Bar Casa Vale is one of the great comeback stories of 2017, going from the brink of closing to becoming one of Portland Monthly’s Best Restaurants. Still, BCV was always a bar with very good food: small plates of charred octopus and savory montadito sandwiches that complement the massive sherry list.
Now, owner Nate Tilden tells Eat Beat, BCV is shifting gears, expanding the menu with hearth-centric cooking, making the plates bigger, and, in general, becoming a serious dinner spot. That shift is marked by the arrival of a new executive chef, Jacob Harth, who spent the last two years running the kitchen at St. Jack as chef de cuisine.
“We opened with the dream to cook all of our food in that big, beautiful hearth—to give it a deep, Old World, Spanish-Pacific Northwest connection,” says Tilden. “Our old chef just wasn’t into it. I want our food to be amazing, not good.”
What does amazing look like? You’ll still find a long list of smaller tapas and snacks, from an albacore tuna crudo with green coriander, kohlrabi, and sesame to house-made conservas with Netarts butter clams, green tomato, and colatura (Italian fish sauce), but save room for the big stuff. “Raciones” includes two types of fideos noodles; a squid ink number chock full of local seafood from purveyor Two by Sea, tomato conserva, and pea shoots; and a vegetarian cauliflower “Bolognese” with pimentón aioli. Yes, there’s also a burger with mahon cheese, and an awesome-sounding turmeric fried chicken with black rice and chermoula.
Long-haul diners can now tuck into huge shared plates, with centerpieces like grilled lamb neck with salsa verde, and a coal-roasted snapper with shaved fennel and saffron aioli.
Also on the horizon: southern Spanish/Moroccan-influenced brunch, starting in January 2018. “I want to see 10-inch cazeulas of bubbling Gypsy eggs, peppers, beans, and chickpeas being pulled out of the ashes and put in front of hungover Portlanders,” says Tilden. We’re in agreement.