."
A biscuit sandwich with country-fried steak, "perfectly fried" onion rings, and lemon sour cream pie get the heartiest recommendations; those looking for the most sizable meals will do best with the BBQ Chicken Rancher salad (a "veritable trough") and the Big Tilt burger (a "literal and figurative monument to those working-class stereotypes of decadence"). Ultimately: "Think of Tilt as the Red Robin that us anti-chain establishment folks can be caught raising a fork in." [Portland Mercury]
· All Previous Weeks in Review [Eater PDX]