La Moule, Aaron Barnett's New Mussel Bar: Review

If Savoy was an ode to the Swedes of the milk states, its successor, La Moule (2500 SE Clinton St., 971-339-2822,, is a love letter to the hyphenate French. Like countless bars in Belgium and Canada, it is a dim, drunky spot devoted to mussels and frites. The bivalved La Moule space has a brightly lit front cafe on one side, where you can gawk at the chefs as they work, but drinkers should far prefer the cozy back bar.

La Moule Cocktails at La Moule (Thomas Teal)

Just mind your step on your way through the doorway—that little level up has been sending tipplers tumbling since the place was called La Cruda 15 years ago—and enter a '70s disco-blue, amber-lit room devoted to the last cultural era during which the French had any relevance on the world stage. A portrait of an aging, disheveled, black-eyed and big-collared Serge Gainsbourg brings it all home. But the most prominent feature is the gaudily deco wallpaper that looks like mussel shells split open to form a series of hearts—it makes the whole place look like a valentine made of bivalves. Well, it is. Soccer-ball-sized bowls of mussels ($12-$15) come courtesy of St. Jack chef Aaron Barnett and former Ava Gene's chef de cuisine Cameron Addy, and they're prettier in their shells than any tawdry Venus.

La Moule Thai Mussels at La Moule (Thomas Teal)

The meat within is so plump it's almost spherical—buttery and tender and doused in options like classic garlic sauce, Moroccan mint or Thai-spiced coconut. Steaks, burgers and liège waffles are also on hand, and the frites come with your choice of three kinds of mayo…but no ketchup anywhere, and damn you for asking. Tommy Klus' cocktails are mostly $8 to $10—about the same price as the Belgian import beers on tap—from a balanced gin-Aperol Sunday Morning ($9) that's like a Negroni made with cherries to a fine $8 Old Fashioned made with Heaven Hill 6-year bourbon. After showing up to dig deep into a bowl, you'll leave deep in the cups. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

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