New chef Derek Hanson has placed the emphasis solidly on intense flavors delivered in small doses, with a new "smorgasbord" suppertime tasting menu at the level of almost any in the city, but with a bang for the buck rivaled in Portland only by Old Salt and Tanuki. The menu starts at a mere $20 per person—we opted to pay $25 on one visit and could not finish our meal after a six-course parade of delights.
Lately, Broder Nord's dinner is not merely more impressive than the Swedish spot's already excellent breakfast fare; in its current form, Broder Nord's dinner service is now among the best in town. Exhibit one is the dish that is likely to close your meal: a 20-minute chicken ($15) that takes as long to prepare as its name implies, meaning it pretty much arrives as dessert. It's sweet enough to serve the bill, and soft as ice cream. The half chicken arrives ridiculously tender and brined with a tarragon-infused vinegar, wet with its own juice as well as a bit of salsa verde and capers. It's like escabeche made of meat but served as a hearth-style broiler. The menu could stake its claim on this dish alone, and merit the trip.
But the menu has much more, particularly among the small-plate options. Broder's small plates are consistently delicate, featuring a light and complex interplay of acids and fats, as in a salmon gravlax ($8)—also featured on the original dinner menu—that mixes in chicken skin and pickled cucumber. The fragrant rose hip soup ($5) is served cold, with a healthy dose of fennel stabbing into the soup's otherwise smoothly floral seduction.
Best of all among the small plates is a smoked Idaho trout ($12) in a bath of buttermilk and accented with bittersweet greenery: cucumber, cress and dill. The trout is smoke-cured until it almost resembles mackerel—fishy, rich, huskily earthy—but is so pointedly offset by the creamy buttermilk that the effect is soothing. Much of the menu, indeed, is clean-flavored and soothing—both mirror and balm, perhaps to the crisp, crystalline chill of Swedish air.
This is not to say that everything succeeds. The crispy smashed potatoes ($5) accented with a mustard creme fraiche attempt the same alchemy of subtle, creamy and spicy but achieve a dullness punctuated by the nagging feeling of something amiss: The mustard is distracting, and the potatoes arrived undercooked. The steak tartare ($10) was likewise oddly mustardy, in a way that interfered with the dish's subtle savor, but also especially with the crisp juniper and genever that also flavor the dish. Those potatoes also come as a side with the chevre-and-cress lamb burger ($13), which is unexciting if you neglect to add the pickles that come on the side. But once you add them, the extra snap and sharpness pull the sandwich mightily together. These were, however, the only middling spots on a menu that is often extraordinary—with a beef shoulder dish almost as tender and rich as the 20-minute chicken.
If you must, you can still get a little piece of the brunch and treat it as your dessert. The classic Broder lemon-curd-and-lingonberry aebleskiver are all yours at dinnertime. Still, after having the more ambitious dinner, it's a bit like falling from the high wire into the safety net.
- Order this: 20-minute chicken.
- Best deal: The smorgasbord tasting menu is a steal at $20.
- Iâll pass: Smashed potatoes.
EAT: Broder Nord, 2240 N Interstate Ave., 282-5555, broderpdx.com. Brunch 8 am-3 pm daily, dinner 5-9 pm Wednesday-Saturday.