Saturday, September 11, 2010

del Inti - CLOSED

2315 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM, Wednesday through Sunday

Everyone knows that the Alberta District is one of THE places to go to in Portland, especially when you are visiting from out of the area. There are restaurants and shops lining the street from the single digits all the way down to 33rd. I could easily play tourist for a day--window shopping my way down the block and stopping for coffee once or twice--and not make it into every store. And to try each and every restaurant would take months, I'm sure. The transition that this street has gone through over the last dozen years is REMARKABLE. When I moved to Portland in 1997 to go to school (just a few blocks north at Concordia) it was a completely different place. I can actually remember participating in a service learning project where we spent the day cleaning up Alberta. It's hard to believe the change that can take place over such a short period of time.

Alberta Street is, of course, known for its Last Thursday tradition...but the art is ALWAYS accessible. There are plenty of galleries to walk through and there is also the Alberta Rose Theater. We had tickets to a taping of Live Wire! Radio last night (you should definitely get tickets, too...the season just started) and wanted to enjoy a nice dinner beforehand. Dinner, at a discounted price, during happy hour. And just a few blocks from the theater I found one of my new favorites. The cocktails are a little pricey but the food is fantastic. I know I'll be back for happy hour, but I'm also dying to try their dinner menu. As my co-blogger says, happy hour is an affordable way to try out a new place. That's why the food should be equally as good...just a little bit smaller. It's tempting that way, and we'll be more likely to return.

This new favorite of mine is called del Inti and the atmosphere alone will make you want to come back. It's beyond comfortable and the colors and decor are radiant. There were five of us sitting out on the patio on one of--what I assume to be--the last nice nights of the summer. They have an enclosed dining space but also an open patio with a fire pit close to the bar. We started with drinks and then worked our way through the entire bar menu. Almost entirely, that is.

Everything on the bar menu is discounted by one dollar between the hours of four and seven. It doesn't sound like a huge discount, but considering the quality of the ingredients and the care involved in preparation, I'd say that it's listed at the right value. Most food items are priced between one and six dollars with the exception of the ceviches which range from seven to nine. The cocktails are still a bit spendy, but the same discount applies to beer and wine giving you the option for a far less expensive beverage.

I first ordered a cocktail with a strong passionfruit base. I was a little concerned (after trying Stoli passionfruit vodka last Spring) and asked far too many questions of our server. He was patient with me, answered all of my questions, and--in the end--I enjoyed its refreshing flavors. It was tropical, yes, but not in the least bit artificial.

With five of us at the table, we were able to try most everything on the menu. In fact, we continued ordering more items later into the meal, forcing our server to return with additional plates repeatedly. His friendly demeanor was awfully impressive. I wasn't able to taste everything and can't say much about those items containing meat, but thought it best to include all of the pictures. The colors are vibrant and the texture of the food stands out, making it almost enough for you to know just how good the food really was.

The Papa Rellano is a fried potato croquette filled with queso fresco and raisins. It was the first to make it to the table and impressed all five of us with its presentation.

The hangar steak sandwich was larger than anticipated and enjoyed by all who tasted it.

The empanada today was stuffed with hangar steak. They take a little longer to cook but are apparently worth the wait. I hope that next time we are at del Inti there will be a vegetarian option as well.

Padron peppers drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper seem awfully simple but come packed with flavor.

And the Anticuchos, which are skewered and grilled. The choices listed on the menu include chicken with a sweet aji panca sauce or beef heart served with ocopa sauce and salsa criolla.

I ordered two items--both priced at five dollars--from the happy hour food menu. The first to arrive at the table was the Ensalada de Quinoa. Topped with frisee, the quinoa was mixed with olives, cucumber, green onion, corn, and green beans, and was formed into a perfect cylinder for an impressive presentation. There was a light vinaigrette that added just a hint of garlic but the majority of the flavors came from the fresh ingredients.

To accompany the salad, I ordered a bowl of the gazpacho. It was made of cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and peppers and included basil, garlic and cilantro. The flavors melded well with one another and the texture was at its best. The soup was topped with a toasted crostini that had a spread of goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Of all the other plates at the table, it was the Tequenos that I liked the most. In fact, after only getting one of the six from the first plate, I suggested that we order a second. They are wonton wrappers, filled with queso fresco and fried to a golden brown. They are served with an avocado dipping sauce but don't really need any extra flavors to make them the perfect treat.

Before we left for the show, I ordered a second drink. This time, I went with the blueberry mojito. Many at the table were eying that option when we first arrived and so I promptly passed the drink around the table when it was delivered. It was a big hit with everyone at the table but my boyfriend who found it to be a bit too minty. I enjoyed the flavors and appreciated the fresh fruit.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets


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