Chef John Gorham was already wildly popular in Portland, Ore., after opening three successful small plate-type restaurants: Toro Bravo, Tasty n Alder and Tasty n Sons. Much to every Portlander’s delight, Gorham just opened another restaurant in the Pearl district, in the space formally occupied by Riffle NW. This time, the cuisine is focused on Mediterranean flavors and served in a happy, bright atmosphere.
Mediterranean Exploration Company is the culmination of Chef Gorham and Executive Chef Kasey Mills' vision. The restaurant's inspired heavily by their recent trip to Israel, Spain and multiple other Mediterranean countries. In addition to regular tables, they have a large, L-shaped bar with 18 seats and a chef’s table with another 18 seats.
Cuisine at Mediterranean Exploration Company — Photo courtesy of Mediterranean Exploration Company
The menu is a melting pot of cuisines and includes small plates meant for sharing. You will discover hints of Armenian fare in the roasted peaches with sheep's cheese, pistachios and Aleppo honey. The El Baboor (lamb kebab pie) brings a touch of Syrian spice. The Shalosh Mezza – with roasted eggplant, tomato and olive oil, pumpkin and carrot – showcases influences from Israel.
Of course, no restaurant of Chef Gorham’s would be complete without a radicchio salad, and this newest version will not disappoint. Mediterranean Exploration Company’s radicchio salad features cherries, parsley and yogurt dressing; it appears on the happy hour menu as well.
Mediterranean Exploration Company in the Pearl District — Photo courtesy of Mediterranean Exploration Company
For dessert, you can truly indulge in Steve’s Cheese Board, with cheeses from Mallorca, Sardinia and Croatia.
All of these exotic flavors are not limited to the food, but they also frequent the striking cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages at Mediterranean Exploration Company. Fun non-alcoholic selections include Moroccan mint tea or Austrian soda, with your choice of elderflower or black currant.
The cocktails here are one of a kind, with options like the Turkish Delight made with Sobieski vodka, ceylon tea, lemon, orange bitters and orange blossom water. Try the Tai Tai made with Pueblo Viejo silver tequila, Combier orange, pistachio orgeat, lime and mint poured over crushed ice.
Patrons will enjoy food and beverage discounts during the daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The restaurant's dazzling Beef Bacon Wrapped Dates are only $1 each during this time, and they offer a selection of draft beers for only $3 each.
They do accept reservations at Mediterranean Exploration Company. Call 503-222-0906, or visit the restaurant's website for more info.