Raising the Bar
On 551 Congress Street, Nosh becomes posh at the new “Kitchen Bar.”
By Diane Hudson
Walking into Nosh, on the corner of Congress and Oak streets in Portland, my partner whispered “beer and skittles” upon seeing the dozen or so copper tables on the left and 20-seat bar opposite. No fewer than three flat-screen sports television screens above the bar did nothing to alleviate our initial apprehension about what we’d looked forward to as a gastronomically adventurous evening.
Consider our joy, then, to discover (beyond some exotic, inventive varieties of burgers) charcuterie among the delicacies: artisan cheeses, raw oysters, white anchovies, cured arctic char, an engaging assortment of vegetables, and hand-rolled African cous cous? The tantalizing plate also whetted our appetites with Piedmont-style salami, rich roast Porchetta, and a most robust pork lardo garnished with just the right herbs, extra virgin olive oil, pickled beets and onions, delicious apricot mustarda, and moderately hot red and green peppers. Superb, and only $10.
Enjoying the rich flavors, we treated ourselves to the fois gras next and found it a tender and succulent treat, prepared to perfection ($12).
Next up, we tacked into the tuna carpaccio ($7), zesty with a brilliant accompaniment of fennel citrus salad. The tuna was sliced so it emboldened us into adding an order of Nosh’s famous fries ($5). The tuna and fennel were palate great. But the fries–the kind of food we’d so studiously avoided since arriving, did us in, especially dipped into the accompanying rich and delectable blue cheese sauce.
There was no room for the duck leg confit ($5) we desired, nor for the herbed gnocci baked in tomato sauce with ricotta cheese ($7) we desperately wanted to try. My partner had to have something sweet and small to complete his evening and ordered the coconut-chocolate caramel bar, topped with a huge dollop of good whipped cream.
My countdown to ecstasy involved an amazing mound of duck prosciutto, its briny flavors complemented with a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar and juniper berries. I am so happy I didn’t quit while I was ahead!
“Beer and skittles?” Well, perusing the bill might still conjure up that thought, if you didn’t look closely at the ingredients. This extraordinary experience was also very affordable: $80 including tip and a $26 bottle of Sonoma Junction Cabernet Sauvignon.