Bresca might fly a bit under the radar in the popular mind when it comes to fine dining spots in Portland, but you should not miss dinner there. It is a bit of a splurge, but the food is some of the best and most consistent I've had in Portland.
Lunch at Bresca then gives you the perfect opportunity to try Chef Krista's cooking without breaking the bank.
V. and I sat at the bar, which has been revamped since my last visit. A banquette set against a large, imposing half-wall has been removed and replaced by a wide, light-colored wooden bar.
The lunch menu encompasses a few salads, a soup, two sandwiches, a few meat and seafood dishes, some with an enticing 6-minute egg, and "elevenses," a hearty oatmeal dish. I was torn between the soup and salad and the 'Madame,' an open faced sandwich with greens, cheese, and an egg. Soup and salad won, so I could sample a few dishes.
The salad is a mound of shaved Brussels sprouts, with walnuts, Pecorino cheese, and an olive oil dressing ($9). But as V. said after sampling, "mm... that dressing... there's something more," and that describes Krista's cooking well. There's always something more than the list of ingredients indicates.
V. ordered the burger, which came loaded with smoked Cheddar, bacon, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and greens ($12). She offered me a bite, but it was one of those sandwiches that once picked up, must be finished, as putting it down would result in a mess.
My soup was a butternut squash bisque with maple popcorn ($9). A good butternut squash soup is hard to find, as it can be overly sweet or fall flat. But this soup was well rounded, a thick puree full of well-balanced flavor. The popcorn was beyond me, as it quickly grew soggy, and then compressed into my molars as I ate it, but oh well.
Lunch at Bresca is more than a mid-day obligation to refuel oneself for the rest of the day. Rather, it made me a lady who lunches, one who orders white wine and a salad, who doesn't have to go back to the office, and can then stroll about the Old Port, window shopping. It made me feel like I was on vacation.
If you find yourself with an opportunity to linger over lunch or need to be whisked away from this Portland in early-Spring business, then treat yourself to lunch at Bresca, because it's a chance for some of the city's best food without the fine dining bill.