While in Portland for the Wine Tourism Conference, we had the opportunity to visit The Bent Brick for a restaurant review. We were pretty excited about it, as the restaurant is serious about sourcing locally for both their food and wine. Definitely something we support wholeheartedly. The other thing was the innovative menu -- lots of familiar and unfamiliar items, paired together or prepared in unusual ways. Always a good sign.
The restaurant is located in a beautiful old brick building, with outdoor seating that sparkled with lights and was nicely landscaped, though unfortunately it was too cool to experience. Walking in, the room opens up, with a Jenga-type sculpture in the corner that could serve as a waiting area or a more private place to drink and chat. The bar and kitchen sit in a corner of the building, with the kitchen partially open behind the bar. The decor is comfortable and youthful, though more hearkening back to youth rather than being young. Whoever put the album covers on the walls behind the bar (and CD covers in the bathroom upstairs) must be similar to me in age, as many of the items were from my own musical youth. The music playing was also to my taste, with a good mix of classics and alternative, keeping it familiar and upbeat. Plenty of space between the tables meant that, even as the place filled up, it never got too loud, but there was always a healthy buzz.
Keeping it as local as possible with the wines, we enjoyed the NV Treveri Sparkling Pinot Gris (WA), 2011 Boedecker Rosé (OR), and 2012 Whoa Nelly Pinot Noir (OR), an urban winery right there in Portland. It is so great to see a restaurant wholeheartedly support nearby wineries, both in the restaurant and with their take-out option. You can bring your own empty bottle or borrow one from the restaurant ($1 deposit) to fill with any of their wines - a great benefit to having the wines on tap.
I felt brave and ordered the BBQ Sweetbreads (with bacon braised hazelnuts, treviso, and chippolini), because if anything can make something more palatable, it's barbecue sauce. This was definitely a good attempt, and I enjoyed it to a point, but ultimately the texture of the sweetbreads just didn't do it for me. If you've never had sweetbreads, I definitely recommend this as your first essay, if you're as unsure as I was. Laima opted for the Sauerkraut Pierogies (with lobster mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, and radish), nicely done, especially with the interesting accompaniments. Lots of contrasting textures and flavors.
I couldn't decide between The Hamburger Dog (with cheese, bent brick sauce, and relish) or the Buffalo Chicken Sausage (with carrots, celery, and blue cheese dressing), so I had both! Kind of strange that one comes on a bun and the other without, but there you have it. Either is worth ordering and, if you're like me, order some extra buffalo sauce with that option, which wasn't quite spicy enough for my taste. When Laima wavered about trying the Cocoa Braised Beef Cheeks (with sauerkraut, beets, and horseradish cream), our server (also the Bar Manager) told her that if Laima didn't like it, she'd eat it herself and bring something else for her to try. No worries there - while the cocoa didn't make much of an appearance, the beef was to her liking and beets are always good to include.
On the side we tried their Charred Brussels Sprouts, very tasty if you're a fan, and I definitely am. The other side, while very tasty, was so similar to the Bacon Braised Hazelnuts I had with the sweetbreads that I wished I had tried another item. Duck Fat JoJos with ranch sound really good, as do the Ham Potatoes Au Gratin.
You can't go wrong with either the Chocolate Pudding Cake with Salt and Straw malted buttermilk ice cream (from a local producer) or the Huckleberry Icebox Cake with hazelnut brittle. What you'll have to do without, however, is an espresso drink after dinner, as the restaurant unfortunately doesn't have that option. This is a minor negative in an otherwise outstanding finish to the meal.
The Bent Brick definitely has the feel of a local hangout - it's noisy (in a good way), offers an inventive and fun menu, mostly locally sourced, along with a good wine list, then wraps it up with great service and a cool atmosphere. This a great place to go with friends, for a romantic dinner or to impress someone without being snooty.
Disclaimer: This meal was provided for review purposes.
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