Photo of Kachka courtesy Avila/EPDX
From WWeek, with love: The first review of Bonnie and Israel Morales' SE Russian restaurant Kachka, which serves up "some of the best fun you can have in a Portland restaurant, equal parts jolting novelty and cockle-warming familiarity." Matthew Korfhage highlights both ends of that spectrum: Comfort-food staples pelmeni and vareniki are like "meatballs wrapped in clouds," while a hearty stroganoff featured beef tongue and king oyster mushrooms cooked "tender and attained a richness of flavor." Of the jolting variety are a "wonderful" beet-infused pour of Fernet, a sorrel and mackerel soup that "stuns the senses," and an elevated version of the classic "herring under a fur coat." Here, it becomes "Russian coffee-table fare rendered jaw-gapingly tasty."
Fish boards, featuring a variety of cures, are deemed "up and down," though the only straightforward criticism is for a beet-cured chinook. Ultimately: "Kachka brings serious comfort fare with a wink and a shot." [WW]
Also from WWeek, a look at the resurrected Taqueria Nueve, which despite reviewer Martin Cizmar's admitted "mild trepidation," emerges as "one of my favorite new restaurants in town." Order up a house margarita, the "delicately marinated and fleshy" Caesar salad con ceviche, and a handful some tacos: Though splurgy, they're deemed "worth the price, especially the smoky asada and extra-juicy carnitas." Entrees don't fare as well, with "dry and stringy" grilled chicken inside deconstructed enchiladas, and a "smoky black mole" drowning out the duck inside tamales.
The meal ends on a sweet spot, particularly if you order the tres leches cake — "the best version of the dairy-intense Mexican cake I've ever had. The compliment also comes with and oddly bittersweet moment ("if Taqueria Nueve's reboot doesn't last, I'd pine for that cake"), but for now, consider the restaurant "No. 3 on my informal Power Poll of Portland Poblano, right behind Nuestra Cocina and Tienda Santa Cruz." [WW]
The Mercury's Andrea Damewood is the latest to file on Earl Ninsom's buzzy Lang Baan, with similar results: "Lang Baan is pushing far outside... cozy confines and into the exciting realms of refined and challenging plates." Samples of the May and June menus revealed dishes like pineapple and pork belly (whose "sweet, savory, and salty elements zap each taste bud on its way down your throat"), a crispy catfish (with a "fiery hot chili relish"), and a grilled wagyu curry that was simply "stunning."
Each menu featured a couple flaws — like the "one-note" angel hair noodle nest of June's menu — though Damewood admits that's "parsing lemongrass strands." The verdict: "Lang Baan is the kind of thing Portland didn't know it needed until it was served to us, perfectly spiced." [Mercury]
· All Previous Weeks in Review [Eater PDX]