Tag Archives: lamb

Going Greek at Emilitsa in Portland

23 Oct

I have a small obsession with Greek food. Not that I have eaten a lot of “authentic” Greek food, but I keep dreaming of the moment when I will be sitting in a café in Mykonos enjoying it. So, even when I am stuffing a faux gyro in my mouth I imagine that it’s real, and that makes me feel better inside. Alas, it’s not real and it never has been…BUT with that being said, my number one dining partner and I decided to have a date night at Portland’s local Greek restaurant, Emilitsa, because I needed to eat and dream of an island hugging the Aegean Sea where I might one day sit eating my truly authentic Greek food.

We walked into a bright restaurant that was bustling with life at 8:30 on Friday night. The modern décor is simple and clean with exposed brick walls that make it feel like you are snuggled into a West Village restaurant in New York. The bar was packed and there wasn’t an open table in the place, so we were thankful that we had sprung for reservations. We were very promptly seated and handed a drink menu. Their drink menu is fantastic and only features Greek wines and a nice selection of Greek and local beers. The waiter was kind enough to explain the wines so we could order something to our liking (me similar to Pinot Noir, Mark similar to Cabernet).

I ended up with the Boutari, which was very full-bodied and spicy. I loved it. Mark ended up with the Harlaftis. It was, indeed, a Cabernet I found upon investigation. It was subtly rich and extremely pleasing. I would recommend both if you also enjoys Pinots and Cabs.

After whetting our appetites with a bit of alcohol we were ready for some serious mezethakia (appetizers). We were sent some complimentary hummus from the kitchen, but we knew we’d need more to experience all Emilitsa had to offer. Never ones to shy away from anything scallop, we went for the Htenia me Ouzo. Large sea scallops were wading in a light ouzo-tomato cream with dodoni feta. It was, in one word, incendiary. I dream about scallops like those. The ouzo cream sauce was otherworldly. I couldn’t believe the symphony of flavors that was playing in my mouth.

Homemade Garlic and Onion Hummus with Crostini

Htenia me Ouzo

The other mezethakia we decided we couldn’t live without was the Kefalograviera me Syka Saganaki, pan fried sheep’s milk kefalograviera (a hard, salty cheese) with baby Turkish balsamic peppered figs. The cheese was earthy and delicious, while the figs added the sweetness needed to balance out the intense flavors and saltiness of the cheese. Overall, very solid and I would have it again in a heartbeat.

Kefalograviera me Syka Saganaki

The wine was pumping through our veins now and we were well on our way to calling this our favorite restaurant in Portland, but we still had to get through the main course. We both decided Greek Comfort food was the way to go. I can never turn down lamb in any form and I had never, ever, had lamb’s neck before so ordering the Lemo Arnou was a no brainer for me. This dish was an all-natural grass-fed lamb neck, slow braised in a mastic yogurt honey sauce and then served with olive oil pomme puree and fire roasted florina peppers. It was perfectly fresh and definitely heavy. I loved the subtle gaminess of the lamb paired with the light sauce and pomme puree. I would go back a hundred more times to eat that dish again. Perfection.

Lemo Arnou

Mark is obsessed with Emilitsa’s Moussaka, and really, who could blame him? It’s the best I have ever had. Beautiful layers of organic oven roasted eggplant baked with a ground beef mixture and then topped with a Greek yogurt béchamel sauce. I must say, even I have been dreaming of and craving this dish since we went. The béchamel is so light and delicate, but certainly not lacking in flavor. It adds the subtle creaminess to the dish that I have never experienced with Moussaka before. Usually I just think it’s too heavy and creamy. I know Mark wants to go back for this dish sooner than later.

Moussaka

It was a beautiful fall night out at what I will certainly say is my absolute favorite fine-dining restaurant in Portland. The flavors and intense, the wines are rich and the atmosphere is supremely cosmopolitan. We can’t wait to go back and try more things from the menu, or even stick with the ones we know we already love. Greek food has never been nearer or dearer to my heart.

Emilitsa on Urbanspoon

Localizing Portland’s Fine Dining Scene

18 Jun

A few weeks ago we decided to go out and eat with our dear friends, Jen and Kyle, on a Saturday night. It was a last-minute whim, but we decided to try somewhere we hadn’t eaten at before. Since none of us are native Mainers, let alone, native Portlanders, we are all still relatively new to the restaurant scene here (we’ve only been here since 2010). We were all discussing where we should go when, low and behold, it was discovered that none of us had eaten at Local 188 for dinner! Surely this was a crime! A nano second later we were in our cars driving across town to try to score a table at 7:30 on a Saturday night. We got in eventually, but we definitely should have made a reservation beforehand.

We started the night with some drinks while waiting for a table. The cocktail menu at Local is unpretentiously unique. None of their specialty drinks are anything I have ever seen on a menu elsewhere. I decided to try something my blogger friend, Laura of Fore Front Fashion, recommended–Basil Lemonade. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after my first sip I realized how dangerous their cocktails are. They taste so smooth, it’s almost as if there isn’t any alcohol in them, but be forewarned, there definitely is. Jen started with a wonderful White Lotus, Mark had a Dropkick Murphy, and Kyle had a beer. Everyone was quite pleased with their selection, and Kyle commented that the beer list was large and diverse.

After a round, we were seated. The restaurant itself is dimly lit at night, which creates a fantastic ambiance. It’s not a quiet place, as the kitchen is open and most of the people dining there were in large parties. A birthday was being celebrated next to us and the laughter that filled the air made it feel more like we were dining in someone’s large dining room. All in all, a welcoming establishment.

Our waitress came over to our hungry crowd and asked if we had questions about the menu. With everything sounding so amazing of course we would have about a million questions for her! After some time of explaining the specials and some particular items on the menu that we were eyeing, Jen took her time to debate whether or not to get the night’s special–Ahi Tuna (note: she is a lover of Ahi and orders it everywhere she goes. She cannot turn it down, even if she thinks she might want something else, the pull is too strong). After consulting with our waitress for a few minutes over that, she decided to take the plunge.

Perfectly seared fresh catch, Ahi Tuna

Mark ordered the Steak Tartare appetizer and the oven roasted white fish for an entrée.

Steak Tartare

Grilled White Fish

Kyle ordered the Split Pea Soup with Chipotle Oil (a special that evening) as an appetizer and the lamb shank entrée.

Split Pea Soup with Chipotle Oil

Lamb Shank

I opted for the chicken livers appetizer (because like Jen I also have obsessions, mine is with liver. Yummy, earthy liver! Oh yeah, and little chicken livers are my absolute favorite. I can’t turn them down, ever.  And then the seafood paella for an entrée.

Chicken Livers with Shallot

The chicken livers were the best I have ever had anywhere, and I order liver anytime I see it on a menu. Jen and Kyle had never had liver before and were very impressed by the dish. Kyle’s Split Pea Soup was also over the top. The chipotle oil drizzle added a hint of spice that complemented the dish in a way none of us thought was possible, it was the best vegetable based soup I have ever put in my mouth. And then Mark’s tartare–I don’t even know where to start! So many people are afraid of raw meat dishes, but this beef was perfectly fresh and the seasoning on it was just wonderful. I have had tartare at Hugo’s that didn’t measure up to the quality of this beef!

Then after we licked our appetizer plates clean, even more goodness started arriving at our table. I felt like I was at a feast for royalty. Jen raved about her Ahi, saying she thinks it was one of the top five preparations of the dish she had ever had in her life. Kyle’s lamb was so tender and juicy it was falling off the bone and onto everyone’s fork (I hope he got at least three bites of his own meal). Mark’s white fish was good, but it was definitely the most lackluster of all the dishes, but was in no way inedible. The fish was cooked perfectly and the lentils that accompanied it were good, it was just overall an “okay” dish in comparison to the other entrées at the table. My seafood paella was nothing short of fresh, fresh, fresh! The mussels were tasty, the shrimp in the dish was cooked just right (sometimes they can be rubbery in paella from overcooking), and the clams seemed as if they were just pulled the bottom of the bay.

Overall, it was an unexpectedly wonderful dinner out with friends. We all commented that we went there with zero expectations and came out thinking this is one of the most solid meals we have ever had out in Portland. I suggest that you, run, not walk, to Local 188 if you haven’t been there, and if you haven’t been there in a while, make a reservation to try it again. I know I’ll be dreaming of those chicken livers until we meet again…

Our dear friends, Jen and Kyle, at Local 188

Local 188 on Urbanspoon

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