My delightful dining companion, Ms. A, was in town recently for a visit so we had a chance to try out another Portland restaurant. Our first choice was booked solid until 9:30 but Levant looked intriguing and had an earlier reservation, so we decided to check it out. What fortuitous luck – we had a wonderful adventure!
I perused the menu online when I was investigating dinner options and was intrigued by the Middle Eastern slant with with wonderful sounding ingredients. Butternut squash soup with pomegranate relish? Yes, please! The restaurant has a number of small plates, cold and hot, as well as more substantive main dishes.
We arrived at the restaurant and were seated promptly by the window near the front. We started with sublime cocktails- I had one with violet liqueur and Ms. A had the Bacall; both were pretty to look out, refreshing, and not too sweet. I can’t remember the exact ingredients, alas…
Not wanting to get too tipsy too quickly, we ordered the Fied garbanzo beans Za’art, which is an addictive little appetizer I could have just kept eating and eating. And eating. Our other starter was lamb cigars with Harissa yogurt. The Harissa sauce was thick, with a nice kick and the fried dough encrusted lamb cigars were quite good.
We had a really hard time deciding whether to go with lots of small plates or the lamb cooked 4 ways or other entree but realized we could taste more things if we had smaller plates. We ordered the fried cauliflower with tahini, brussel sprouts with lamb bacon and preserved lime, and celeriac salad with hazelnuts and parmesan. The roasted flavor of the brussel sprouts with the lamb and date infusion was really interesting, the cauliflower was good, and the celeriac salad was beautifully presented and wonderfully tasty. Somewhere along the way we ordered wine – I had the Côtes de Gascogne, Domaine Chiroulet Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc and Ms. A had the Touraine, Armance B ‘Ampelidae’. We were both pleased with our choices.
At this point our server asked us very nicely if we’d mind moving to a different table so folks with a reservation of four could use our table and the two-top next to us. It was a busy Friday night so I cut them some slack on this but I was surprised.
Once we finished our savory vegetables, we rested a bit before deciding on dessert. We were both curious about the lemon curd doughnuts with rose jam but the server’s description of the chocolate torte was too tempting to pass up. It was a flourless chocolate base with cardamon, caramel, and a pistachio crunch. It was sublime, truly sublime. We had a glass of old-style madeira with it, and enjoyed our dessert and each other’s company. What a great dinner!
This was one of my favorite meals since Ms. A and I started our dining adventures a few years ago. The flavors and tastes were fresh and interesting, and I’ll definitely go back. I found out later that our next door neighbors were celebrating a birthday there the same night but we didn’t see each other. They also enjoyed their meal very much.
I’ll definitely go back to Levant- I’m craving those garbanzo beans and want to try the lamb. In the meantime, I tried roasting some garbanzo beans with some spices and they were good but not addictively good like Levant’s.
2448 East Burnside