Paradise Mariscos Brings Mexican Seafood and an “Escape” to the Northeast Portland Parking Lot

Portland’s best-kept foodie secret hides behind a chain-link fence next to Güero, the colorful torta shop in northeast Portland. Here, in a former car garage that once housed priceless vintage cars, a chef trained in three-Michelin-star restaurants prepares dishes that remind him of home — in particular, the Mexican-style seafood popular in the Los Angeles neighborhood. where he grew up – by October.

Paradise Mariscos, as the parking lot pop-up is called, has no phone or website. He has an Instagram, the most essential modern marketing tool, but in early August the account had no posts and only recently added hours to his bio. Do a Google search and you’ll find next to nothing in the usually voracious local food media, other than a brief mention in a guide to Portland’s best patios.

But Chef Adán Fausto’s demanding interpretations of tuna tostadas, black cod flautas and octopus and chorizo ​​pambazo sandwiches seem perfectly suited to Portland right now, with gastronomic technique brought to bear on familiar dishes, all served on a breezy former parking lot now suspended with shady plants and a cool mist spraying overhead.

Before we get to what makes Paradise special, let’s find out how it got here:

Megan Sanchez and Alec Morrison, the sandwich duo who catapulted Güero from a food cart to one of the most popular spots in Portland’s row of iconic restaurants, had long had their eye on the ground behind their restaurant , which previously housed an automobile store and vintage car collection. When an opportunity presented itself buying property during the pandemicthey didn’t argue for long.

“That land wouldn’t be as valuable to anyone else as it is to us,” Sanchez says. “It’s the only way to expand our business here.

Last year, picnic tables added to the parking lot served as additional seating for Güero, who already had a leafy patio built across the street but had yet to reopen for indoor dining.

Still, Sanchez was already dreaming of turning the space into a more formal seafood restaurant, a place with pastel walls and indoor plants channeling old Los Angeles, where his father’s family is from. Sanchez planned to run the kitchen herself. Then she met Fausto.

Chips, guac, salsa and a Short Kimono cocktail with mezcal and bitter orange from Paradise Mariscos.Michael Russell | The Oregonian

An abbreviated version of Fausto’s CV: At one of his first jobs, a bistro near his home, a fellow cook gave him a copy of the cookbook ‘The French Laundry’, opening his eyes to the world gastronomy. From there, he worked his way to jobs at a string of high-end restaurants on both coasts: Sona in Los Angeles, Daniel in New York, Sons & Daughters in San Francisco. In 2014, he decided to test the waters of being an entrepreneur, emailing five prominent CEOs. He lands an interview with Apple, then cooks for Tim Cook for two and a half years.

This CV is reflected in the Paradise menu. The tuna and avocado tostada is a riff on the famed version of Cala restaurant by Contramar chef Gabriela Camara, since closed, in San Francisco, where Fausto worked. Here, it’s topped with a smoky morita pepper aioli, tender slices of albacore, and crispy fried leeks, and it’s as flavorful a version of the dish as I’ve had in Oregon. Chefs at fine dining restaurants often warn against combining fish and cheese (unless it’s a seafood risotto with grated Parma). Fausto’s flautas, a recurring specialty worthy of joining the full menu, push that rule aside, pairing black cod and Oaxacan cheese in a fried tortilla for a double punch of richness.

Although he grew up surrounded by marisco restaurants southeast of downtown Los Angeles, Fausto didn’t try ceviche until he was 16, while on a family trip to Baja. Now he prepares two variations of dried seafood. First, chopped shrimp and fish dipped in habanero and lime, served under two fried tortillas covered in a matcha-colored scallion powder that Sanchez likens to “Dorito dust.” Second, marinated prawns, cold mussels and rhubarb neatly arranged on a plate with escabeche and pinto beans borrowed from Güero cuisine. I prefer the plate, with tender shrimp and creamy snatch beans with a tortilla chip, but both have their selling points.

Other Güero ingredients find their way onto the Paradise menu, including creamy guacamole sprinkled with slices of pickled jalapeño, drizzled with a herb oil and served with the same Juanita fries used on the side (just make tostadas a la fryers of the restaurant at full capacity). The pambazo — a potato-chorizo ​​sandwich slathered in guajillo chili salsa — was a Sanchez specialty that Fausto polished off with candied potatoes and koji-marinated octopus. (Customers can always be seen bringing tortas de Güero, although this is discouraged when Paradise is busy.)

Oysters from Washington’s Mexican-owned Carbajal Oyster Farm also come two ways, freshly shucked with fermented rhubarb and habanero liquor, and barbecued with not-quite-decadent chorizo ​​butter, which the latter being served on gold foil with a last minute squeeze. of lime.

Chefs Adán Fausto and Megan Sanchez stand behind the counter on a hot July night at Paradise Mariscos, a pop-up parking lot behind Güero.

Chefs Adán Fausto and Megan Sanchez stand behind the counter at Paradise Mariscos, a pop-up parking lot behind the Güero in northeast Portland, on a hot late July night.Michael Russell | The Oregonian

Fausto has found another collaborator in longtime Güero bartender Ben Skiba, whose refreshing cocktails blend agave spirits and aguas frescas – a pico water from the kitchen could work its way into a cocktail, while a chilled mezcal martini is rimmed with the same green onion powder used to dust ceviche tostadas. You will also find natural wines and Mexican beer in 12, 24 and 32 ounce bottles.

Sanchez and Fausto came up with the idea of ​​adding grilled whole trout or another main course to the Paradise menu. It’s not a bad idea. A meal of oysters, a few small plates, and two cocktails can reach $100 and, depending on how much your Juanita brings, might not fill you up. For now, it’s probably best to think of paradise as a tapas bar, a place to go, have a green mezcal made with avocado and lime, enjoy the technique of an inventive seafood dish and soak up decor that looks like a slice of Tulum fell in northeast Portland (only without a swim-up bar, alas).

“We really considered doing a year of construction at this site,” Sanchez says. “And then we met Adán, and he was like, let’s just focus on the food, let’s build what we want now and move on faster. He really liked the idea of ​​doing something scrappy. But it’s funny let it be the slap-dash version, because every time someone steps onto the court, they’re like, “Oh my God, I feel like I’m on vacation.”

“With the year we’ve all had, a little escape is just what the doctor ordered.”

Visit Paradise Mariscos from 4-10 p.m., Thursday-Sunday, now through October at 2821 NE Davis St.

—Michael Russell

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