I was debating back and forth among several candidates for the last meal in Portland at the end of the Oregon trip with my wife Jun. Do I go for sexy newcomers or proven stalwarts in the forever changing dining scene of Portland? I already made one disastrous choice with a restaurant in the former category (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2019/07/20/erizo/) so I made a point of going to a place that had been around for a while. While New York City has no shortage of steakhouses (from varying degrees of quality and satisfaction), you don’t often see one based on Argentine inspiration despite the country’s lofty place in the global meat consumption. The moment we entered Ox for a walk-in table in the early evening before our red eye flight back to NYC, the wooden grill near the entrance immediately greeted us and I was optimistic that we had come to the right place. Thankfully, my optimism turned out to be true.
The menu at Ox, not surprisingly, is quite meat-centric although there are plenty of other non-meat dishes that looked intriguing, many of them coming from the grill. If there is one dish from our Oregon trip that I will not forget for a long time, it has to be the spicy braised beef tripe and octopus. Jun and I were huge fans of the spicy kick coming from this beautiful dish where the texture of tripe and octopus worked harmoniously. While we were tempted to go with the Asado Argentino option for two (at $94, it includes various types of meat from short rib to chorizo and sausages to skirt steak), we also weren’t too hungry given it was still around 5:30 p.m. and we just went through a full day of winery trips in Willamette Valley so we settled for two meat and one vegetable dishes. All of them were quite delicious, starting with the beef short rib whose shape reminded us of the traditional Korean galbi (Jun went after the meat around the bone which she always says is her favorite), to the beef skirt steak that I think could stand up to any skirt steak dishes in other steakhouses. To my surprise, though, it was the steamed snap peas with yuzu citrus Hollandaise and Dungeness crab that was a standout dish, with the crunchy texture of snap peas really bringing joy to my palate and complementing the meat more or less perfectly. It really shows that, despite its thematic identity, Ox is not just about the meat but really knows how to use the fire to bring dishes from all kinds of ingredients in a thoughtful satisfying manner.
Ox has only recently started taking reservations for a limited number of seats, but we had no issue getting seated immediately for an early dinner. Since we were just coming from a bunch of wine tastings and I still had to drive to the airport, we skipped alcohol while having our meal, but in glancing at the wine list it seems to be centered around Latin America (mostly Argentina and Chile); a glass of red certainly would’ve been a wonderful complement to all the meats that we were having. The restaurant’s dining room gave a casual neighborhood vibe that was inviting and makes the restaurant work for multiple types of dinner occasions, with the wooden grill I mentioned above being the center of all the actions going on. Ox was one of the better restaurants in Portland that Jun and I had visited during our trip, and the thoughtful execution of all the grilled dishes that we tasted gave us one last smile before we headed to the airport for our flight back home. It certainly deserves a place as one of the worthy dining destinations in Portland.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 2225 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland, OR 97212
Telephone: (503) 284-3366