EVO is another Mediterranean joint that opened a few months ago in Portland. Located in the new Hyatt on the corner of Fore and Union, they add themselves to at least two other new Mediterranean eateries competing for Portland’s hungry restaurant patrons. While EVO seemed to only have bars available to eat at based on an external view of the inside, we made reservations for four and were led to a seemingly secret upstairs which had a few tables, was somewhat secluded, and offered a great view of Fore St. It was an immediate relief since we were dining with friends.
My wife and I were given one big, multi-page menu with food, wine, and spirit sections. The waitress pointed out that spirits were in the back; I suppose they were saving the best for last. I also noticed some food definitions at the beginning to help those not completely schooled in Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean foodstuffs. As we looked at the menu, we both found a cocktail that suited our fancy. She went with the Resurgam – Sailor Jerry Rum, blueberry-lavender shrub, and lime soda. I selected The Minotaur – Vida Mezcal, mango, lime, chili, cilantro. The name sounded more manly than even the most manly of drinks, but the contents had both manly and feminine qualities – a gender fluid cocktail you might say. We placed our orders and waited for our friends.
The cocktails came out and we had a sip. Mrs. Portlandeater enjoyed hers and I loved mine. The combination of the mezcal and chili threw me on the floor and Ronda Rousey’d me into submission. The drink was bad ass, but I should note that there was certainly no cilantro in it which was a little disappointing, but not a fatal flaw by any means. After a few sips, our counterparts showed up and ordered two different drinks of their own.
Once we all settled in and everyone received their drinks, we started to talk sustenance and what would best provide that. EVO serves small plates, so typically three to four would serve an average person. We decided to share plates and started with Crushed Walnut Muhammara – Garlic Matzo, Roasted Peppers, and Armenian Spices. It didn’t take long and we had our first plate. We all dug in with the Matzo scooper. It was delicious. As soon as I had a bite, I was reminded that I had recently tried this elsewhere. The walnut, red pepper, and spice combo struck up a flavor reminiscent of roasted red pepper hummus. The matzo was an excellent base.
Muhammara was consumed with a fervor last seen when Beavis became Cornholio, requiring extra Matzo to finish the walnut concoction. As we worked toward the end of our plate, we discussed other food options. Having eaten from the vegetarian section already, we looked at the fish and meat sections for ideas. After discussing our individual desires in the way of menu matters, we placed our orders.
We patiently awaited our food and cuddled with our napkins while discussing the Martian political system. Before long, our food began to make it’s way toward our table. My wife had ordered the Crab Falafel – Crispy Crab Dumplings, Avocado Garlic Whip. Next up was Pork Shoulder Shawarma – Shaved Roasted Pork Shoulder, Garlic Whip, Scallions, Markook Mountain Bread. After a short time, two different types of meatballs made their way over – Duck Kebab Keraz – Duck Meatballs, Sour Cherries Cilantro, Radicchio Kabis – and Kibbe Bi Liban – Beef Meatballs, Warm Yogurt, Mint Aleppo. Lastly, I had ordered Seared Scallops – Cauliflower, Golden Raisin, Kabis Molokhia Chips.
I eyed all the food, letting it know who was in charge and ordered a Dark Sky – Espolon Reposado, cardamaro, punt y mes, cherry bitters – to replace my now empty The Minotaur. One other drink order was placed and we moved on to some food tasting. I tried a piece of the pork shoulder which was essentially a small wrap. It was delicious, with a ton of flavor, but not overly sweet like you might get from a BBQ pork. The meat was very tender. As someone who is particular about his pork, I can vouch for this one.
Because I’m not a falafel fan, I skipped it, but the table seemed to enjoy the fried balls of crab. While they did that, I rudely reached across the table to get a ball of my own, scooping up a duck meatball. They were soft, sweet, and yummy. Again, I’m sort of tepid on duck, but if it’s done right, I can swing it. This one was good with the perfect meat to non-meat ratio and a little zesty flavor. I found it pleasing to my palate and being a bit sweeter, was a good contrast to the pork.
Not satisfied with only one ball, I went for a second, deftly maneuvering for a beefy sphere. I bit into it and was intrigued for a couple reasons. The meatball was good – not as sweet as the duck, more meaty, and just as flavorful. I also liked the fact that it was completely different than the duck with different texture, completely different flavor profile, and even a somewhat different presentation. The dark, sweet sauce base of the duck was replaced in favor of the more mild, light, warm yogurt for the beef.
Last up for me to try were the scallops. They struck me as odd because they appeared to have foamy dish soap on them, but a bite of one confirmed that there were no errant cleaning products included in the plate. The foam was food. Though I’m not exactly sure what it was made of, It seemed to work just fine with the scallops and they were outstanding. All the extras on the plate worked quite well together, leading to a very pleasant scallop scrum.
With no plans beyond our visit to EVO, we took our time finishing the food and decided to call it a night as opposed to ordering another round. The food was really good and came to about 180 nuggets after tip. That included six drinks and 6 plates. It wasn’t inexpensive, but EVO came through, providing us with serious, quality food. Portland now has another Mediterranean place that will pump you full of awesome vittles with a great atmosphere and excellent service. It’s getting tougher by the day to choose where eat, but I think that’s a good problem to have.