David Machado Closes Lauro Kitchen
May 27, 2012
Lauro Kitchen, chef-restaurateur David Machado’s pioneering Eastside restaurant which sparked Division Street’s “Restaurant Row,” closed at the end of service on Sunday, May 27, after nine successful years. The space has been purchased and there are plans to start a new restaurant by September of this year.
Named the 2004 Willamette Week Restaurant of the Year, Lauro Kitchen was the first independent venture for Machado and partner Daren Hamilton. “People told me I was crazy to try opening a restaurant at the corner of SE 34th and Division,” Machado recalls. But Lauro quickly became a neighborhood favorite and then a citywide sensation.
Machado, who was named Oregon’s Restaurateur of the Year 2009 by the Oregon Restaurant Association said, “We’ve had a terrific run here and I couldn’t be more pleased.” Machado is also the owner of downtown’s Nel Centro, adjacent to the Hotel Modera, and Vindalho on SE Clinton Street.
The Willamette’s genuine side
Arts, eateries, deep roots, and revival in Portland, Ore.
By Beth D’Addono for The Boston Globe
Published: January 27, 2008
PORTLAND, OR – The other side of the tracks has come up in this city.
Twenty years ago, the Division/Clinton neighborhood was a gritty collection of rambling cottages and light industry, its population blue-collar and many with immigrant roots. Today it is some of that and more, a hip destination for Portlanders in search of the genuine. An ordinance bans any single business from taking up more than 10,000 square feet, so most of the shops, cafes, and businesses are mom-and-pop, owner-operated, often by people who live in the area. No big boxes here.
While the community struggles with issues such as rising rents, which recently forced one beloved cafe, Red and Black, to take its poetry readings elsewhere, its character and sense of itself remain strong. Defined by two important commercial streets, Division and Clinton, the area stretches from the Willamette River to the railroad tracks.
“For a long time, Portland’s more affluent west side didn’t cross the river to this neighborhood,” says David Machado, whose restaurant, Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen, was one of the forces for change when it opened in 2003.
Situated in a long-vacant plumbing-supply house, Lauro proved naysayers wrong, and was named one of the country’s best by Gourmet magazine in 2005, helping to define Division/Clinton as a destination for unique, authentic ethnic food. The neighborhood is home now to a melting pot of cuisines, including Thai, Mexican, and Indian.
“A restaurateur like David, who came from working-class roots himself, really understood the character of the neighborhood from the beginning. He wanted to be part of it, without changing it too much,” says Robin Corrigan, who 20 years ago shocked her well-heeled Seattle father by buying a fixer-upper in Division/Clinton. She had strangers stop her on the street to say she’d been gouged. Today, the house has appreciated 600 percent. “We couldn’t afford to move here now,” she says.
While real estate spiked 67 percent between 2002 and 2007, attracting an influx of Californians who viewed the housing prices as a comparative bargain, Division/Clinton’s personality is as pronounced as ever. Indie, edgy, fiercely green, and community driven, it’s a place that (so far) has resisted the vanilla sheen of gentrification.
Stroll along Division Street, with its many shops and cafes, and it’s hard to believe the street was facing the wrecking ball in the 1970s to make way for an eight-lane freeway. Local residents and business owners joined in protest, refusing to let Division be turned into a ghostly frontage road. Typical in this city where crunch is elevated to an art form and liberal sensibilities rule, grass-roots protest won out, with the city opting to put in a light rail system instead.
“People are invested in the neighborhood,” says Julie Higgs, who opened a flower shop, Fleur de Lis, seven years ago. Her husband, David Stricker, is also invested in the community as a partner in the nearby Kung Fu Bakery recording studio, where Pink Martini regularly records its fetching blend of jazzy Latin, lounge, and classical music.
When Higgs decided to retire, her clients would hear none of it. “Most businesses survive just fine by word of mouth. I never advertised. The shop just wouldn’t die,” she says. Instead, she sold it to Rachel Payton, a longtime employee, and is working with her to ease the transition. “It’s our neighborhood. It’s a fun place to be. I can’t seem to leave,” Higgs says.
Although the neighborhood has boomed of late, it does have a pop-culture history worth noting. It was here, at Langlitz Leathers, that the first custom leather motorcycle jacket was created in 1947. And at Loprinzi’s Gym on Division, one of the nation’s first bodybuilding gyms opened in 1948. At the Clinton Street Theater, an art house that hosts everything from hip-hop to underground screenings, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has been screened every Saturday night since 1978, the longest run in the world for the cult classic.
Division/Clinton is a gem of a neighborhood, a place where residents tend to get deeply rooted. People like Mike Pardew, 27, a jazz guitarist who, with his brother, could have opened Cadenza Academy anywhere, but chose this place. Pardew likes that he can walk to work from his apartment, that he knows people when he goes for coffee at the Clinton Corner Cafe or lunch at Eugenios, and that word of mouth seems to effortlessly follow his performances at Vindalho, a restaurant around the corner from the studio.
“The edgy vibe has been around for decades,” Pardew says. “This place feeds on itself. That’s what makes it so special.”
Southeast – Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen
Published: April 25, 2008
This Mediterranean restaurant was an instant hit when it opened in 2003. Loads of people were willing to wait in long lines leading out the door for a table in the no-reservations restaurant.
But recently Lauro started accepting dinner reservations so a visit to the restaurant no longer means risking being ticketed for loitering on Division.
And in January, Lauro got a mini-face-lift (a new paint job, remodeled bathrooms, etc.), so the place looks shiny and new.
But looks don’t matter if the food isn’t good. It is.
The focus of Lauro’s Mediterranean menu has expanded to include cuisine from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Greece. Don’t worry – there are still plenty of Portuguese-style dishes on the menu, too, like pork and clams with red peppers and potatoes or mussels with Portuguese chourio.
There’s also a fine wine list and tasty cocktails like the Ginger Rogers with gin, mint, lime and ginger ale.
The service at Lauro is better than ever under the watchful (and busy) eye of general manager Julie Chambers who previously managed Lupa, one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, in New York City
Another change arrives in June when, for the first time, Lauro will be open for lunch.
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2008
Good restaurants beget others. David Machado, of Lauro Kitchen at 3377 S.E. Division St. and Vindalho at 2038 S.E. Clinton St., is at the center of an ever-expanding web of neighborhood places.
Donald Kotler, owner of Toast, 5222 S.E. 52nd Ave., worked for Machado at Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar, 901 S.W. Salmon St., and Vindalho.
Benjamin Gonzales, owner of Nuestra Cocina, 2135 S.E. Division St., worked for Machado as sous chef at Pazzo Ristorante, 627 S.W. Washington St., and Southpark.
Oswaldo Bibiano, chef-owner at Autentica, 5507 N.E. 30th Ave., worked for Machado as cafe chef at Pazzo and as sous chef at Southpark.
Adam Sappington, chef-owner at Country Cat Dinnerhouse & Bar, 7937 S.E. Stark St., worked for Machado as a cook at Pazzo. His wife and business partner, Jackie Sappington, worked for Machado as pastry chef at Lauro Kitchen.
Brad Root, chef-owner at Roots Restaurant, 19215 S.E. 34th St., Camas, Wash., worked for Machado as sous chef at Red Star Tavern & Roast House, 503 S.W. Alder St.
Vitaly Paley, chef/owner at Paley’s Place, 1204 N.W. 21st Ave., was a line chef under Machado at Pazzo.
Scott Dolich, chef/owner at Park Kitchen, 422 N.W. Eighth Ave., worked for Machado as a line cook/banquet chef at Pazzo.
Ronnie MacQuarrie, New Seasons Market store chef, worked for Machado as sous chef at Pazzo and as chef at Southpark.
Paul Ornstein, New Seasons Market store chef, worked for Machado as sous chef at Pazzo and as chef at Southpark. Tom Hallman Jr.
By Mike Thelin
Published: October 17th, 2007
A restaurant is theater, but not high theater.
Don’t forget this performance is judged by the harshest critics: hungry people. And in the case of an open kitchen, these ravenous folks will watch a cook’s every move.
“An open kitchen creates a primal, theatrical restaurant experience,” says top Portland restaurateur David Machado. I spent a day on the cook’s side of the open line at Machado’s Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen (WW Restaurant of the Year 2004), deconstructing the kitchen line and getting schooled.
In the world of kitchens, what looks easy (and entertaining) from the vantage point of a cozy table is really brutal, taxing labor. From pantry station to sauté cook,
the restaurant vocation requires a diverse skill set of honed techniques and a canonical knowledge, but above all, a strong blue-collar work ethic and tolerance for intense heat. A good operation (like our subject) is a well-lubed machine in which ego means nothing and skill means everything. A cook’s workday isn’t as glamorous as the television world of people with names like Emeril and Mario embroidered on their chef coats. The reality is years of 12-hour shifts spent covered in fish scales and lamb’s blood, with burns up to the elbows, before one’s name is embroidered on anything. Look below to get a real education.
Comfort Food at Home…and Away: One-Pot Wonder
By Camas Davis
Published: March 2007
Growing up in Fall River, Mass., David Machado mostly ate classic New England fare such as pot roast or franks-and-beans during the week. But once or twice a month his Irish mother made his favorite dish: a pot of Portuguese chicken and rice with chourico (pictured above).
“My grandmother was Portuguese,” says Machado, “and my mother wasn’t a good cook, so my grandmother had to teach her how to make the dish. I didn’t come from a home that served high cuisine, but I thought this was the one legitimate, credible dish we ate. I always asked for it. And now my three kids ask for it.”
What’s so comforting about the dish? “It’s easy to make,” replies Machado. “But to me it’s really the rice that’s comforting Ñ the starch. The chicken and the stock and the smoky sausage and sweet paprika and garlic all release their flavors into the rice. It’s luscious. When you’re done with your first serving, you just go back for more rice.”
Pinot-less in Portland
Restaurant owner believes a $5 glass of wine is the best way to lure repeat diners.
By Wendy Culverwell
Published: February 17, 2006
The wine list at Lauro restaurant says a lot about owner David Machado’s approach to business.
Here in Oregon, home of premium pinots, Machado stocks his shelves with Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese vintages. Why? Mostly, it’s economics. Oregon’s premium wines cost too much while the European editions allow him to sell wine at about $5 a glass — just right for a restaurateur whose business depends on repeat customers from the local neighborhood.
“We’d rather sell a lot of wine at a lower price point than less wine at a higher price,” said Machado, who worked in corporate restaurants for two decades before setting up his own with wife Julie and partner Daren Hamilton in 2003.
The Mediterranean-themed Lauro opened in 2003 at Southeast Division Street and 34th Avenue. Vindalho, more Indian in nature, opened last fall on Southeast Clinton, not far from its sister. Both have been generally well-received by critics and diners and generally have waiting lines to get in on weekends.
Lauro’s European-themed wine list perfectly illustrates the diligent attention to planning that goes into a successful restaurant, said Mike McCallum, president and chief executive officer of the Oregon Restaurant Association.
“Dave is clearly describing his understanding of his market,” he said. “You cannot overemphasize the diligence it has taken to understand his target market.”
Hard figures are difficult to come by, but surviving in the restaurant business is notoriously difficult. McCallum said anecdotal evidence that three out of five restaurants fail within three to five years is probably “pretty fair.”
Machado on the other has found success the old-fashioned way: He built a solid business based on a solid business plan. Lauro generates revenue of about $1.3 million. Vindalho is expected to do $1 million in business in its first year.
Money is the lifeblood of restaurants as much as any other business. Machado financed his startup the old-fashioned way, with personal savings, a loan against the equity in his home and a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
He repeated the formula with Vindalho, which means his house has two loans against it. The bank even took the title to his 1999 sedan as potential collateral. But the alternative — taking on a deep-pocketed patron as a silent partner — wasn’t an option.
“It’s old-fashioned and it’s risky. But I believe in what I’m doing. I’ve got my own money in it,” Machado said.
Starting a restaurant starts with finding the right spot. Machado quickly zeroed in on Southeast Portland, having decided that the hottest spots west of the Willamette were too expensive for a startup.
The search took him from the Fremont and Mississippi districts south. His criteria: A heavily trafficked corner with high visibility and minimal barriers to entry — namely, no curtains or upper floors.
He found it in a former Clancy Plumbing warehouse on Southeast Division. The owners had renovated the warehouse and wanted a restaurant for the corner — they’d turned down chains in hopes a neighborhood-oriented operator would come. Division lacks the foot traffic of a Belmont or Hawthorne, but Machado said the local demographics suggested it would work.
Leasing space from a landlord who wanted a restaurant was no accident. Restaurants are complex, heavily trafficked businesses and an accidental landlord doesn’t work. Machado’s advice: Never go into a place unless the owner is committed to having your type of business.
Machado said a critical part of his business plan involved creating a sense of place for neighbors — a spot where people who lived within walking distance would get together to socialize over dinner and a glass of wine or, among the younger set, a cocktail.
Lauro opened for five nights a week to start and expanded to seven nights in its 18th month. Vindalho opened when Lauro was starting its second year and will grow its schedule the same methodical way, Machado said. It is open five nights a week for the time being.
He made another risky decision too — both restaurants operate on a first-come first-served basis, which typically means waits on weekends.
But from his corporate days, Machado said he knew it made no sense to tell would-be diners he couldn’t seat them because the tables were spoken for.
Machado said he knew Lauro captured the heart of the neighborhood when it filled on a snowy day — indicating that most customers had arrived on foot rather than in a car. There are times, typically during the week, when everyone in the restaurant knows everyone else.
Looking past Vindalho, Machado envisions opening a third restaurant, sticking to the eastside. He likes the idea of opening farther north but will be guided by the right real estate. As with the first two, he will look for an emerging neighborhood currently underserved by restaurants.
Southeast Division was largely lacking in places to eat before Lauro opened. Now, there are at least five new restaurants within five blocks.
For McCallum, of the Oregon Restaurant Association, the neighborhood approach to restaurateuring is a tried-and-true formula.
“For years we’ve had corner pubs and local diners and that is very much a function of proximity, and beyond that it’s a function of relationships with your neighbors. That is what the hospitality industry is built on,” he said.
But there is one new aspect of dining out that is just catching on — restaurant blogging. Portland has a particularly active community of bloggers posting reviews at spots such as portlandfoodanddrink.com and extramsg.com.
Machado calls blogs the most dynamic and fast-moving media at the moment and said the movement is bordering on legitimacy.
Though he claims not to pay much attention to the comments posted on various Web sites, those that misrepresent incidents clearly bother him.
And then there is the diner who responded to a review in Willamette Week with a reference to Vindalho’s “crypto-Stalinist decor.”
It may have been nonsensical — crypto means secretive — and Machado was clearly puzzled by it.
“How do you ever put those three words together?” he wondered.
New York Times Restaurant Review
By Christopher Solomon
Published: November 6, 2005
On a recent Sunday evening, locals packed Lauro Kitchen, 3377 Southeast Division Street No. 106 (503) 239-7000, to taste its Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. If some dishes don’t live up to Lauro’s abundant hype -wedges of bitter radicchio in the roasted pancetta-wrapped radicchio with basil vinaigrette ($8) overwhelmed that dish – Lauro’s bustle and its warm orange glow are a antidote to the season’s gray skies. The owners’ most recent opening is likely to attract crowds, too: Vindalho, with its “Spice Route cuisine” and Tandoor oven centerpiece
Organic Style – 20 Fresh Places to Eat
Published: October 2005
Food-obsessed Portland is a tough town to win over. But David Machado, a longtime board member of the city’s farmers’ market, knew what he was doing two years ago when he found an old plumbing-supply warehouse in a scruffy neighborhood sorely lacking in restaurants. Machado played up the space’s industrial chic, leaving the beams exposed and massive windows bare, and installed a pizza oven and warm lighting. “Portland is gray and dreary for so long,” he says. “We wanted you to see a glow so you would come in from the rainy street.”
They’ve come. A celebration of food from what the 50-year-old chef dubs “all the olive oil producing countries,” the place has soared. Here, on any given night, Marseille-style seafood soup, Greek lamb kebabs, and a Moroccan chicken tagine may share the table. Mussels and chorizo cooked in a Portuguese hinged pot is one of Machado’s signatures.
Today, Lauro Kitchen is the neighborhood hangout Machado envisioned, what one local newspaper calls “the happiest place in Portland.”
WILLAMETTE WEEK’S 2004 RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
Lauro Kitchen’s creative play with Mediterranean flavors revitalizes the casual neighborhood bistro.
by Jim Dixon
Here’s where you want to eat: a restaurant that’s friendly and unpretentious, casual but nice enough to make dinner feel a little special. You’d love to walk over, but don’t mind a drive if the streets are familiar and it won’t take forever to find a parking space. You can just show up at the door and know you’ll get a table before too long. Value is important, especially these days, and so is knowing where the food on the plate comes from. You’re willing to try something a little different, but at the same time want the comforting reassurance of the familiar.
All this describes Lauro Kitchen, Willamette Week’s 2004 Restaurant of the Year, which keeps earning praise thanks to one additional, important attribute: The food is exceptional.
Chef-owner David Machado describes his restaurant as a Mediterranean kitchen, which he defines in simple terms. If a country is an olive-oil producer, he says, we’ll take their recipes. The result is a menu that covers the familiar culinary territories of Italy, Greece and Spain but also extends to Turkey, Tunisia, Portugal and other lesser-known cuisines from around the middle sea’s olive belt.
A handful of ingredients-olive oil, garlic, peppers and tomatoes-provide the menu’s unifying theme. Cultural differences offer a new twist to the close cousins of old standards. New, that is, to our all-American tastes. For example, instead of Italian-style mussels with marinara, Lauro offers a Portuguese version, with tomatoes, peppers, smoky pimenton and garlic chourico, all steamed in a cataplana, the copper clamshell cooker used in southern Portugal.
The classic flavor combination of melon and prosciutto is evoked by a salad blending the sweetness of honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon with the rich and tangy flavors of feta, pine nuts and olives. Fresh mint adds sparkle, lemon juice an acidic counterpoint, and extra-virgin olive oil holds everything together.
Tagines from North Africa feature almond couscous ($14). Tzatziki, the garlicky yogurt condiment, punctuates Greek lamb kebabs ($18). Old World quince flavors a Spanish sauce for chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese ($15). A pistou-flavored seafood soup with a red-pepper rouille represents southern France ($7), while thin, crisp-crusted pizzas ($10) and simple, perfectly cooked pastas ($11) complete the circle back to Italy. Then there’s the cheeseburger ($9), which, of course, is universal.
Seafood figures prominently in the nightly specials ($17-$19). Halibut cheeks, almost like scallops in their meaty consistency, are served with the Tuscan kale, cavolo nero, over penne and spiked with chili oil. Grilled sturgeon comes with white beans and a dollop of salsa verde. Fresh sardines, relatively rare on Portland menus despite an abundant catch from Oregon waters, are butterflied, grilled, and drizzled with piri piri sauce. (Piri is actually Swahili for chili pepper, an etymological relic of the Portuguese trading empire that stretched from the New World, source of all things capsicum, to Africa.)
Even dessert ($6) provides a cross-cultural experience. You might find an Italian zabaione with fresh fruit and Spanish Marcona almonds in a dense and chocolaty sauce. Pudim flan, Portuguese-style custard flavored with port, offers a satisfying and slightly less sweet alternative.
Yet Lauro, for all the international flavors on its menu, is firmly rooted in its Southeast Portland neighborhood. Most nights, the staff knows a majority of the customers. Or as Machado brags: In our first year, we achieved the most important thing, neighborhood loyalty.
This stretch of Southeast Division Street might seem an unlikely location for a new restaurant that’s more upscale than the half-dozen or so nearby eateries, and Machado admits it wasn’t his first choice. He looked for property downtown, in the Pearl, and then along other busy eastside arterials, until his wife, Julie, no stranger to the restaurant world (she spent several years working with Jeremiah Tower, the self-proclaimed inventor of California Cuisine), looked at the former plumbing-supply warehouse and proclaimed, This is the place.
Lauro’s rich flavors, borrowed from a variety of Mediterranean influences, set apart this new eastside jewel.
BY Roger J. Porter
When Simon and Garfunkel composed their ode to herbs, bay leaves were shut out by rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. David Machado, who earned his laurels at several top Portland restaurants, has at last opened his own, and in the process he instantly becomes chef laureate of the east side.
Lauro, which means bay leaf in Italian, is by far Southeast Portland’s most satisfying and exciting new restaurant, a place destined to have local and far-flung devotees for a long while.
It’s easy to see why: The immense windows beckon and welcome passersby. Inside, Lauro seems casual and sophisticated at the same time, with its great wooden beams and a glistening open kitchen. With the no-reservation policy, you may have a bit of a wait, but it’s a fine place to linger, have a drink at the long bar and soak up the buzzy atmosphere. A blood-orange light warms the room and encrimsons the handsome surrounding wood, while a large, open gas-fired oven of blue tile contributes to the radiance.
Above all, the Mediterranean cooking feels as authentic as Machado’s Portuguese grandmother’s traditional recipes, which the chef has appropriated and, cooking with convincing passion and culinary intelligence, made his own. Lauro’s is an ecumenical cuisine, and the diversity of the dishes on the menu–from Greece, Italy, North Africa, France, Spain and Portugal–are more in harmony than corresponding global realities.
Among the best Portuguese choices is an appetizer of mussels and chourico (chorizo), served in a hinged beaten copper dome called a cataplana. This is Hispanic surf-and-turf, slathered in a chunky tomato broth with lots of onions and garlic. Calamari are a euro a dozen, but Lauro’s are especially nice, slightly underdone and torched with a Portuguese “piri piri” sauce–originally African–composed of lemon juice and hot chilies. There’s also a gazpacho cocktail, which tastes like a refreshing, dense Bloody Maria laced with shrimp.
Lauro also serves some of the best pizzas around–thin-crusted, flaky appetizers but large enough for two; the star is laden with shiitake mushrooms and Gorgonzola for a taste at once sharp and woodsy. I’m also a fan of chicken kebabs doused in Middle Eastern spices and bedded on an unusual salad of Italian parsley.
The most typical Portuguese entrée is a combination of tender pork chunks mingled with clams, roasted potatoes and red peppers. The briny liquor marries wonderfully with the meat, and the ensemble produces a heady aroma that captures the strong flavors of each ingredient.
The food served here has a rich, burnished appearance on the plate and delivers all the flavor that the picture promises. Gorgeous standouts include the chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, dotted with pine nuts and raisins and intriguingly braised in a quince sauce, as well as an aromatic Moroccan tagine of chicken doused in olives and fragrant preserved lemons on a mound of crunchy couscous. The tagine, a stew of steamy meats and seasonings, arrives in a terra cotta deep dish, which locks in the aromas and keeps the chicken juicy.
A favorite among recent specials is the filet of sole perched on a cumulus cloud of puréed potatoes, a slight film of olive oil replacing the more usual butter, with a dice of tomatoes and olives lending an assertive ground to the mild fish.
Lee Posey’s desserts are also beautifully crafted. The amazing, signature number is called a pudim flan. It’s like no shimmering flan you’ve ever had, but an egg custard abundantly fortified with port, a marvel of lightness and caramelized creaminess at the same time. The frothy custard zabaione is elegantly served in a martini glass, while a lemon granita is the Platonic essence of tartness, cut only by a handful of blueberries that speckle the smooth ice. Normally in the summer I eschew chocolate, but the vibrant almond-chocolate gâteau is presented stone cold and showered with powdered sugar.
You could visit Lauro again and again without ever tiring of it. To use an expression favored by the French, it’s easy to imagine I might happily make this place my
Crazy Haute Cuisine
The Portland Mercury
By Steve Lanning
What do you want for dinner tonight? Italian, Greek Middle Eastern? Or how about something totally different? How about culinary fusion? Hybrid dishes that combine flavors and recipes from places like Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, and the Middle East? How about a restaurant whose specials might include a dinner called “Lamb Meatballs over Israeli Couscous?”
Well, such cross-Mediterranean delicacies can be found at a new restaurant called Lauro. Their dishes are the food-children of head chef David Machado, formerly of Pazzo Ristorante and the Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar. At Lauro, Machado is taking his expertise further, cooking original dishes in fresh olive oil and seasoning with spices that will keep you guessing.
Consider the Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast with Quince Sauce. Served on a bed of moist spinach, golden raisins, and pine nuts, the breast is topped with a caramelized sauce made from quinces, a long lost cousin of the apple or pear. And while the quince sauce drizzled on top of the breast might stimulate your sweet taste buds, when combined with the layer of creamy goat cheese stuffed inside the chicken, your mouth registers a rich and tangy harmony of flavors.
Another winner is the Greek Lamb Kebobs with Saffron Rice Pilaf and Tzatziki Sauce. Interknit with strips of fresh mint and gently showered with tzatziki, the succulent chunks of lamb are dynamite, but almost dwarfed by the uncommon, perfume flavor of the rice.
But perhaps the highlight of my meal came from the menu’s appetizer section. Lauro’s highly palatable Mediterranean Mussels swim in a zingy and spicy tomato sauce, with onions, peppers, and pepperoni. And the Crispy Calamari, salty and lightly fried, almost seems like it was born to marry the fiery Portuguese Piri Piri Sauce.
Similar to the menu’s integration of different ingredients and styles, the interior design of the restaurant joins a variety of contrasting, yet complimentary building materials. Visible wooden beams stand out against the kitchen, which is walled and surfaced with silver steel. The large mirror behind the full bar, and the large windows lining the building, give Lauro an open and spacious feel.
If all of this favorable description has not convinced you to give Lauro’s a try, save your dollars until you see some of chef Machado’s recipes executed firsthand at a demonstration at the Portland Farmer’s Market (September 6th at 11:00 am). He’ll reveal some of the methods, ingredients, and spices that go into Lauro’s food, giving you a free opportunity to decide whether or not it’s your bag.
Moreover, though many great restaurants offer quality Lebanese, Spanish, or Italian around town, I’ve never come across anything quite like Lauro. In fact, I like the dishes so much that I’ve decided to incorporate the restaurant in a screenplay I’m writing. The main character is a masked hero who eats at the restaurant, wears all black, and carries a sword. The movie is called The Mask of Lauro.
Spanish, Moroccan, Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern flavors are captured in this neighborhood restaurant’s seasonally changing menu, while a bounty of fresh, locally-grown produce and meats takes the taste sensation to a higher level. Moderately low prices and an accessible menu that includes pizza, burgers and french fries as well as more refined dishes give this polished yet comfortable restaurant true cache as a neighborhood destination. An inviting open kitchen with a gas-fired pizza oven and dining counter creates a sense of community, while tables and low booths provide more intimate conversation. Innovative lighting and structural elements define a small bar area. Creative presentations and generous portions add to the appeal of Lauro’s menu. Appetizer highlights include crispy calamari with Portuguese piri piri sauce, mussels in a zingy tomato and chourico sausage sauce, and skewered stone fruits stuffed with gorgonzola, wrapped with pancetta and finished at 700 F degrees.
Entrees include wild mushroom and gorgonzola pizza, and chicken Tagine, an intense taste sensation of Marcona almonds, intriguing house-preserved lemons and olives folded into a bed of couscous. For dessert, the Portuguese flan tastes remarkably like creme caramel. An exceptional 32-bottle wine list and changing list of eight to 10 wines by the glass encompass the same region as the food. Lauro House wines are an exceptional value.