Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cabezon Birthday Dinner

Much of last week Mike was sick with some sort of cold/flu combo. Not the best way to spend a 3-day weekend, but we made the best of it and he was well enough on Presidents' Day to enjoy a birthday dinner celebration. I'm pretty sure Mike was motivated by the fact the dinner was going to be at Cabezon Restaurant and Seafood Market. Described as a "bustling neighborhood seafood bistro" located off of not-known-for-great-restaurants-street Sandy Boulevard, Cabezon was exactly what we hoped it would be, a high-end seafood restaurant in a not high-end part of town.
Cabezon's menu changes daily according to what's fresh that day. Besides fresh seafood there was also a lamb chop and a steak available, however chicken and pork was no where to be seen, which we found very refreshing. We were here for a special birthday celebration so we decided a round of drinks and a couple of appetizers would be in order. So we started with the menu listed Basil wrapped white shrimp with green lentils, kale and romesco $11 and the special Tombo tuna salad $11. Both were delicious.
The basil wrapped white shrimp starter came with 3 large shrimps that we determined were first steamed then wrapped in basil and filo dough, then pan fried. The steaming ensured the shrimp would remain tender and the pan frying crisped up the texture. The creamy lentils were a hit as well.
Wonton Grilled Prawns
The tuna salad was light and refreshing, a nice touch to serve them on frisse greens to add a bit of spice.
Tombo Tuna Salad
For the main courses we selected a handful of dishes particular to each person's preference and shared it all. We had the House made Pate with Crostini, pickled cornichons, red onions and apples $8 and the house Mac n' Cheese with white cheddar and gruyere $7. The pate was pungent and deliciously creamy, we could eat this stuff everyday, especially if it always came with the pickled onions and apples! Coupled with the crunchy crostini, it was a dish made for sharing.
Housemade Pate Plate
The mac n' cheese on the other hand was another one of those restaurant mac n' cheese where the cork screw noodles were tossed in a cheese sauce, which broke towards the bottom of the dish. Typically not something we would order, but Dad was craving something carby and wanted to relive the mac n' cheese we made for Christmas.
Mom hadn't been feeling well either and ordered the Cioppino with white gulf shrimp, local fish, Dungeness crab, mussels, and calamari $21.50. The waiter told us this is one dish that is always on the menu so we were excited to try it. First thing we noticed was Cabezon's cioppino had a bit of cream to it, which is something we've not seen before. Then we noticed the amount of fresh seafood. The description was spot on with huge gulf shrimp, dungeness crab legs, tons of white fish, mussels, and big rings of calamari. This cioppino was the kind of seafood soup we like, one where you get your hands dirty eating it. Proper utencils were provided.
The birthday boy ordered the Grilled Washougal lamb sirloin with creamy polenta, curried vegetable tagine and lamb jus $24. Who knew our Columbia River neighbors to the north raised such wonderful tasting lamb? The portion was small, but well cooked.
Lamb Chops and Polenta
For the seafood entrees we decided on the nightly fish special of Skate fish prepared with buerre rouge on a bed of parsnips, ginger and frisse greens $24. For those of you not familar with Skate fish it is from the Rajidae fish family or sting ray family. A flat fish that looks like it was butterflied, but in actuality it is the nature of the fish. There were a few distinctive things about this dish. For one, they removed the spine and the typically crunchy bones of the delicate fish is usually enjoyed by those who choose to eat this particular fish. But we are not ones who enjoy chomping on a bunch of fish bones to savior the taste and spit out a mouthful of shredded fish bones, so it wasn't that missed by us. Another thing to note was the parsnips and ginger slices which we initially thought was small fingerling potatoes was refreshing and interesting. The spicy earthy flavors matched well with the mild white fish. Another item to note was the ends of the frisse greens were not cut. Recently while Mike was recouping on a rare Friday night in front of the tv we watch Gordon Ramsey lampoon a chef for not cutting the ends off his greens asking "how can you ensure your greens are washed properly if you don't cut the ends off your greens?" We didn't find any grit in our greens, but found it interesting they did leave the ends on, probably for presentation and easy grilling. This fish dish wasn't anything we couldn't have made at home, however the time consuming removal of the skate fish spine and well thought out and cooked veggies and greens was something we wouldn't have done.
Skate Fish Special
With Cabezon being a seafood restaurant the dish of the night, in our humble opinion, was the Mussels with Borlotti beans, Spanish chorizo, fries and rouille $15. A modern and Spanish take on Belgium Moules Fries or Mussels & Fries. The plump mussles in a rich red chorizo based butter sauce with snappy white beans piled high with perfectly crisp french fries was mouth watering to look at and heaven to eat. The salty and greasy chorizo worked well as the sauce base with the mussles. We could have a dinner of the fries and sauce alone. This dish was also a perfect entree to share with hands flying across the table for a bite of fries, sauce, and slurp of mussel, chorizo and beans. Delicious, we won't be trying to recreate this anytime soon, but hoping to get back to Cabezon to have it again! It was that good.
Mussels and Frites
Close Up of Mussels & Chorizo
Empty Mussels & Fries Plate
Since it was a birthday celebration we ordered two desserts to cleanse our palates. We ordered the lavender and honey creme brulee $6 and the Marker's Mark whiskey ice cream profiteroles with chocolate sauce and hazelnuts $7. The lavender was very apparent in the creme brulee, which was a good thing, it reminded us of some Indian dessert with its floral aroma. The profiteroles were the hit of the night, with the yummy Maker's Mark whisky ice cream stuffed cream puffs. Who doesn't love cream puffs? Especially when you pour melted chocolate all over it. This group definitely like it!
Cabezon was exactly what we were hoping for and will soon return in the spring or summer to this neighborhood seafood bistro!
All Finished
Cabezon 5200 NE Sacramento Street Portland, Oregon 503.284.6617 Monday - Thursday 5:30 - 9:00 Friday - Saturday 5:30 - 9:30

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