Around the World in 90 Minutes

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Family restaurant outings crack me up all the time—because none of us rarely agree on the same place. Either there’s too much traffic, the suggested restaurant is too “dirty”, the kids aren’t hankering after a certain cuisine or the parents are almost to the point of pleading to eat somewhere that serves rice as an inevitable staple.

Tasty n Alder, however, cinched a universal consensus for the family. My sister had discovered this gemstone on urbanspoon.com (of all places) and upon scouting the distance and online menu our entire party unanimously announced agreement. Thank goodness…I suppose we’re making progress.

This restaurant is located in downtown Portland and sports an open kitchen, sleek woodwork, and a hefty array of spirits and wines at the bar. I like how it embraces all sorts of occasions, a perfect destination for a girls’ night out, family dinner, date night, or solo enjoyment.

Tasty n Alder’s style of dining veers away from the typical “every dish for himself”, where the customers order a number of selections and share them communally. I noticed that Tasty n Alder’s menu really emphasizes diversity. There are choices from Korean bulgogi beef to halibut fish tacos. Their menu seeks to help customers embark on a tour of the world’s cultures through various cuisines, and I like how the restaurant wants to think outside the box and serve gourmet yet reasonably priced food.

I personally ordered the duck à la planche, an elegant dish of seared duck breast accompanied by sweet black cherries in a syrupy glaze and topped with crisp, curly pearl onion shavings. The duck’s texture was excellently tender and I loved its musk, rich flavor. Yet my absolute favorite of the evening was the clam chorizo. I had spied several tables ordering this and it was hilarious how all my family’s eyes popped in wonder and we craned our necks eagerly to see what it was. Turns out it was a spicy tomato and chorizo (a kind of sausage) soup with a generous helping of steamed clams in their midst and two slices of toasted bread. Dipping the bread into the soup and then following that up with a savory clam had me reaching for second and third helpings.

We also ordered the Tunisian hand-rolled couscous, Brazilian fish stew, and grilled Spanish octopus. I was a bit hesitant about the octopus—I had a sudden flash of imagining Davy Jones crying for he had lost a tentacle in his beard and then I recalled that ONE TIME in Korea when my family sat down for hot pot and the waiter dumped a live little octopus to boil. A rather unpleasant experience, that time.

So when the octopus arrived, my family and I erupted into giggle fits because it was not what we expected. One tentacle leg sat on the plate, browned and grilled to perfection—and that was it. Well, besides the little chunks of vegetables and spice on top. It just looked oddly lonely. But it was the best Spanish octopus I have ever eaten. Not chewy and squishy like when it’s boiled—this time, I’m serious—it tasted like steak, rich and hearty. The texture was like steak too, not chewy at all. Before I go into more detail and you readers start to feel squeamish, let’s just say that I wouldn’t mind eating it again. It was superb.

The couscous and Brazilian fish stew were hits as well. The coconut milk-infused soup of the fish stew and the smoky flavors of the couscous surprised me with simple yet exquisite tastes. All in all, I felt like I had gone around the world in just 90 minutes. I think Jules Verne would approve.

Address: 580 SW 12th Ave., Portland, OR 97205

Website: http://tastyntasty.com/alder/index.html

Price range: 6-25 dollars

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