Saturday, September 1, 2012


The first restaurant I set upon after arriving in Portland (literally, I flew in that day) was one I found off of Eater's Heatmap: The Parish, a Cajun/Creole newcomer from the EaT: An Oyster Bar family.  We were destined there after making a cameo at a friend's birthday party.  The party, however, boasted a humongous buffet from Jake's (a Portland institution), and while it was perhaps nothing to write home (or here) about, it was abundant, I was tired, we were hungry.... and it was free.  So instead, we drove past The Parish on our way home just to check out the scene: it looked busy, and buzzy, and perhaps worth rebooking.  But a local rag reviewed it the next day, saying its predecessor was superior, and it was overpriced mediocrity with good oysters (and a good bar scene).  In conversation it came up twice, both with shoulder shrugs instead of cartwheels, so I put it out of my mind.  But when we found ourselves in NE a week later, and in need of eats on the early side, its sister restaurant provided a convenient destination- so we ate at EaT.

I admit I followed no chef here; in fact, there seemed to be just two employees running the whole shebang.  But there is nothing too complicated here, so aside from the menu recommending one pre-order dessert if they wanted the bread pudding (it takes fifteen minutes), we were pretty much on our own.  But pre-order that pudding we did, and there it arrived, right with our beers not five minutes after having set down, and before our dinner orders were even fixed upon.  Chalk that up to a simple miscommunication, but our desserts sat atop a floor fan, little mint sprigs wilting in the summer heat, throughout dinner (we were not, however, charged for them).  At any rate, once we got our orders in, they came out quickly... and bountifully.  Now, this food is what it is: almost everything has a substantial kick of heat and not a profound lot more in terms of any complexity of flavor.  But it's tasty, hearty and really reasonably priced.

We started off with a big bowl of fried okra, and fried it was, lightly crusted and oily hot.  We shared a big wedge salad smothered in a zesty homemade ranch dotted with a few magnificent local cherry tomatoes. At this point, we were having such a good time, food photography completely slipped my mind.  Fortunately, the entrees arrived of such notable size that they warranted pictures.

Jambalaya was a sizeable mound of seasoned rice, littered with green onion and loaded with pulled chicken and andouille sausage: a classic.  Collards were good to moisten it up, but they had a fair amount of chunky smoked ham hock in them: vegetarians be forewarned.
And who says I never try anything adventurous?  Frog legs were delicately crusted in cornmeal and spices, fried like chicken... but they don't taste like it.  More like monkfish, or even skate- juicier than most any chicken I've ever happened upon.  Served with a side of "Comeback Sauce" which I'm not sure I want to know the etymology for, but it's a zippy blend of chili and mayo with enough heat you'll hope it stays put.

Blackened catfish has a fine crust of herbs and spices, not too oily and served with a heap of plain rice to buffer the burn if you're timid: for my tastes, I thought it a little mild, and the plate definitely stark.  The only vegetable sides were those collards, and while Southern-authentic they were, I prefer a fresher veg.  The etouffee reached its spiciness quotient, though, but lacked much other flavor: its blonde roux doesn't make much of a case for those of our haircolor.   There were some big, extremely fresh tasting shrimp lurking around underneath, though,  and tender pintos in a soupy stew with rice and tomatoes.

And finally it came time for that bread pudding, voted Oregonian's "Dessert Find of the Year" for 2009.  Well, they should've waited for 2011 and the bread pudding I made last Christmas, an exquisite recipe from Anita Lo, or the version at Cafe Castagna- the one that my dad (seriously but jokingly) requested I drive back out the night after we dined there to get a take-out portion so he could have it again.  'Cause this Southern sweet, studded with not quite enough dried Bings and golden raisins, was dense verging on leaden, its too-boozy Whisky sauce sweet enough to make your teeth hurt, subtle as your Gramma's big flowered apron.  But just like Gramma, you'd never criticize her for it: it's sort of got its own charming way about it.  And that's how things go at EaT: you might not ask for any recipes, but you'll walk away well-fed and happy, maybe a few ounces heavier- but some of that might be the cash still left in your wallet.

3808 N. Williams, Portland, OR 97227 (503) 281-1222

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