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Rostra rating: 3.5
Teote is a delicious example of Portland’s benign propensity toward culinary assimilation. Venezuela is a sobering reminder that good food is a necessary but not sufficient underpinning for a functioning political economy. Seeking asylum from tyranny and economic chaos, Venezuelans are bringing their recipes and culinary traditions to the US in record numbers. TeamMago first sampled arepas in Miami where the bulk of Venezuelan immigrants have settled, but I’ll be damned if Bridge City hasn’t figured out the most convivial means of ingesting those tasty corn dodgers.
First off, Teote is a great space for dining and imbibing. There are three distinct venues to choose from, each with its own bar:
- Inside downstairs, no-frills bolt down seating close to the order counter,
- Upstairs bar, more seating options amidst bright pastel walls and lots of repurposed heirloom wood,
- Covered patio out back. This is the nicest space with a circular fire pit, picnic table seating, and a lovely live giant tree off in the far corner.
All of the bars boast a great tap list, massive mezcal holdings, and very interesting cocktails.
The food? Well TeamMago has not made it past the eight arepa bowls — yet. We need to fast for a few days and shanghai an itinerant foodie or two before tackling the La Cena mounds o’meat (or just drag home a huge doggy bag). So far, however, the arepa bowls have landed on the good to great end of the culinary spectrum.
El Diablo: shredded pork belly and roasted poblano chiles glazed in a red chili maple sauce, topped with pickled onions, verde sauce, queso fresco and cilantro. Very nice sweet and hot sauce, a perfect foil for the pig candy. Cheese and pickled onions add flavor and texture. The arepas themselves are buttery corn cakes, crunchy on the outside and sweet, caky rich on the inside–sort of a cross between cornbread and hushpuppies. The chilis, salsa verde, and queso mingle in the bowl, creating a great dipping medium for the arepas.
Pernil: Carlton Farms shredded pork shoulder braised with morita chile, gluten free beer marinade, topped with cabbage salad, verde sauce, queso fresco and cilantro. The pulled pork was mild with a touch of acid, while the cabbage salad added a nice crunchy textural contrast. This bowl was not nearly as concentrated as El Diablo, but a nice preparation all the same. However, it is best to go spicy at Teote or go elsewhere.
Chorizo & Plantain: Carlton Farms shredded red chorizo, topped with fried plantains, plantain sauce, queso fresco and cilantro. Sweet, savory, and spicy flavor profile. The lean Carlton farms chorizo was very good, not as fat as many takes on this ubiquitous sausage. The spice mixture in the chorizo provided its own heat that added different yet compliementary notes to the salsa verde, which I spiked carefully with Teote’s bespoke habanero sauce for great multilayer burn.
Smoky Pollo: Draper Valley shredded chicken slow cooked in a smoky green chili, topped with cabbage salad, verde sauce, plantain sauce, queso fresco and cilantro.This bowl got a bit soupy with all the different sauces but it still delivered a nice smoky flavor. Despite negative reviews in social media and Willamette Week concerning the fried plantains, TeamMago thought they were spot on, lending a sweet mouth feel to every dish they graced.
A word on the house salsas. Teote’s salsa verde disposed of both acid notes and very decent heat. Handle the habanero salsa with care: it will melt your freakin’ face. We are big fans of robust culinary heat, but when you go from hot to universal solvent the victim is often the flavor of the underlying dish. The best approach at Teote is to prepare a mix of verde and habanero with a just a few drops of the h-bomb in a lot of the green stuff. Taste before you lace and then again before you add the mixture to your dish.
Bottom line: Teote may not be the most authentic take on Venezuelan street food, and there are significant DIY duties expected of the clientele with respect to ordering, securing a table, and bussing one’s leavings, but the food and drinks are very good and the space friendly and welcoming. Good luck finding anything similar in the country of origin these days.