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Mar 24, 2014 04:02 PM

Visiting Portland...Andina

This place was really raucous and loud when we showed up for our 7:00 reservation, the reason being that it was packed to the rafters with people of all ages obviously enjoying their food. the only empty table was our reserved two-top.

My son had the green salad with hearts of palm and asparagus. Huge portion, with a delicious and unusual passionfruit vinaigrette. As he tends to judge the quality of a restaurant based on how well they roast a chicken, that is what he ordered. The Pisco-brined chicken was tender and juicy, with a deeply caramelized skin. It was served with escabeche-style pickled onions and quinoa-crusted slices of sweet potato (which we both loved so much that I'm going to try to reproduce them at home).

I opted for 3 small plates, started with the duet of smoked fish. When the waiter described the dish, he must have notice me blench at the mention of escolar (never again!), for he quickly offered to do all-trout. Excellent fish, with just enough smoke to compliment the sweetness of the trout.

Next up was grilled octopus, a favorite of mine that is, unfortunately, frequently poorly cooked. This was not. It was a single rather large section of tentacle, curled onto a skewer and served with chimichurri and potatoes mashed with capers and olive oil. I thought this dish was perfect.

Unfortunately, I could not finish my third dish, which was the best of the lot. The Causa Mixta Nikkei was a tall, molded, lime-scented potato cake, topped with spicy tuna and crab salad, and a crisp quinoa-coated shrimp. This was garnished with a generous portion of avocado.

The bread served at the beginning of the meal was gluten-free and made with quinoa flour. It's the only gluten-free bread I've ever had that didn't fall apart in my hands and turn to sawdust in my mouth. The texture was fine, the flavor a bit lacking, but since the bread was served with 3 very tasty dipping sauces, that wasn't really an issue.

We each had two drinks, stuffed ourselves to the max, and the bill before tip was $107.

I have to ask: Is there any bad food in this town?

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  1. Andina is a staple of Portland dining and not to be missed. As to your question there is bad food here, just less than in most cities as they don't survive too long

    4 Replies
    1. re: Winemark

      Plenty of bad food here: Voodoo, Saburo, Bistro Montage...

      1. re: Leonardo

        The lines at Voodoo were around the block. People with Voodoo boxes were everywhere. What's up with that?

        1. re: pikawicca

          Great marketing, national food shows...

 addition to crazy flavors (when they opened, they had a Nyquil donut...they can't make/sell those anymore ;o), a donut in the shape of male genitalia, their eponymous donut - a chocolate covered jelly donut in the shape of a voodoo doll with pretzel sticks you can stab it with...

          1. re: JillO

            Blue Star has far, far better donuts to eat.

    2. Andina is one of my favorite restaurants in town. It's been too long, I need to go back soon!

      8 Replies
      1. re: porky pine

        The main reason we haven't tried Andina yet on our visits is the noise level. My tinnitus just can't handle same :-(. I wonder if it might be quieter for happy hour... those dishes sound marvelous.

        1. re: grayelf

          I bet you could request seating downstairs (not many tables down there), which is MUCH quieter.

          1. re: grayelf

            We too had noisy restaurants…and Andina is very noisy. Fortunately for us, we thought the food made up for the uncomfortable noise level, and very crowded dining room. Everything we ate was delicious, and there were so many wonderful choice on the menu that we couldn't decide what to have. Also, it's ridiculously affordable. We had a ton of food, many drinks and our check was $113 (plus tip). Perhaps sitting downstairs is the answer, but the food is so good that you should try to go there.

            1. re: josephnl

              Good to know. We have one Peruvian resto in Van (the other just burned down) but I have had "the good stuff" in San Francisco.

              1. re: grayelf

                If you go early it's not as bad.

            2. re: grayelf

              Sigh. Grayelf: I really wished I had seen this a week or two ago, as my conference trip overlapped with yours, and I would have tried to talk you into joining colleagues and me at Andina. Bummed we missed each other.

              We were seated in the courtyard area, and it was not AT ALL too noisy (on a Tuesday night, though it was full most of the evening. However, tables seemed to be spaced fairly far apart in that area compared to the main dining room, so I wonder if that is a plus and keeps the noice down?). In any case, I also hate noisy restaurants, but Andina was definitely comfortable in that (and other) respects. Beautiful ambiance and our group of six could easily talk around a round table. Most importantly, the food was wonderful. At least as good as, perhaps better, than the 'good stuff' in SF, imo.

              Highlights among the drinks/dishes I either ordered or could convince others to let me try (this wasn't really a sharing type of group, unfortunately) included a very nice caipirinha; good wine by the glass list; oysters; the dipping sauces for the bread; grilled scallops; sashimi style fish; roasted beets; a beautiful and delicious quinoa salad; arroz con pato....

              service was excellent, including no flinching about five separate checks for six people. Oh, and the two vegetarians in the group were very happy (they were also the only two who had eaten there before; Portland relatives of a colleague of mine in the group).

              Indeed, there was only one low point: they had a great sounding fried ice cream on the menu, and were out of it. However, the passionfruit/jalapeno sorbet the server suggested instead was downright addictive...

              Highly recommended. I will definitely be back.

              1. re: susancinsf

                Just saw cobpdx's mention above that downstairs is much quieter: the courtyard area is downstairs, so yes, perhaps that it is the place to sit, and yes you can request it. (I asked in my opentable reservation for a quiet area, and when I called to reconfirm I was told they'd sit me in the courtyard as being quieter than some other areas). Indeed, I also preferred the look and feel of the courtyard area: more casual than upstairs, but pretty with an open feel (to clarify for out of towners: it is inside, though honestly we lucked out enough with weather while we there that we'd probably have been ok eating outdoors....).

                1. re: susancinsf

                  Thanks for all the deets -- it was a tossup one happy hour between Andina and Pambiche and Cuban won out this trip. Next time for sure! We totally lucked out on weather, apart from the Sunday of thunderstormage. So sorry we missed you.