Black Cat Cantina (Portland, OR)—CLOSED


“What are your favorite things on the menu?” my wife asked. The waitress quickly glanced at her, then me, as if gauging what might appeal to us. “I would recommend the ceviché de camaron, shrimp mixed with mango and strawberry, chile and chopped cilantro. There are also lemon and lime juices in it. You will love it. Can I start you off with one?”

The statement was confidently made, my retelling not quite verbatim but accurate in style and delivery. She then went on in detail how each of the menu items we asked about (and some we didn’t) was prepared, down to the spices, herbs and seasonings. We were hooked by her explanations, given patiently and willingly. Was it possible that we had never had any better wait person who knew everything about the menu?

By herself, she was taking care of the entire dining area, at least when we arrived close to 6pm, of the Black Cat Cantina which a friend of ours (who knew we were in Portland) alerted us to by email just yesterday. We told him we would check it out. Located in east Portland (Gresham), the restaurant features food from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, mostly Argentina. Several of the menu items listed “Latin America” as the place of origin, not knowing if this meant that they were prepared beyond any single national border or the chef, who was trained in Mexico and Spain, was simply being creative with indigenous ingredients. It didn’t matter to us.

We started things off with cocktails. My Caipirinha del Norte (☆☆½) is a riff on the popular Brazilian drink, using limes, vodka instead of cachaça and muddled grapes instead of refined sugar. My wife’s El Paseo (☆☆½) margarita combined Gran Centenario tequila, lime juice, agave nectar and Grand Marnier, quite a tart and relatively weak version. To their credit, these drinks were not cloyingly sweet.

So, what about the ceviché mentioned at the beginning of the post? The waitress was right; we loved it (☆☆☆½). A little spicy from serrano chilés, the Mexican white shrimp were nicely “cooked” by the citrus juices, which themselves were wonderfully contrasted by the diced fruits. This was a very refreshing appetizer/salad.

Ceviché de camaron

Ceviché de camaron

I was swayed by the waitress’ description of the Argentine churrasco, a steak served with chimichurri sauce. According to her, the cut is an Argentine one called bife de chorizo, which she described as being just as flavorful as ribeye but not as marbled with fat. Similar to a New York steak, it is cut and trimmed differently, enough that Black Cat Cantina has to special-order them. It arrived as a 12-oz portion, about ¾-inch thick, with nice grill marks, some untrimmed (and tasty) exterior fat, and bursting with intense beef flavor. The tangy and assertive chimichurri, though flavorful, masked the steak’s flavor, so I wound up dipping cut meat pieces just slightly so as to engage in an authentic Argentine experience. As if sliced from polyhedrons of potatoes, papas bravas were flawless, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and wonderfully seasoned. Like the chimichurri, the accompanying catsup seemed superfluous. I loved this entire dish (☆☆☆☆), with or without the sauces.

Churrasco

Churrasco

Remembering the superb version she had at Señor Moose in Seattle, my wife picked the Pescado a la Veracruzana. Though the waitress called out the fish as petrale sole, it was actually tilapia, mingled in a robust sauce of tomatoes, black (instead of green) olives and plenty of capers (which made the dish salty), all served on a bed of perfectly cooked, flavorful Mexican rice. With a slight deduction for tilapia’s mildly muddy taste, my wife really enjoyed this otherwise perfect dish (☆☆☆½).

Pescado a la Veracruzana

Pescado a la Veracruzana

When the waitress asked if we enjoyed our meals, we were quick to answer in the affirmative.

“Is your name Liz?” I asked.

“Yes! How did you know?”

“I read about you on Yelp.” Yes, Liz (which she pronounces with a long “i”, like Leez) has impressed more customers than just us and the diners in the next booth.

“I love my job,” she beamed. Indeed she does, and her customers are just as glad.

Black Cat Bistro (** CLOSED **)
18901 E Burnside
Portland, OR 97233
503.912.3228

Thrill of Multnomah Falls (Troutdale, OR)


There are few things more thrilling than standing near a stupendous waterfall. The feeling is almost visceral, mesmerizing. Some people claim that they feel better when standing next to a waterfall, maybe having something to do with the production of enormous amounts of negative ions (oxygen molecules with an extra electron) that research has shown improves mood and rids the air of pollutants.

As our previous visits to Multnomah Falls were under less than ideal weather conditions, we decided at the last minute to take another trip there since there was little chance of rain today. Along the way, we also stopped to see Wahkeena Falls.

After Yosemite Falls, Multnomah Falls just outside Troutdale has been identified by the U. S. Forest Service as the tallest year-round waterfall in the nation. It can easily be reached from the Historic Columbia River Highway, only a half hour outside Portland. A short trail leads to a footbridge from which you can observe the upper falls more closely.

There would not have been such a spectacular attraction were it not for many major lava flows during the area’s geologic history. The devastating Missoula Floods that reshaped much of Washington State did much to create Multnomah’s present form. They ripped away the fractured basalt, leaving behind steep cliffs and cataracts.

multnomah falls