In this colonial drinking den, it feels as if all the detritus of human culture has washed ashore and been made elegant. The waffle beneath your exquisite chili-butter fried chicken is made delicate with rice flour, while happy-hour fried-wonton nachos flatter your palate with lemongrass beef and a decadent "Thai chili cheese sauce" that pays homage to a world that never existed. The twinned burger plate is styled after a quarter pounder with much better ingredients, and tastes like the fast food in heaven. "Laotian tacos" are a play on miang som—nectarine, shrimp, chili-lime and tuna belly wrapped in the pungent bitterness of betel leaf.
Lowbrow comfort food is made into art and highbrow drinks are made entirely of booze: It is a place where all culture seems flattened. The liquor shelves are framed by a massive dragon-and-eagle rimmed circle borrowed from a Chinese restaurant, and the chairs sport elaborate subcontinental patterns. Old editions of Henry Miller and Graham Greene stack on one end of the bar, while above the house vinyl collection, an ecstatic Garbo stares at God from underneath a concert poster for German electronica.
Your bartender might ask you about the new book by a Swedish memoirist while pouring a mezcal cocktail called the Gazelle that both looks and tastes like pink clouds, swirling combier liqueur with genever and hibiscus cardamom syrup. Meanwhile, a White Puma is as smooth as the shoe it describes, mixing Martin Miller gin with a pair of caramel amaros and an orange liqueur first made for Napoleon himself.
Expatriate is the dream of the expatriate, an expansive ideal of civilization only disappointed when you exit and discover yourself back in the familiar, now bland-seeming streets of America.
Expatriate, 5424 NE 30th Ave., expatriatepdx.com. 5 pm-midnight daily, brunch 10 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday. $$$.
Pro tip: Never skip the James Beard's Onion and Butter Sandwich, consisting of its name plus parsley and sel gris. It costs $6, and is one of the simplest expressions of refinement life has to offer. While eating it, you'll feel like the world's smartest child.