We Eat All of the Asian-Accented Bar Snacks at Expatriate in Portland, OR
At her highly regarded Portland restaurant Beast, chef Naomi Pomeroy is known for a sophisticated French-accented prix fixe menu that changes by the week. But when Pomeroy and her cocktail maestro husband, Kyle Linden Webster, took over the bar space across the street from Beast, they looked beyond Europe for menu inspiration, traveling to Southeast Asia this winter to research the colorful flavors of Thailand and Burma (Pomeroy has also clocked considerable mileage in India). So while the appropriately-named Expatriate focuses primarily on cocktails (check them out here), there's also a full menu of South Asian-inflected "drinking snacks" to pair with the beverages.
The flavors are not for the timid—this is tongue-busting fare; spicy, salty, sweet, and sour, sometimes all at once—but even deep-fried dishes (of which there are several) are shot through with a fresh crunch of raw herbs or pickled vegetables. It takes a skilled hand to keep all of those loud flavors in check, and while the food at Expatriate is bold, it's still balanced. Nothing here is presented as particularly traditional, and it's not meant to be. These are just well-crafted, highly craveable bar bites that pair well with the long, late nights that Expatriate is preternaturally conducive to.
An impartial review of the food is tricky for me since I'm friendly with the couple, so instead I took it upon myself to order every single thing on the menu (hey, it's called research) and ask the chef to walk me through the creation of each dish. Check it all out in the slideshow.