Put It In Your Mouth: Taqueria Nueve

Taqueria Nueve at 28 N.E. 28th Ave. has long been one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Ever since "the Taq" opened its doors about three years ago, they have consistently served an array of fish-centered Mexican dishes that have won them their reputation for excellence amongst Portland eaters.

Located near the Laurelhurst Theatre on newly restyled Northeast 28th Avenue, Taqueria Nueve fits nicely on a block among other restaurants such as Tabla and La Bucca, the geltaria Staccato Gelato and the fantastic caf퀌� Crema. In a brightly colored environment, among a staff of young, friendly servers (cute tattoos, Bishops bobs and all), the Taq offers its clientele the perfect balance of laid back, Pacific Northwest dining experience coupled with an outstanding array of dishes at a moderate price. No entr퀌�e goes for more than $15, so you could probably go there at least once every few months if you live on a college budget like me.

The Taq is always a good choice for a date, especially in the summer when you can get an outside, sidewalk table; ladies love being in a position for passing motorists to heckle and proposition them, right? But if you’re not in the mood for love, it is also a great place to bring a larger party. Last Sunday, when I visited the Taq for the second time this month, I was with a group of 13, and there wasn’t one among us unsatisfied with both the service and the food.

One of my favorite dishes is the ceviche ceasar salad. Always an excellent choice to start with, this dish contains some of the best damn ceviche around. This salad has a tart flavor to it, and as the fish is absent of any marinade, the zest of lime and the fresh seafood balance perfectly with the mild caesar dressing, fresh greens and house-made tortilla strips. It’s crunchy, chewy and an all around good eat. Beyond this, there is an excellent beet salad available with both golden and red beets. The golden beets offer an outstandingly rich flavor, which combines an earthy, sweet balance that is entirely unique. They taste a bit like sweet dirt, but good dirt, not mud. Along with this dish’s simple vinaigrette and excellent combination of fresh greens, this item is perfect for those who choose a vegetarian diet.

When its time to really fill up, the Taq’s list of entrees include an incredible mole sauce that is served with goose leg, and an excellent hanger steak served with a bistee en salsa de oaxaqueno sauce, which tastes a lot like an enchilada sauce. This cut of meat is served medium rare and the flavor combination is fantastic. Also, the squid stuffed with chorizo was very good, aside from the fact that squid was perhaps a bit over-cooked when I ordered it. It’s cute, too. The little squid bodies instantly reminded me of the movie "Maria Full Of Grace," where Columbian women swallow neatly latex-wrapped chunks of heroin. Anyway, the chorizo inside was excellent, not as excellent as Columbian heroin of course, but it was tasty. For this dish I recommend a squeeze of lime to bring out the flavor. Another standard entree worth mentioning are the enchiladas, served with either chicken, steak, goat cheese or spaghetti squash. Any of these are a safe bet. Beyond these, Taqueria Nueve also offers a number of tacos for around $3. The cocktail and wine menu is reasonably priced and quite good. Along with their house margarita and superb mojito, the wine menu is nice, as well, with bottles ranging from $18 to $30.

Don’t get too full on dinner because Nueve has some truly fantastic desserts, too, such as the tres leche cake, which is out of this world. This traditional desert is served with cream poured over the chocolate frosted cake and has hints of cinnamon and cocoa. Oh, so good! The flan is also excellent. With subtle hints of orange arriving only after the rich, creamy, perfectly textured flan is gone from the mouth, this desert gets an A+. Good work, Taqueria Nueve.

Overall, Taqueria Nueve is certain not to disappoint. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet experienced this Portland jewel.