An Evening At Levant

This post is several weeks overdue, I admit.

I have been working on a “Best of Alberta” post which I intended to launch today, however after last night’s Last Thursday Alberta Street Fair I have decided that there are still several more establishments I would like to try there before launching that list…and that’s when I discovered a load of Middle Eastern fusion dishes on my camera roll and remembered that I had neglected to blog about Levant.

As some of you may know, I am half Middle Eastern. My mother is Saudi and Palestinian, I spent a sizable chunk of my childhood living in Dubai and I have traveled extensively throughout the Gulf states in my life. As a result of such a background, I am extremely choosy about what passes as good ‘Middle Eastern’ food whether it be of the North African variety or Lebanese (the most commonly found).

Levant is what I would describe as Northwest Locavore Middle Eastern Fusion, a cuisine I have been awaiting to launch in Portland due to this city’s passion for enhancing ethnic cuisines with the ingredients and creativity we are so fortunate to have here in the Pacific Northwest.

Anne as always was more than willing to accompany on a dining adventure to this relatively new East Burnside hotspot; and yes we did go on our favourite dining day of the week, a Tuesday.

Cocktail Menu
Cocktail Menu

First thing I noticed upon entering Levant is how incredibly beautiful the restaurant is. The architecture is very Moroccan/Alhambran which is sensical given it’s namesake. There are beautiful trinkets around, a lovely old world chandelier, and dim lighting- in other words, this would be a splendid spot for a date. The noise level isn’t painful, the clientele well-coiffed and recognizable (I did see more than one well known bartender dining on the night we went), and the staff is quite knowledgeable and helpful in terms of helping narrow down which complex and enticing dishes to try.

The Middle Eastern x2

Anne and I have nearly identical tastes when it comes to craft cocktails; we can both enter an establishment look at a menu of 30+ drinks and know exactly which one or two we are both eye-ing. In this case, we both ordered the Middle Eastern, a cocktail made with bourbon, tamarind, orgeat, orange, and lemon. It was perhaps one of the best cocktails I have had in Portland not only because of the flavour, but boy was it a generous pour- for $8 the amount of bourbon in this would be at least two other drinks elsewhere.

Grilled Halloumi with a mini radish/peas salad
Kibbeh (fried balls of mincemeat and bulgur; a traditional Middle Eastern mezze dish)
Sauteed collard greens with a yoghurt sauce and pine nuts
Giant scallop atop grains with a melange of purees
Beef with harissa kimchi and pearl onions
Dessert: Caramelised Phyllo & Labneh Mille-Feuille with Lemon Verbena and Apricot

The menu has since changed since Anne and I dined there (which is why some of the menu descriptions are rather vague), but everything was impeccable. In my opinion the scallop and the beef dish were the best as both were tender and accompanied with unusual yet very appropriate combinations of ingredients which enhanced rather than hindered the tastes of the meats. The harissa kimchi on the beef was intriguing and delightful, a beautiful play on a Moroccan version of Kimchi.

Besides having delicious fare, everything is gorgeously plated at Levant, the service is prompt and attentive, and the atmosphere lively whether it’s just a Tuesday night friend date, non-platonic date, or celebratory affair (I believe there is even a private event room in the back). If anyone would like to go with me again, I’m planning on going back to see what else Chef Scott Snyder has up his sleeve.

Levant on Urbanspoon


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