Many thousands of words have been expended on the debut of the Bent Brick, Scott Dolich’s new tavern on Marshall. After an initial visit, Examiner is ready to add a few more to the total.
Scott Dolich, creator of the rightly famous and justly respected Park Kitchen, has been laboring for a while to bring his nouveau concept of a city tavern to Portland, and he finally realized it at the end of June.
After a decent interval to provide time for the staff to settle in and hit their zone, Examiner made a visit. The result: Bent Brick is a straight up experience! Whether you’re going for the food, the beverage or the conviviality, you’re going to love the place.
The cool, inviting, ‘warehouse modern’ décor is casually accessible, with the focus—as it properly should be in a tavern—on the bar, with the kitchen just behind the bar, but still highly visible in the Park Kitchen mode, and the dining room is off to the side, with an open doorway facing out on the street to link the tavern back to its surrounding neighborhood. It’s Portlandia at its most essential and elegant.
That elegance continues with the lovely curve of the bar, managed by wunderkind mixologist Adam Robinson, a cocktail magician who has managed to establish himself firmly in the fundament of the Portland cocktail scene in a brief while via the Park Kitchen. Adam has now officially moved from PK to the new Bent Brick full time, and the place fits him like a glove.
Want some advice? Go early. Bent Brick opens at 5:00pm, and it doesn’t take long at all for the bar to fill up and people to start taking over the tables. Even though it bills itself as a tavern first and a restaurant second, there’s no getting around the fact that the devoted foodies will throng to Dolich’s new place. As well they should, for the food is both unique to Dolich’s sensibilities and vision and introduces some compelling new combinations that you’ll enjoy experiencing.
The Examiner stuck with the bar menu (same as the dining menu though, as the tavern bar is full service), and the two dishes tried were both outstanding. First up was a crispy fritter stuffed with stuffed with kale and quinoa and accompanneid with a brilliantly orange carrot cream sauce, blissfully light on the oiliness and containing some intriguing textures and flavors. Second was a highly touted (the word is already out) skillet of some upscale ‘beanie weanies’, the hazelnut baked beans topped with sausage—um, that would be hazelnuts, baked as beans, a bit off the wall, but boy, does it work.
When it comes to the beverages, there are some fun twists there too. Along with the several beers on tap, there are also numerous local wines on tap (!), and a delicious, freshly-made carafe of rosé sangria that will change your mind about this standard concoction with its bright, engaging, delicious fruit and wine combination.
But it’s the cocktails the Examiner went for, so two were tried. First was a fruit-forward, slightly sweet cocktail leaning towards a punch, the “beginiing of the end”, a beguiling blend of rye whiskey, strawberry-sage shrubb, Rainier Cherry puree, and pecan praline liqueur.
The second cocktail, ‘rise to the occasion’, was an altogether and entirely different drink, a big, brooding, flavor-packed, full-on apple brandy-and-whisky driven creation that would best be described as a “serious drinker’s cocktail”. A combination of apple brandy, bourbon, vermouth, Qi black tea liqueur and Peychaud’s bitters, it’s tightly coiled, redolent of whiskey, smoke, barrel age and bitters, and gets straight to the point. It’s also delicious and compulsively sippable; a lovely testament to the days of the big, brawny style of the classic Manhattans and Sazeracs.
You should go to the Bent Brick, whether for food, drink or the Dolichian/Portlandia ambience, because all three are worth experiencing. This is an upscale tavern with an ‘edgy comfort food’ kitchen behind it; a superstar bartender running a topnotch beverage program; and an obsessively driven owner/manager doggedly pursuing his own vivid visions in a city that not only allows but encourages dangerous visions.
Bent Brick is located on 1639 NW Marshall (just on the edge of the Pearl and in the near shadow of the I405 in the Northwest/Alphabet District. Visit their website at www.bentbrick.com.