There are still not a lot of Belgian beer and food options in Portland, but this week it gets a little bit better with the soft opening private dinners at “La Moule” on SE 25th and Clinton. This new restaurant and bar project is a collaboration between Aaron Barnett of the acclaimed and popular French restaurant St. Jack and bartender Tommy Klus, previously of Multnomah Whiskey Library and Teardrop Lounge. This is another project backed by the ChefStable group, which seems to be behind every hot new startup restaurant and has been getting more beery with the Loyal Legion beer hall project.
La Moule takes over the old Savoy tavern space on the south corner of the busy intersection of SE 25th and Clinton next to Broder, which had been using the Savoy space as a waiting room for its popular brunch service. The smallish but classy French and Belgian-inspired interior of La Moule indicates the European style of experience Aaron Barnett is going for, inspired by accidentally stumbling to a Belgian beer bar in D.C. with dozens of mussel and frite options. While many restaurants like the nearby Bazi Bierbrasserie or Grain & Gristle offer fantastic Belgian-style frites with beer steamed mussels, La Moule plans half a dozen variations on the flagship dish.
While the main dish specialties of La Moule may not be for those with a shellfish allergy, the menu is rounded out with Belgian street-food style sausage, bone marrow toast, salads, steaks, and both a classic beef and vegan pub burger. All offer the option of a big pile of French fries served with your choice of 3 kinds of dipping sauce: house aioli, kewpie mayo, or Duke’s Mayo. I went with the housemade standard aioli dip that was thick, rich and creamy, but did not stay past its welcome as a truffle flavor might.
Jacob Grier demonstrates proper Bone Luge technique
As I was seated at the bar next to beer cocktail and bone luge creator Jacob Grier, and La Moule had a bone marrow Steak Tartare on the menu ,we had to break in the place with its first-ever luge. The roasted, fatty, meaty, and buttery marrow in the sliced bone was topped with a chunky helping of Steak Tartare and a runny duck egg. Removing the ingredients with a knife and spreading it across the provided toast made for a mouth watering starter or a great bar snack paired with an Upright Brewing Seven, a strong farmhouse golden ale.
I chose the mussel dish option with smoked kielbasa and sport peppers in a spicy and buttery pale ale broth and found some seasonably appropriate hatch chilies as a surprise bonus. The mussels were cooked perfectly and easily removed from their shells and the broth was so good I embarrassingly found myself still slurping it out of empty shells long after everyone near me had finished their meals.
Next to me, Jacob Grier opted for the “Marrocaine” Mussels, Harissa with additional red peppers, onions, cilantro, and mint in a white wine broth. It was almost as good as mine and reminded me of a seafood fajita in broth. Meanwhile, Chef Alyssa Gregg who was sitting with us opted for the “Classique” mussels with a traditional garlic, white wine, and butter sauce that was as good as you would expect. We didn’t try some of the other options for mussels that will make it onto the regular menu as of September 21st, like Mariniere mussels with the classique sauce plus capers and chili flake, the Thai mussels with a house curry paste, coconut milk, basil, lime and white wine, or the Diavola mussels with tomato, chilis, salami, garlic, basil, white wine, and butter.
The beer menu at La Moule is built around Belgian styles, and it’s refreshingly mostly imports but gives a hand to some local versions as well. There will be 10 semi-rotating taps and I think there’s already a nice variety, ranging from a St. Feuillen Saison, La Trappe Quadrupel, and St. Bernardus Abt 12. Lighter beer fans will be happy to have a Bavik Pils on tap and the classic Saison DuPont. Local love goes to Upright Brewing’s Seven and something hoppier with pFriem Family Brewers IPA. There are also bottles and cans; I am stoked to see they carry De Ranke XX Bitter by the bottle for $11, Rochefort 10 for $8, Duvel for $10, and stateside offerings like Stillwater Classique cans for $5 and Fort George Quick Wit for $4. Those are just a sampling of the draft and bottles, and Tommy Klus plans to expand the bottle list and hopes to eventually have cellared bottles, too. I put in a vote for Orval and I think it will be coming soon.
La Moule opens officially on Monday September 21st and will be open 5pm – Midnight
2500 SE Clinton St