I’m compulsive about restaurant news. Everything that sounds remotely interesting ends up in files for future reference. One file is full of random places that sound interesting, restaurants I should check out some day. Last week I reached in and randomly pulled out a review from the Tribune for Noche, a new bar/restaurant in the old Jazz de Opus space in old town. I liked the fact they are open until 4:00 am, a good place to go late at night after one to many cocktails before walking the short distance home.
Being a busy night for restaurants, and prime time on top of that, a faint alarm bell rang in my brain when we entered and only one table was occupied. This was surprising, because the interior was pretty nice. It was obvious they spent good money on the decor, though I’m not going to waste time describing it here.
We ordered margaritas as we perused the menu, and when they arrived so un-balanced our mouths puckered trying to get them down, we should have gotten up and left. Unfortunately, we stayed.
The menu bills itself as “Latin-Fusion”. It didn’t seem all that fusion to me, though there were a few strange things such as oyster enchiladas and bacon-wrapped poppers. We decided to stick to more traditional fare on the first visit, and ordered some basic dishes which are a good test of how hard a restaurant is trying.
First up was a soup: a somewhat greasy broth that tasted distinctly of the canned variety. It was accompanied with a plate of things to sprinkle over it “to our taste”. A small wedge of lime looked like it had been left over from the bar the previous weekend: it had taken on that dehydrated, wrinkled texture, and had about an eighth of a teaspoon of juice. A small pile of chopped onions had the same desiccated look. Finally, a tiny pile of cilantro was more like sawdust; devoid of flavor and any characteristics that might indicate it had ever been a living thing. A plate of tortillas accompanied the soup; so stale one cracked when I attempted to roll it up, so chewy I could only eat a few bites before discarding it.
By then it was too late to walk out, so we bravely plunged ahead. The Caesar salad dressing tasted like it was out of the generic bin at a dollar store. The salad itself was covered with strips of tortilla that were pretty good, but I could barely get through them to find the greens. Then came enchiladas. My party argued over what brand of canned sauce had been used, and settled on Mission. They weren’t quite heated through, cheese in middle was still rather cool.
Should I go on? If this hasn’t been enough to dissuade you, let’s talk about the taco plate. Two huge tacos looked pretty good. Unfortunately they were wrapped in the same stale tortillas as were used in the other dishes. Flavor was noticeably absent. They were accompanied by a pool of refried beans totally lacking in texture or taste, and a rice that tasted as if it was the ‘boil-in-a-bag” variety.
The last dish we tried was a quesadilla, something that is nearly impossible to mess up. They actually did a decent job; I could see craving it after a few stiff drinks. Unfortunately, once again it was the stale tortillas that were stiff, and we hadn’t dared order another margarita.
For this amount of Mexican food including just two drinks, we paid over $50.00. Next time I get a late night craving, I’ll head straight to Taco Bell, and get arguably better food for 1/4 the price. At this point, Noche is firmly on my not-recommended list.
0 stars out of a possible 4:
Address: 210 NW Couch St, Portland (Where Jazz de Opus used to be)
My thanks to Marty Smith at the Portland Tribune for turning me on to this place.
Full disclosure: I broke my 3x rule and only went here once. Life is too short.