Last night at The Bent Brick’s opening, Chef Scott Dolich reconfigured the definition of a “tavern,” and exceeded expectations in the process. Curled up in the shadow of I-405, Bent Brick’s open-air kitchen and dining area pumped out upscale, yet comforting American food. Eaters packed the ivy-clad brick building, wondering how Dolich (owner/chef of Portland's beloved Park Kitchen), would translate his inventive culinary tricks from Park’s Mediterranean-inspired repertoire to a mix of low-brow/high-brow tavern food. How did he do? He did good.

The menu, dispatched by talented Executive Chef Will Preisch, is divided into "snacks" (adorable nosh materials) and "plates" (a collection of 10 petite entree-style dishes). Some early highlights? Mussels on the half shell ($4)—neatly served atop a pile of stones, with smokey mussel aioli and Tabasco mignonette—are the highlight of the "snack" section, although the hazelnut "baked beans" ($5) are a close second. The beef (served two ways—tender pink slices, and shredded) with smoke, and a salt-baked potato ($17) is a satisfying plate of meaty goodness for the carnivores out there. The beet, farro, chicory, cream cheese salad ($10) is a rich yet refreshing salad plated on a chic slab of slate.

Bent Brick's bar, headed up by Bar Manager Adam Robinson, is equally impressive—sporting 13 local wines on tap, a grip of trusty microbrews and nine feisty cocktails, including the "G & Tea" (gin and chamomile tonic), Lakeside (with vodka and rhubarb), and The Stranger (with bourbon and sarsaparilla). I polished off my meal with a panna cotta-like buttermilk pudding, served with graham cracker crumble, a scoop of green strawberry sorbet and house-made red strawberry sauce.

Okay, so Bent Brick is not a traditional American "tavern," but whatever it is, it's damn fine.

GO: Bent Brick, 1639 NW Marshall, 688-1655,, Dinner 5-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday, Happy Hour 5-6:30 pm Tuesday-Friday. $$.