Hotel seafood spot King Tide Fish & Shell may be chef Lauro Romero’s most personal project yet. The Kimpton RiverPlace restaurant near the South Waterfront park, set to open April 26, is Romero’s “kid,” in his own words, and menu borrows heavily from his past. With several preparations of seafood, from fish a la plancha to lobster tortellini, this is far from a typical oyster-and-chowder joint; Romero will borrow heavily from his Mexican heritage and his years working in Salt Lake City sushi kitchens.
“I was born in Mexico, so you will find notes of my history here. Nothing too spicy — an ancho chili, a guajillo,” Romero says. For example, his calamari arrives fried in a masa cornflour, served with a jalapeno escabeche and an ancho tomato sauce. His crab cake is a simple preparation on the inside — aioli, celery, Dungeness — but the mixture is fried like a croquette, with a green papaya salad served with lime juice and guajillo.
Romero grew up in Hidalgo, Mexico, living for a portion of his life in a farming community. He came to the United States when he was 14, and quickly started working in Salt Lake City sushi restaurants. Those years have clearly impacted his crudo menu; his kampachi arrives brushed with a house-made sudachi ponzu, served with a miso croquant (kind of like a brittle). His poke somewhat walks the line between his two histories: He pairs tuna with papaya and a house sesame candy.
Not everything is reinvented, however: Clam chowder is the classic New England style with the addition of smoked bacon, and his jumbo prawns are served with cocktail sauce. He offers a variety of simply grilled fish: halibut, black cod, or king salmon with a choice of bernaise, salsa verde, lobster meuniere. From there, entrees are separated into main categories, like “Fancy-Pants Fish” (think: rockfish served fennel puree and lobster meuniere) and “Not Fish” (gnocchi with foraged mushrooms and peas). The whole fish, again, harks back to Romero’s roots, with mushrooms and truffle potato puree. Romero used to forage when he lived in Mexico, so wild mushrooms will be a mainstay on the menu.
Wash it down with drinks from former Ox bartender Elizabeth Powell, who designed her cocktail program “to reflect chef (Romero)’s food.” She recommends the restaurant’s crab cake with her Death of a Disco Dancer cocktail: pecan bitters, applejack brandy, Jack Daniels and lemon juice. Drinks often feature sherry and gin, which she says work well with seafood, though she knows to give the people what they want: “Being Portland, we will have brown, bittered, stirred cocktails available for our diners.” For those just looking for oysters and a glass of white wine, no worries — King Tide has plenty of that, too.
Check out the menu below:
Update: April 20, 2018, 4:07 p.m.
This story has been updated to clarify that the restaurant is located near South Waterfront Park, not the redevelopment district.