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January 5th, 2005 Roger Porter | Food Reviews & Stories
 

A TASTEFUL ORGY

Smaller plates? Just what will Portland's eastside food innovators think of next?

     
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Bar Pastiche
IMAGE: TOM OLIVER
Bar Pastiche, the new oasis on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, is a small gem of a space serving bites of flavor all day long. You can nosh on brioche in the morning, panini at noon and small hot dishes in the evening. Don't expect swank surroundings; instead, you'll find a handful of tables, simple industrial lamps and a bare concrete floor.

Pastiche is more of an eclectic tapas bar than a restaurant, just the atmosphere you'd expect from the creative brains of owners John Taboada of Navarre and Cheryl Wakerhauser of Pix Pâtisserie. At Navarre, you assemble a meal from a selection of small plates, while Wakerhauser's European sweet house is the home of the dim sum dessert: an orgy of nibbles.

At their new place, small-plate servings are reduced even further to bite-sized portions. You put together your own inexpensive meals (most selections are $1-$2) by reading a scroll of white butcher paper on one wall that serves as the menu, or by scrutinizing the case displaying the wares of the day.

Occasionally diners might be seated near the front of the case, so you'll have to peer over their shoulders. I apologized once for nearly leaning into a stranger's plate. "So lean," she said. "We like getting to meet new people." Pastiche is that kind of place.

The menu lineup changes daily, even hourly, so you never know what may pop up on the list: a manchego custard with salsa verde, mortadella mousse cannoli, even a dollop of tuna salad stuffed in a hardboiled egg and topped with Spanish ham.

A few reliable repeats include rabbit marinated in sherry on walnut bread--a crunchy treat--and my favorite, parmigiano flan wrapped in salty, smoky Serrano ham. White anchovies served with pepper and olive oil are a bracing taste, an appetite sparker, while the chunky beet salad splashed with orange flower water and sprinkled with cumin was deeply satisfying. Bacon-wrapped dates reminded me of my parents' mid-'50s cocktail parties, while a shrimp-salad sandwich might sound retro but tastes spanking fresh.

For breakfast, consider the tangy, springy brioche, offered in plain or chocolate varieties, or the churro, a long coil of fried bread bathed in sugar much like a New Orleans beignet. This full-bodied pastry tastes superb when dunked in the Spanish hot chocolate, a drink thickened with an egg and so dense you'll need extra ladles of steamed milk to top it off.

Later on, Pastiche is a fine place to enjoy a glass of wine accompanied by a bite of dessert. As for meals, a lunch stop is a better bet than dinner, simply because little plates might not be hearty enough for an entire evening meal.

Some offerings fall flat: I was disappointed by warm shrimp grits with cheddar, which promised a taste of the South but was simply a dish gone south. Not even Jules Verne would have appreciated the octopus salad, which was unexciting and rubbery. The cod fritters seemed rather leaden; had they been sitting too long?

For the most part, though, Pastiche's batting average is high, and you can always depend on Pix desserts ($2-$3 for tapas-sized portions, full-sized servings $4.25-$6.25), those elegant baubles of ganache or clouds of fruit frothed into airy creams and gilded with edible gold. The Aphrodite is a dome of chocolate and strawberry mousse concealing a cherry, while the Ichabod Crème is a pumpkin crème brûlée in a tart pastry spiced with almond cream. A pastel rainbow of macaroons offers up a taste of spring in the form of a little sweet sandwich wrapped around almond paste, while the port fig tart offers a homier, wintry flavor.

What sets Bar Pastiche apart is that here the accent is placed squarely on the food. Few places can satisfy your tastes all day long, but Pastiche--a place where even the name suggests hybridity--comes very close.


Bar Pastiche 3731 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 236-4760.7 am-midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 7 am-2 am Friday-Saturday, 9 am-midnight Sunday. Closed Monday. Credit cards accepted. Children welcome. $ Inexpensive.

Picks: Terrific wine list; white anchovies, rabbit on toast, pulled-pork sandwich, roasted beet salad; Pix chocolate desserts, like Aphrodite and Amélie.

Nice touch: Pleasant retreat during a Pastaworks (3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-1010) shopping excursion.

 
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