Note: this restaurant is now closed
I thought food writing would be easy. I would go to a restaurant three times, write a thoughtful, yet witty review, and be done with it. This has not yet proven to be the case. Sometimes the restaurant makes it hard on me “I want to like it, but due to the food or service issues, I just can’t. However, Patanegra is one of the easy ones.
Okay. I admit it. I’m biased. I like Patanegra, just as I liked its predecessor, Tapeo. When Ricardo Segura opened Patanegra in the spring of 2005, I think we showed up the opening weekend. While enjoyable, I initially missed Tapeo. Some of my favorites were tweaked just enough to be disappointing. Now I think Patanegra has finally come into its own.
Tucked away on 23rd Place and Thurman, the restaurant is warm and inviting. The wood bar means you’ll have a place to sit and drink a glass of excellent Spanish wine while you wait, and the open kitchen showcases giant paella pans that apparently can accommodate paella for 300. Take out, anyone? Actually, you CAN get it to go if you want, although I would imagine arrangements would have to be made in advance for the larger quantities. It can get noisy, especially on a busy Saturday night. But the waitstaff is friendly and knowledgeable, particularly about the extensive wine list.
The menu is divided twice, and then twice again. You can either go the paella route with salad or soup or order from the list of tapas frias y tapas calientes. Paella is such a labor intensive dish that few restaurants can do it even passably well. They carry it off admirably. Occasionally, its been slightly chewy, especially on a busy night. Yet a recent paella Patanegra was beautifully presented and tasted as good as it looked: saffron rice studded with generous portions of fish, shrimp, clams, mussels, and rabbit. Another standout was the temera con queso cabrales (grilled steak with cabrales blue cheese). The combination of perfectly grilled steak, sweet onions, and blue cheese was delightful. As if that wasn’t enough, I kept digging through the dish of pulpo en aceite de oliva (octopus poached in olive oil, with garlic and potatoes) looking for tender chunks of octopus overlooked by my dining partners. If you like scallops, the vieras a la parilla are excellent – the Serrano ham pairs nicely with the sweet, meaty scallop.
The tortilla española, which is Spain’s most famous tapa, was good, though I wouldn’t order it again. Too quiche-like, and I’d rather fill up on the berenjena al horno: smoky roasted eggplant topped with goat cheese. Even the more obscure dishes, such as the lamb sweetbreads in a sweet, tangy oloroso reduction, are thoughtfully prepared. But for the faint of heart, the Serrano ham platter and assortment of Spanish cheeses are also a good way to go.
I’m particular about desserts. All four of the Patanegra selections are order-worthy. My favorite is the flan; rich and creamy with a slippery-sweet caramel sauce, but you can’t go wrong with the chocolate cake, the rice pudding, or the Spanish style crème brulée.
I’m also embarrassed to admit how much food we packed away on our visits. But I feel that the 3 lbs of water retention is worth it in the long run. Those of you on low-sodium, low fat diets, should probably stay away. The nice thing about the food is that a few small plates and soup or salad could fill you up. Dishes are priced from $4.50 for a small tapa up to $19.50 per person for one of the paellas. There’s such a range in all aspects, from prices to portion size, you can be assured of finding something that fits both your appetite and budget.
- Phone: 503-227-7282
- Address: 1818 NW 23rd Pl, Portland, OR 97210 (Behind St. Honore Bakery)
- Hours: Mon 5pm-10pm, Tue-Sat 5pm-11pm.
Emily James has no professional credentials in the cooking world but enjoys cooking, baking, and dining out. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in creative writing. Before becoming a full time mother of three boys, she worked as a recruiter and in the financial services industry. Currently, she also writes about food for www.OregonLive.com with Ray “Ozzie” Ozyjowski. She lives in Southwest Portland with her family.