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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
9.2
9.5
$45
Modern
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Daily 5:00pm–9:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.tabla-restaurant.com

Northeast Portland
200 NE 28th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 238-3777
Tabla Mediterranean Bistro
Is this just a charming neighborhood joint, or is it one of the city’s best restaurants?

After a few years of ups and downs, it seems that Tabla has finally come into its own—its marvelous transformation is as exciting as anything that’s happened in Portland’s recent culinary memory.

It’s always been a pleasant place, bright and airy, with a large open kitchen in the back. A chef’s counter puts you in the center of the action; out of the way, there’s a private party space, and additional tables stretch down the sidewalk.

A prix-fixe three-course dinner (at press time, a gift to the city at $24) is a fantastic introduction to the menu and can be paired with a great selection of food-loving, carefully made wines selected by a passionate, knowledgeable, and patient sommelier. The waitstaff is also quite helpful and friendly. A handful of house cocktails play on the nostalgic, and there are exciting craft brews on draft.

These people get it, and you really have to dig to find fault. On one visit, Galician-style octopus was surprisingly tender for its large, meaty pieces. It could have used just a touch more olive oil, but smoked paprika was an alluring, simple touch. A rich “flan” of delicata squash was stellar, slightly sweet and texturally wonderful, with delicious maple brown butter. There’s great use made of local ingredients here: Tails and Trotters’ pork rillette has come pan fried, soft and indulgent, with green beans, mustard crème fraîche, and pickled chard stems.

Homemade pastas have recently included lovely mushroom-and-sherry agnolotti with pickled chanterelles; ravioli stuffed with ricotta and a poached egg paid homage to an Emilia-Romagna dish, bursting with warm yolky goodness when cut into. Pappardelle in a sugo of well-braised pork was wonderfully flavorful, if a little watery.

But the kitchen’s finest hour comes with proteins. Duck confit has had crackly, delicious skin, while the meat inside is moist and pulled easily from the bone. Oregon albacore came in a forest of coriander, roasted red pepper, pine nut agrodolce, minted yogurt, and couscous. It was a sensory stunner that somehow didn’t overwhelm the fish. Overcooking fish is a pitfall of which this kitchen has amazingly almost never been guilty.

There’s a rare combination of both innovation and deftness here that, at last, edifies Tabla beyond its humble neighborhood-restaurant status. For now, at least, it’s one of Portland’s best.

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