Located in downtown Portland but away from the water, Nosh offers an inviting space with couches near the entrance, user-configurable 2-tops along the windows to the left and a long bar to the right. Above the bar, a blackboard spanning its length lists the impressive and ever changing beer selections. The funky wall art also changes frequently. Atmosphere more fun than serious. Some of the menu ingredients may be highbrow, but it's more casual gastropub than stuffy serious dining. One look inside the rest rooms will confirm that.
The pillowy burger vessel is the style I like to call "brown bag brioche"—less eggy than standard and a little more dense and chewy. It's lightly buttered and toasted, adding the first of several layered flavors designed to elevate the patty.
There's no ordering of doneness here—all meat is "cooked through." That said, they hit medium both times, leaving a little moisture in the patty. As for the patty makeup, it's a beef-pork blend, which had me excited from the get-go. Normally the addition of pork implies extra flavor and extra decadence, but that hasn't been the case here after two visits. The meat surely has an interesting flavor, but it's closer to a turkey burger, meatball or at best a budget veal cutlet than the intense monstrosity I hoped for. Frankly, the adjective that hit me first was"watery," and what could easily be mistaken for juices had no beefiness, porkiness or meatiness. Outer crusting was average, seasoning a little below average.
There are a few preconfigured options here, with "substitutions discouraged." All of the toppings were okay. None excelled. The signature Nosh Burger's fried egg bled a semi-wet yolk that—much like the patty itself—got obscured by the overwhelming garlic sauce that had more of a sweet hoisin color and flavor. Blue cheese got lost altogether, which is no mean feat. Good news: the second visit's simpler bacon double cheeseburger had namesake toppings that were both adequate and less intrusive. Bad news: that only further exposed the meat's lack of character.
The Fries (and such)
One area where Nosh excels is the fries. Just like at that famous place across town, they're served in a paper cone, with a choice of sauce (if your server remembers) on the side. Both the salt/vinegar and bacon dusted fries were very good, even while a little saturated (a more sophisticated form of greasy) and still a little crispy-brittle on the exterior.
The Bottom Line
Despite its porky aspirations, this burger is more of a vehicle for the toppings. A beef-pork blend should be a bonus extra, but here it just leaves me wanting something extra to give it the promised oomph. It's not bad or even approaching it—and I'd probably go back. But for me, Nosh is more interesting than good.
Yelp reviews of Nosh Kitchen Bar
Urbanspoon reviews of Nosh Kitchen Bar
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