Foie gras is like steroids for meat flavor: shamelessly fatty and mildly illicit, so effective it feels like cheating. In Tokyo, Wendy's puts foie gras on a hamburger. French burger chain Quick slaps it on the patty like it's nothing. But ever since Old Town's Gilt Club closed, along with its buttery $20 monstrosity, foie-happy Portland has been without a regular liver-topped burger.
Until now, that is. Gastro Mania, tucked away in the Q19 pod in Slabtown, is serving up a foie gras burger for a mere $8. And it's heaven—a fatty, gloopy mess with bacon, tomato and onion marmalade. Usually a hearty Grand Central ciabatta bun would run the risk of overpowering its contents, but here it's the only starch that could hold up to the burger's rich obscenity. If this were the cart's only item, we'd still be eating here as often as our cardiologists would allow.
But it isn't. The rest of Gastro Mania is a mélange of Mediterranean fare that competes in indulgence, from a moist, mustard aioli and shallot porchetta sandwich (also $8 and on squared ciabatta) to $7 piled-high, fresh-grilled lamb, chicken or veggie gyros slathered in dilled-up tzatziki and wrapped in thick pita that, likewise, barely contains its contents.
A Mediterranean-style lettuce and swordfish salad ($8) is, by comparison, a marvel of restraint, even though it contains a child-ruler-sized, Parmesan-topped, parsley-flecked slab of one of the ocean's most delectably fatty fishes. But swordfish fat, we are told, is good fat, all omega-3s and nothing saturated. It's practically health food. Otherwise, there's always the tuna, calamari or $2.50 sides of mushroom, bell pepper and squash salad, or oil-crisped, spiced potato wedges.
But all the gyros and porchettas and salads in the world don't stand a chance. We would like rich, buttery liver, and we would like it on a hamburger, please.
EAT: Gastro Mania, Northwest Quimby Street and 19th Avenue (Q19 pod), 689-3794. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.