French-Arabesque Levant Opens

Levant RestaurantI’m feeling human again, so it’s back to the news! The first thing that caught my eye is the opening of Levant, a restaurant that sounds really interesting. Here is the press release:

A new addition to the Rose City’s burgeoning restaurant scene is Levant, a French-Arabesque restaurant serving representations of Middle Eastern Dishes in the heart of Portland, Oregon.

Located at 2448 East Burnside, Levant is a 50-seat escape with a full bar and open hearth for cooking rich, Middle Eastern Cuisine. Chef-owner Scott Snyder, whose family and culinary history inspired him to open the restaurant, uses his French technical background while cooking with traditional North African and Middle Eastern spices and meats.

A glimpse of what’s in store for future Levant diners: small plates like grilled sweetbreads with pomegranate glaze, marash pepper and an orange and kohlrabi salad excite while larger plates like charmoula marinated sturgeon with farro and a sunchoke purée dazzle. A nine-item cocktail menu also highlights Middle Eastern spices and flavors — with cardamom, sumac, salep, and tumeric making appearances. The wine list offers more than 80 options by the bottle — ranging from $30 to $130 ­— with five more available by the half-bottle.

For Snyder, the opening of Levant is a journey that’s come full-circle. When young, he developed his taste while spending summers in both the Puget Sound area of Seattle and with his aunt and uncle in Tennessee. Snyder recalls foraging for fresh berries that his grandmother eventually turned into cobbler in the small town of Home, WA. As he grew older, Snyder honed his culinary skills at San Francisco hotspots Jardiniere and Postrio. In Portland, he worked in Wildwood’s kitchen before the opportunity arose for him to start Levant.

Details: Levant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5-10pm. 2448 East Burnside, Portland 97214. Phone: 503-954-2322.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Jane says

    Food dude the phone number in your review is incorrect. Should be 503-954 -2322. Trying out Levant tonight for our anniversary dinner. Have heard good things and have traveled to the Middle East so we’re looking forward to the meal! Thanks

  2. Jill-O says

    Unbelievable how great it is (food AND service), considering they have been open for less than 2 weeks. Had a really delicious and interesting meal here last week – highly recommended.

  3. Jill-O says

    Sure, my GF Sue and I had:

    Drinks:
    Middle Eastern Standard- Bourbon, Tamarind, Orgeat Orange, Lemon $8
    Black Lime Rum $5

    Small plates/apps:
    Spicy Morrocan Carrot Salad, Black Olive, Parsley 10
    Fried Anchovies, Fennel, Meyer Lemon Aleppo Pepper Emulsion 9
    Braised Veal Breast, Prune, Ras el Hanout Celery Root, Tahina 15
    Tongue and Tail Crepinette, Braised Savoy Cabbage Brown Butter Hummus 15

    Entree:
    Hearth Roasted Lamb, White Bean, Dried Apricot, Yogurt 24

    …plus 2 glasses of wine, a cup of coffee, and the semolina cake dessert…total tab was $117. Completely worth it, definitely a good value for the quality of ingredients, skill of the prep, awesome service, and interesting dishes. Very nice space, comfortable seating, tables not all on top of each other, beautiful flatware, great glassware…a lot of thought and effort went into this place.

    The Middle Eastern Standard cocktail I had was beautifully balanced, a touch of tamarind to provide a bit of earthy tang, that wonderful almondy flavor of orgeat I love so freakin’ much and the brightness of citrus – served on the rocks with a great candied ginger slice garnish. The mini cocktails are 2oz or so pours of infused liquor with garnish. Sue’s Black Lime Rum (with a healthy piece of fresh orange) was not my thing at all, but she loved it.

    I asked about the squid on the menu, specifically what the zhoug was – it’s a condiment made with peppers (either green or red, here it’s green and made with serrano chiles) and herbs…including cilantro…which I do not eat (it makes me gag). I realized then that I needed to ask what had cilantro in it and what didn’t, since the menu was not telling me that. So I explained to our server that I hate and won’t eat cilantro…and I asked about the dishes overall and she went back to the kitchen and asked. Then she came back and warned me against the squid as it had cilantro in the stuffing, in the beans, and it was also in the zhoug. She also said that the sturgeon would be a bad choice for me as well. Damn, I really appreciate that.

    I decided to do more small plates and no entree, Sue is a HUGE lamb freak and decided to share the carrots and anchovies and have the lamb as her main (with a taste of the crepinette).

    The carrot salad was a plate of room temp. roasted carrots on a carrot puree with herbs and chopped oil cured olives and garnished with yogurt. Simple and delicious.The anchovies were lightly coated and fried and the fennel was also very lightly battered and fried and was deliciously juicy inside with a crisp exterior and the Aleppo pepper flavored mayo was addictive. It was every bit as good as the Toro Bravo version which is very similar.

    The nose and tail crepinette was lamb, very finely chopped and made into a loose patty held together (I think) with caul fat, on top of braised cabbage on a ridiculously rich and delicious bed of brown butter hummus. YUM!! So good. It is a small serving, but it is a complete plate, with every part working together to create a rich and delicious whole. Our excellent server Maggie asked the kitchen to hold back the firing of my veal so it would arrive with Sue’s lamb main course, which was a very nice touch.

    OMG the veal. I miss veal – so very rarely see it here in Portland on a menu. This was some stellar veal breast…baby brisket, very tender. It was a small portion, but again, it was a complete plate with the celery root puree and the prunes (which added a nice sweetness to the dish). It was comforting and delicious and I could eat a much larger portion of that. Here’s hoping that might come on future menus as an entree. Nice balance, beautiful plating…I’m still drooling thinking about it.

    Sue had the lamb which was a very impressive plate. It was basically lamb 4 ways – chop, shoulder, leg, and sausage over beans. The leg is cooked hanging in front of the open wood-fired oven/hearth and they give it a spin and it slowly twirls and cooks. Sue was hypnotized by it, I think. ;o) It was delicious for lamb, but lamb is just not my thing. It was most definitely Sue’s thing…she was kind of autistically rocking with sheer pleasure over how delicious it was.

    We asked about wine pairings, and there are a lot of varietals represented on the menu that I had never heard of – some interesting stuff. We couldn’t decide, not knowing the wines, and so we were brought small tastes of two wines each…so nice. And we both enjoyed our glasses. Glass pours are in the $9-$14 or so range and there is a nice short sherry list as well. Sorry, I didn’t take notes about the wines.

    I ordered the lemon semolina cake for dessert. It was a kind of basbousa, but very dense and in the shape of a roll, covered with crushed pistachios, with a nice little pile of various citrus sections alongside. Light and delicious…

    This place is special and the food is delicious and it’s worth bit of a splurge (for me anyway, $100/couple is a bit of a splurge). In other cities, you’d be paying $200/couple, so a bit over $100/couple seems like a steal. The entrees are very reasonably sized (sharing the lamb entree is definitely possible, it’s quite a plate) but the smaller plates are definitely app sized…they will add up. It’s in the same range as Ava Gene’s, IMO.

    Chatted with the chef and he said that planned for the future is: happy hour, brunch service, multi-course chef’s tasting menu (possibly at it’s own chef’s table)

    Git yer ass over there, good stuff to be had!! ;o)

      • Jill-O says

        You are welcome!

        This was a modfied version of my PFG.org post. There are some pics over there too that I posted, if you are interested…not great ones, but they give you the general idea.

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