Having woken up quite early for our day of shopping at Woodburn yesterday, this was our day to sleep in. I planned this long before we left for Portland and had made a reservation at Andina via Opentable. Hey, efficient and effective eating takes planning! This particular restaurant was recommended by Elizabeth Fuss (Lizzy Dishes Portland) and also happens to be the top rated restaurant in Portland according to Urbanspoon. As you can imagine, we had high hopes prior to our visit. This may be the kiss of death because it is not often anything ever lives up to the hype. Well, the Bacon Maple Bar at Voodoo sure did. You see, I'm still thinking about it!!!
Andina is located in the Pearl district in Downtown Portland. It's got this Soho-like vibe with its old brick buildings and converted warehouses. We had arrived a bit early and decided to take a short stroll around. Viv grabbed the camera and shamelessly started taking pictures of random restaurants. Uh... is this insane picture taking contagious? I even felt a bit uneasy about it. When it was time to head over to Andina, I hurried Viv along and away from her picture-taking. As requested in my reservation, we were seated at a window seat with excellent lighting. Good picture taking lives and dies by the availability or absence of soft lighting.
The menu at Andina is heavily focused on Peruvian tapas. There are a few entrees; but the thing here is to share. The tapas come in 3 sizes - small ($8.50), medium ($16.00) and large ($29.00). We selected 3 small tapas plates and one entree to share. First off was the complimentary bread which has to be probably the best we've ever had. Sure, the bread was soft with a perfectly crusty exterior. Yet, it was the 3 accompanying sauces that really impressed. The most mild sauce consisted of garlic and cheese. The medium sauce was a combination of passion fruit and chilies, while the spiciest was made up of Jalapenos, mint, cumin and garlic. Viv loved the tartness of the passion fruit while I couldn't stop dipping my bread into the spicy green sauce.
The Choros a la Chalaca was the first dish to arrive. It consisted of mussels cooked in white wine on the half-shelf dressed with tomato-corn salsa. Visually stunning, the mussels were absolutely scrumptious. A beautiful marriage of flavours and textures from the sweet crunchy corn to the tart soft tomatoes. A truly simple dish with complex flavours. From flavour explosion, we move onto something a bit more subtle. The Conchas a la Parilla or grilled diver scallop was a very delicate dish. A single large diver scallop rested on a garlic lime butter sauce hidden within fried onions. With this dish, we paid for quality over quantity. However, the one scallop was quite large. The scallop itself was barely cooked; if not a bit rare, which was perfect in this case. The delicate sauce complimented the naturally sweet scallop without upstaging it.
Our 3rd tapas was the Empanadas Caseras de Carne which were essentially fried flaky pastries filled with beef, raisins and Botija olives. Not oily and steaming hot, the empanadas were indeed flaky. The filling was soft and the flavours were well-balanced. The olives and raisins acted as effective flavour contrasts. The entree we selected was the Arroz con Maricos or seafood paella. With aji panca (Peruvian red pepper) infused rice, the dish was not devoid of seafood. A bounty of shrimp and scallops were nestled within the al dente rice topped off with 2 pieces of halibut. The rice was delicately seasoned while the shrimp and scallops were cooked just right. However, the halibut was a bit overdone and a bit bland.
I'm no expert when it comes to Peruvian cuisine; but if the food at Andina is any indication, I would like to sample more. The flavour profile of each dish was well-thought out and everything was cooked with attention to detail. The ambiance and decor helped enhance the dining experience while the service was top-notch. Did Andina live up to our lofty expectations? I would say unequivocally yes.
- Great decor, ambiance and service
- Great tasting food
- A good selection of tapas
- Can get expensive if you order lots (if you are big eater, you will order lots)