A Taste of Portland
A few weeks ago, we read about The Beagle, a new restaurant in the East Village.
The menu and concept (is it a restaurant with great cocktails or a cocktail bar with good food?) were immediately appealing to us, but we were especially intrigued when we learned that The Beagle’s owner, Matt Piacentini, is the co-owner of Clyde Common, the restaurant in Portland, Oregon’s Ace Hotel.
We love the Ace and Portland has been on our trip radar for awhile now, so we headed over to The Beagle to see what we have to look forward to when we make it out West again.
The space is really well-done, without feeling precious or overly kitschy like so many new restaurants in the city are. The walls are a deep, lush blue, paired with crisp white paneling and European-styled light fixtures and dining tables. The Beagle is small, but not at all cramped—in fact, it’s one of the few restaurants of its kind where you could easily take more than four people.
Since they really tout their cocktails, we spent entirely too much time poring over their very thorough and creative drink menu.
We eventually settled, but it wasn’t without great debate. Ryan got the Queimada Swizzle—a take on our favorite, the Queen’s Park Swizzle—made with Rhum Agricole, lime juice, orgeat and pineapple, and I had the Daisy de Santiago, a refreshing, tart blend of white rum, lime juice, yellow Chartreuse, and chilled seltzer (served from one of those great antique bottles).
A final drink, the Prince of Wales, combined rye whiskey, maraschino liqueur, champagne, pineapple and angostura bitters.
While the drinks themselves hinted at the impending summer, the blue-and-white striped paper straws gave me an immediate rush of sandy beaches, salty hair, and scorching sun.
Our first “tidbit” plate continued my summer flashback: mini-corns, skewered, and slathered with mayonnaise, lime and cilantro. There isn’t too much to say about that plate, because, really, what could possibly be wrong with that combination?
The next dish was equally successful. Bitter radicchio came together with rich blue cheese, thick-cut bacon, briny Castelvetrano olives and the nutty crunch of farro.
We shared another small plate—the squid. The tender squid packed a punch, as they were served with green chilies and prosciutto, atop a bed of crisp frisee. Squid is one of those things that is so easily overcooked, so it’s always nice when it melts in your mouth.
My favorite course of the evening (Ryan’s, too!) was the confit pork cheek, a large plate that we also shared. The pork cheek was served with braised pork belly, applesauce and a pork reduction.
The cheek was beyond juicy and fork-tender—it’s easily one of the top five best things I’ve eaten this year. The pork reduction was tangy and the applesauce mellowed everything out with its mild sweetness.
I’ve also neglected to mention the broccolini it was served with. I’ve been enjoying the beautiful yellow-budded broccolini at the greenmarket recently and The Beagle did it full justice—the tops and stalks were crisp and the yellow flowers added some great floral notes.
For dessert, we shared the chocolate custard with grapefruit and crispy cornflakes. This was also fantastic—the grapefruit was fresh and tart, the cornflakes were indeed crispy, and the chocolate was rich without being too sweet. It was almost like eating a chilled ganache, which I’ve admittedly done in my own kitchen on more than one occasion.
The Beagle impressed us every level—our server was attentive and friendly, the space feels excellent and the food matches up.
If you find yourself in the East Village, or are simply in need of somewhere new to try, head over to Avenue A. (And be sure to report back and tell us what you think!)