Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Smallwares

What: Smallwares
Where: 4605 NE Fremont St
When: Daily 5pm - 10pm, Saturday & Sunday Brunch 11am - 3pm 
Honeys Heart: Clams in Black Bean Sauce

You know that problem that Katie and I have with Boke Bowl? The one where it's good, it's really good, but it's missing... something. We're left wishing there was a little something more. Especially for the price. It's not expensive, but it costs just enough that we are left wanting... something. Well, we recently had that same experience at Smallwares on NE Fremont.

I'm going to break it down in the order that items arrived. Our night started with the Brussels Sprouts ($8) in XO sauce with almond brittle and nigella seed. The sweetness of the almond brittle was a nice compliment to the savory brussels, but the portion is pretty conservative. 

Our second dish, and probably our second favorite, was the Scallop Sashimi ($11) with yuzu butter, vadouvan, bottarga, shiso. Again we ran into the issue of feeling like $11 was on the high end for the thin slices of scallop, especially with Daruma down the street. But in terms of flavor and presentation, we'll give it a thumbs up. 

Next up. Cocktails. Yes, they took a while to materialize. There was a private party in Barwares and the front of the restaurant seemed a bit overwhelmed. I got The Gin ($10) with gin, becherovka, lillet rouge, and amargo valet and Katie went for The Vodka ($10) with vodka, benedictine, lime, black pepper, and bitters. Katie didn't mind hers but I thought they were both too reminiscent of cold medicine, perhaps too heavy handed on the bitter liqueurs. 

We finished our Smallwares experience with the Clams ($13) with Chinese sausage, black bean sauce, ginger, and garlic. This was our favorite dish. The clams in the black bean sauce was unique and the basil pieces soaking in it were a welcomed surprise and pop of fresh flavor.  

Our dinner and drinks totaled $52 but we were still kind of hungry and the drinks weren't that satisfying- and we weren't so in awe of the meal that we didn't care. Thankfully it was just Katie and me. If the boys had joined we would have had to order at least double and it would have been a pricey night out. 

Maybe we're just too cheap, or our expectations are too high. How do we know for sure? More research! Tanuki is also on our list of Asian-influenced tapas-style places to compare with Boke Bowl and Smallwares. (Bamboo Izakaya was too but not anymore.)