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Decanting with Delkin
Latin Cuisine Expands
Eastward in PDX

By Fred Delkin

Upscale yet reasonably-priced southwest cuisine has established a second Portland outpost, flying in the face of a general malaise in the dining industry. The Matador chain, founded in Seattle in 2004, arrived in northwest Portland in 2007 and opened a second establishment here in Janurary on East Burnside. We attended the opening of this latest arrival and came away impressed with decor, service and the food & beverage choices.

Founded in Seattle's Ballard district, the chain now has two Seattle outlets, plus operations in Redmond, WA, Tacoma and the Portland pair. The atmosphere claims to be
"haciends-inspired" and includes a central oversized open fire pit blazinag away. Tabletops are hand-crafted fifnlaid tile creations and wrought iron metalwork abounds throughout. Owners Zak Melang and Nate Opper both claim Tex-Mex connoisseurship bolstered by construction design experience.

Executive chef Rodel Borremeo has crafted an imaginative menu and has a laudable
background supervising two outstanding Seattle area kitchens, Ray's Boathouse and Caf‚'
Juanita in Kirkland. He cites blackened Ahi Tuna with Green Apple Slaw and Goat
cheese-stuffed Jalapenos as his particular favorites. We applaud the Dungeness Crab
Cakes, quite moist and enlivened with minced Habanero peppers and a Coconut-Pineapple
flavored cream sauce. The Caarne Asada Skirt Steak is superbly tender after marinating for
hours. Braised Carnitas are slow-cooked shredded Pork with a tasty blend of spices and
served with Black Beans, Salsa, Sour Cream and Tortillas for wrapping. Habanero
Enchiladas come with a choice of fillings and a fiery Salsa and a side of Guacamole with
garlic-infused Sour Cream.

Tequila, Beers abound

The Matador outlets boast a very extensive Tequila collection. There are no less than 90
label selections, with the top end bottlings priced up to $100 per serving, though you can
scratch your fermented cactus juice itch for far less. Beer offerings emphasize Northwest
microbrews on tap, but if you must carry through in Tex-Mex brew style, the most popular
Mexican bottlings are on call.

Happy Hour calls the after-work crowd daily from 4-6 p.m., and renews bargain bites from
10 p.m.-1 a.m. Food items for these hours are priced $4.00 or $5.00 and continuw the
southwestern theme with Chicken or Shrimp Quesaadillas, Spicy fried Calamari rings,
Habanero Prawns, Chipotle Chicken Wings, Casa del Matador Chili, Tex-Mex Spring Rolls and Beer-battered Shrimp Tacos.

Desserts are limited, but we can recommend a Banana-filled pastry fried & topped with
toasted Coconut Ice Cream an a Pineapple/Rum Caramel sauce.

In summary, we find the Matador offerings to be a solution to ease the pain from the financial meltdown no federal government solutions will assuage any time soon, despite the assurances from the Messiah Obama and Lady Pelosi.


© 2009 Oregon Magazine