Ian Muntzert started making tortilla Española professionally 12 years ago while cooking in San Francisco. Tortilla Española, the large-format egg and potato omelet served by the slice at bars and restaurants throughout Spain, is a remarkably simple, technically precise dish, but Muntzert didn’t stay in that territory for long: He, Jason Fox, Xelina Leyba, and Anthony Myint went on to open Commonwealth, a Michelin-starred restaurant serving dishes with fine dining aesthetics. It closed in 2019 after the landlord raised the rent, and Muntzert moved back to his home state: Oregon.
In 2020, Muntzert made a lot of tortilla Española, and soon, he’ll make even more: Muntzert is opening a new Spanish restaurant in the former Beech Street Parlor space, the Oregonian first reported. Brasa Haya, opening June 9, will serve dishes like white gazpacho with pickled grapes, Manila clams with vermouth and bone marrow, and celery sorbet with verjus soda.
Quite a bit of Brasa Haya’s menu digs into much of the quintessential standbys spotted at pintxo and tapas bars: salt cod croquettes, patatas bravas, mussels in escabeche. However, some of Brasa Haya’s potential departures from the standards are particularly eye-catching: A pressure-cooked and fried tripe gets tossed in a harissa sauce meant to mimic the flavor profile of Buffalo wings, for instance, and the restaurant’s sea urchin bocadillo gets a hit of sweetness from a brown butter mayo and a pop of heat from pickled Fresno peppers. Many of Muntzert’s dishes also wink at the restaurant’s name, which translates to “beech ember” or “beech grill” in Spanish: hot coals add some heat to cabbage with garum butter and chicken wings with garlic and sherry, and the restaurant will grill seasonal shellfish and bavette throughout the night. As a pairing, bartenders will pour Spanish wines, gin and tonics, and potentially sherry and craft beer out of the former Beech Street Parlor taps.
Portland has lost at least three Spanish restaurants in the last 12 months: José Chesa’s Ataula, its sibling Masia, and longstanding Spanish spot Toro Bravo. Still, Muntzert is drawn to Spanish cuisine — especially food from the Basque country, where he’s spent most of his time in Spain. “Since I first went there, it’s been incredibly inspiring — the land, the cooking,” he says. “The further north we got, I was like, ‘Shit, this reminds me of Oregon and Washington.’”
Muntzert will try to emphasize that commonality by sourcing from Oregon farms and ranches; for instance, Brasa Haya will use Carman Ranch beef for the restaurant. The chef will also work with the restaurant sustainability nonprofit Zero Foodprint, co-founded by his former co-worker, Anthony Myint. “There’s a very real argument of ‘Is any food sustainable at the level of population we have?’” he says. “I don’t know, but it’s important for me to work with people who are not fucking things up worse than we are.”
Brasa Haya will open for outdoor and — if all goes according to plan — indoor seating at 412 NE Beech Street.
• Brasa Haya [Official]
• New live-fire Spanish restaurant from seasoned San Francisco chef coming to NE Portland [O]
• Veteran San Francisco Chef Readies to Open Brasa Haya in June [PoMo]
• Massive Rent Hike Could Uproot Michelin-Starred Commonwealth [ESF]
• Previous Commonwealth coverage [ESF]
Update June 8, 2021 at 2:40 p.m.
This story has been updated to include the opening date and website.