WHAT A DELICIOUS dinner, ending a day that began uncomfortably in the dentist's chair. We decided to eat out at a place new to us, not too far away; and we ate quite late, so had the place pretty well to ourselves toward the end of the meal, and could converse.
The cuisine is Spanish, and the rather small menu is divided into categories I mostly don't know: tapas, chesa, brasa, paellas… but our waiter was friendly and enlightening, and I was able to avoid the many dishes with crustacea and still build a very nice dinner indeed.
I began with papas bravas, of course: small twice-fried (I think) potatoes, served with a thick and flavorful ali-oli type sauce. I had to share this with my three table-mates, but was able to retaliate, spearing some of their porcini croquettes.
Next, I had the lion's share of a plate of Butifarra, pork sausage with garbanzo stew and pipars-shallot picada I have no idea what much of this means, but I'm here to tell you this is an incredibly savory dish, piquant, rich, balanced, and arresting, one of the best things I've tasted recently.
I shared that dish around, and was fairly generous with the next: lamb shank with celery-root purée and sherry-preserved onions. This was an Iberian version of Richard Olney's famous lamb shank recipe, the meat, on the bone, cooked for a long time, slowly, with herbs and wine. Alas the bone was innocent of marrow, or at least access to it: but the meat was succulent, falling away from the bone; its sauce reduced to a demi-glace deep and rich with flavor.
Still, there was room for dessert. I had Torta de Aceite: "cranberry compote, orange cream, black sesame tortas, honey buttermilk ice cream." This was one of the finest desserts I've had in years. The tortas were somewhat puffed up, two or three inches square, tasting of deep fry and cinnamon-sugar; the orange cream easily stood up to them; and the ice cream was superb.
This place is a real find; I hope we return to it regularly.
•Chesa, 2218 NE Broadway, Portland; +1 (503) 477-9521