Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Portland Restaurant: P.R.E.A.M.

What: P.R.E.A.M.
Where: 2131 SE 11th Ave
Honeys Heart: Black Garlic Knots & the pizza

What does P.R.E.A.M. stand for? Obvs, Pizza Rules Everything Around Me. 

Our first experience with P.R.E.A.M. was at Ned Ludd during Nicholas Ford and Brandon Gomez's Monday night takeover of the restaurant. It was awesome and we were excited to learn this duo found a permanent home for their hip-hop pizza pop-up.

Adam and I signed up to test out P.R.E.A.M.'s new spot during their week of prix fixe preview dinners. The dinners must have gone well (we certainly thought ours did!) because P.R.E.A.M. is now open in the old Tennessee Red's space and I am already eager to return. The new look is all thanks to hands-on work by Nicholas and Brandon and their team. They built the bars, painted the walls, hung records, and even broke down part of the outside wall to get the massive pizza oven in place. As anticipated, there was loud 80's rap playing and as I scanned the bar, people were bopping their heads and singing along to the lyrics. The wait staff was energetic and Brandon and Nicholas were in the heat of it.

Brandon, who also serves as house bartender, was hustling behind the bar and when I asked what was his favorite of their gin cocktails, he urged me to try the Olive Oil Gibson ($10) with gin, dolin genepy, and olive oil, since no one had it yet that night. As promised, the drink was delicious and the olive oil added a little pop towards the end.

Adam started with a Root Beer Flip ($10) with bourbon, Blackstrap rum, egg, cream, and root beer. Smooth, creamy, and ultra satisfying. This is how I might end my meal (with a dessert of course). 

Since we were there for a preview dinner, we had set food options and the waiter gave us the menu rundown. Structured like any good rap song, the menu includes an Intro (apps), Verse (salads), Hook (polenta), Chorus (pizza), and Outro (dessert).

First up, Parmesan Chips with herb cream and Black Garlic Knots with puttanesca. You can't really go wrong with either of these, but I would be happy to pop into P.R.E.A.M. just for some of these black garlic knots.

Next up: salads, and both of them were great. If I had to choose a favorite it would be Yesterday's Bread. For this salad, some of the vegetables, like the radish, were left with their greens. Those veggies plus cooked carrots and other thinly sliced spring vegetables were combined with bread and a honey-balsamic dressing, I just wish there had been more, even though the portion was perfectly reasonable! The Mixed Greens with sunflower and oat crumb, red onion vinaigrette, and feta was also fantastic.

For the hook, we had to pick between two polenta dishes and opted for the Short Rib with pickled condimento and spinach. The meat on this hearty dish just fell apart. It sounded like they will have different variations of polenta dishes which I'm looking forward to exploring. It's not something I cook, ever, and sometimes I feel indifferent about it, but with the right topping and sauce I see the appeal, similarly to that of a well-prepared shrimp and grits.

Now to the heart of P.R.E.A.M.! We were supposed to pick one of the three pizzas, but opted to a buy a second too. First choice, the Pork Meatball with escarole, veloute, and crumbs. A veloute sauce is a simple sauce made with chicken stock and butter and while Adam typically prefers a red sauce on pizza, this was amazing. A perfect example of how less can be more.

Our pizza addition included the Fontina with provolone, mozzarella, garlic, and oregano. The sauce on top of the cheese was unique, but since on a pie this simple the sauce is in many ways the star of the dish, it was a good choice. The pizzas were also served with some dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan to sprinkle on top. Mmmmm.

Time for another drink. This round we went for the house-bottled cocktails including the Craig 'N' Cola ($10) with bourbon, P.R.E.A.M. cola and the Pink Flamingo ($11) with Ransom old tom gin, Campari, St. Germain, maraschino, and lemon. Normally both of these would be a little concerning to me having so many ingredients on the sweet side, but these were strong and well-balanced. 

We never wanted this meal to end and it was all happening too fast, but before long it was dessert time and we got to try the Cannoli with ricotta and cacao nibs and Olive Oil Cake with creme anglaise and almond brittle. The cacao nibs are dehydrated and made here locally to have a very concentrated amount of cacao and the cannoli wrap is a wonton. This dessert was good, but I think I would have preferred a different type of wrap. If you are looking for a sweet finish this wouldn't be it.

The Olive Oil Cake was our definite favorite with an awesome balance of dense, savory cake, sweet anglaise, and a fruit chutney on top. Even though we were pretty full, we made room for this.

Brandon said the full menu will include eight pizzas and six salads, alongside other intros and hooks. After sitting at the bar all night watching Nicholas jamming around that pizza oven, we went over to tell him how awesome it was and accidentally walked away without our leftovers which resulted in the only downside of the night. The preview meal was an awesome teaser of what P.R.E.A.M. has to offer and now that it's open I don't have to keep dreaming of our lost leftovers, I can just go back!