Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Portland Restaurant: The American Local

What: The American Local
Where: 3003 SE Division St.
When: Thursday - Sunday 5pm - close, Closed Mondays
Honeys Heart: Shiitake Mushrooms!

I could write a fluffy intro, but let's get the point. Go here. Order the Shiitake Mushrooms. Now.

Okay, if you haven't left and are continuing to read this post, I can get to the fluffy stuff. Katie and I hadn't seen each other since our date the week before and we had lots of weekend debauchery to share...and of course that's more fun over a cocktail or two!

We got to The American Local and quickly identified our cocktails of choice. I ordered their Juniper Gin ($9) drink- no surprise- with gin, New Deal ginger liqueur, jasmine-hibiscus honey, lemon and CO2, while Katie channeled her SALEP knowledge and ordered the Raspberry Beret ($9) made with Wild Roots Raspberry vodka, Imbue Petal & Thorn (a local vermouth), rhubarb, and lemon and topped off with sparkling wine. We agreed that we could make pitchers of her drink and sip it on my deck this summer- perhaps we've found our 2014 annual 4th of July party cocktail?

After we got the most important part out of the way, we immediately requested guidance from our bartender, Brett (we had guessed his name was Jeff or Scott- close right?!) on the food menu. Broken up by seafood, apps/fried foods, veggies, skewers, and larger plates, there was a lot to choose from. We finally settled on the Fried Salmon Grit Cakes ($7), Shiitake Mushrooms ($8), and an Octopus Skewer ($7).

Favorite first: Roasted shiitake mushrooms with fregola, nettle pesto and ground prosciutto.

Fregola is a chewy, bead-shaped pasta from Sardinia and its texture combined with the mushrooms made the dish both interesting and heartier than expected. The pesto added a nice brightness to bring balance to the heavier elements. Beyond being delicious, it is also a generous portion. Katie and I were both craving it the next morning- yes that quickly, and yes at 9am. I may be bordering on overselling this dish, but we would seriously be happy going and each getting our own bowl.

The octopus skewer with breadcrumbs and harissa was perfectly cooked and we thought the spice was a real highlight of this plate. We've noticed harissa, a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste, popping up more and more lately and we're definitely on board with that.

The fried salmon grit cakes followed two pretty phenomenal choices and suffered in comparison. Grits don't have much flavor so the cakes just tasted like fried oil with flavorless fish on top and a sprinkle of dill. Not our favorite, but the other items more than made up for it.

We were definitely on our second cocktail by this time. Brett made me a Corpse Reviver and Katie got a Japanese 75 made with sake . I had too many corpse revivers during my recent visit to Salt Lake City (of all places, right?) so we switched.

Our first couple cocktails went down like water and it was time to slow down. Brett made Katie an espresso cocktail and I agreed to a whiskey drink. I've found recently that I'm more of a rye whiskey fan, while Adam is not, so Brett introduced me to High West which makes a combo bottle- perhaps the best of both worlds!

As expected, a third cocktail inspired more food. Jenny, co-owner and manager of The American Local came out to say hi and highly recommended the Brussels (8) saying they are "everybody's favorite" and they would soon be replaced with spring/summer veggies. I can see why they're popular. The surprising combination of brussel sprouts with blood orange and miso was savory and fresh.

We may have ended up with another cocktail- to share- that was a recommendation from Jenny. Brett brews his own ginger beer and made us his Moscow Mule in a pewter cup. You can't really go wrong here.

If you haven't already concluded this from the review, we are really digging The American Local, highly recommend it, and will definitely be back ---those mushrooms are calling our names!