Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Portland Restaurant: Chesa

One of the hardest parts of our quest to try new restaurants and bars is that our husbands and friends also occasionally want to get in on the fun and check out new places too. That means we are sometimes forced to go places without each other. It's sad, but ultimately unavoidable.

Such was the case with Chesa, the highly-anticipated, paella-focused restaurant from Ataula's Jose Chesa and Christina Baez.

It opened back in February, and has been receiving slightly mixed reviews, including this recent one from Willamette Week.

Below, you'll find my take and Katie's, both of which are also... slightly mixed.

What: Chesa
Where: 2218 NE Broadway St
Honeys Heart: Paella

Kelly's Take:

When is the last time I tried a new restaurant within a week of the opening? It's been a while. Too bad it takes me months and months to actually post about it so it basically doesn't matter when I went.

Adam and I met my coworker Maggie and her husband Walker there on a Friday night and, no surprise, encountered about a 45-minute wait, so we started with cocktails in the bar. Maggie and I made lots of good choices, though I can't remember which ones they were. Gin for me I'm sure, and I was a fan of the Chesa-stamped ice squares.


We started with the Costilla Iberico (port rib and fennel-garbanzo salad) and Bravas ($8 - Chesa's second bravas choice...). Both were pretty tasty, but in true tapas style, the portions were pretty small, but the price tags were medium-high.



Adam kept seeing bread go by, and was able to get his hands on some by ordering the Mejillones (mussels made in the josper) which came with some.


Overall, on the small plates front, I might choose Toro Bravo's over Chesa's.

For the main dish, the shining star of Chesa, we ordered two Paellas. The Mallorca ($22) is made with Carlton Farm pork shoulder, Spanish sobrasada, bomba rice, and nora picada (sun-dried peppers).


And the Chesa ($25) with sherry marinated rabbit, (Fermin) Iberico ham, Viridian Farms beans, bomba rice, and boletus (mushroom) ali-oli.


Since I waited too long to write this post, I won't be toooooo descriptive, but the Chesa was a favorite. The crispiness on the bottom added the perfect amount of crunch and the oils they used and the marinated meat added unique flavor and moisture that you won't find in just anyone's homemade paella (aka Doug's and mine).


Side note: Doug and I were inspired and later attempted to make a Spanish feast. We succeeded with a full menu that included croquettes, bacon wrapped dates, potatas romesco, grilled asparagus, and paella. We plan to try the paella again!

Overall, I would go back to Chesa for paella and gin drinks, but perhaps skip the rest!

Katie's Take

Doug and I hit up Chesa a few weeks after Kelly and Adam's visit.

We started off with drinks: a Gin Tonic ($10) for Doug and a Chesa ($10) with vermut roja, olive-oil washed gin, lemon, pimenton, and bay leaf syrup for me. We loved that Chesa offers gin tonics and a selection of vermouth since we drank quite a bit of both during our trip to Spain. So far, so good!

The Tortilla ($9) was a no-brainer since we were sure that this usually simple dish would be taken to the next level at Chesa...


... and it was a tortilla. Nothing special. Except that it was pretty tiny for being $9.

Next up was the Empedrat ($7), made with Viridan Farms beans, pine nuts, quail eggs, scallions, sherry vinaigrette, and smoked piquillo


This came highly recommended by our server, but was also underwhelming. The beans were too al dente for our taste and the flavors were nothing to write home about either. Miss.

We also tried the Bunuelo ($9), salt cod beignets with ali-oli, which was our favorite tapa of the three.


For our paella, we went with the Mar i Montana ($19) with braised oxtail, bomba rice, prawns, sofrito, and scallions.


The paella was rich, flavorful, and perfectly cooked- definitely the highlight of our meal.

In the end, Doug and I agreed that we had expected more out of the tapas and, similar to Kel's assessment, we'd turn to Atuala or Toro Bravo for a purely tapas fix. We'll be back to Chesa again, but probably only for Gin Tonics and paella.

No comments: