Gourmet kitchen

Nosh satisfies with answers to many questions
By BRIAN DUFF  |  April 21, 2010

 FOOD042310_nosh_main

A SMORGASBORD OF OPTIONS Nosh’s varied selection.

The gourmet recreation of classic deli cuisine, recently identified as a movement in the national media, has made an ambiguous appearance here in Portland in the form of Nosh Kitchen Bar. But Nosh, located in the space formerly known as the White Heart, and looking pretty darn similar, does more to offer suggestive answers to local questions than it does to shed light on national trends. 

NOSH KITCHEN BAR | 551 Congress St, Portland | lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm; dinner Mon-Sat 4 pm-1 am | Visa/MC/Amex | 207.553.2227 | noshkitchenbar.com

The first question answered is what would happen if the White Heart was a little less loud and didn’t encourage dancing? It’s not bad, it turns out. Nosh seems to take its music seriously but you can chat more easily now across your copper table. The big empty space in back is now not exactly an open kitchen, but more an open prep station.

What Nosh is not is a deli. The menu reminds you that “nosh” means to eat on the sly, but it still a place to mingle — it feels like a bar, with its little lounge near the front windows, and its single row of tables in front of a long pew-style bench. You get the sense people are going to crowd around those tables with drinks, and stand around the bar with more drinks. Nosh may be serious about its meat, which is apparently brined and cured in-house, but these are not hover-over-your-sandwich-in-silent-communion-with-meat tables.

Another local question: what if Duckfat lost its sandwich press? When it comes to the menu, that is about where Nosh comes down: $9-$11 sandwiches with fries costing extra. The sandwiches are a bit fatter, width-wise and maybe meat-wise too. The fries are fatter as well — more a steak cut than thin and crunchy. A Reuben sandwich looked attractive and reasonable on its square rye toast. We were encouraged by the thick cut of the corned beef, about the width they use for smoked meat in Montreal. But the peppery meat had been over-grilled after slicing, and had too much blackened crunch. The crisp kraut and the rye both offered welcome notes of sour, and the Russian dressing was administered with restraint.

The meatloaf, served on wholegrain bread, was juicy but under-seasoned. A good mustard got a little lost as it mingled with mayo. Slices of scallion added welcome sharpness, but the advertised mushrooms were absent. One stray mushroom did turn up in the liquid that pooled next to a Nosh Burger, which comes with bacon, blue cheese, and a fried egg. The burger itself, cooked well done, is as busy and rich as it sounds, and so was the goop it sat in — a mix of the meat’s own juices, a sort of garlic chutney (thin, soy brown, and very sweet), egg yolk, and even some uncooked egg white. The big high-domed soft bun sopped it up nicely.

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