In the mood to try another fun happy hour in our neighborhood, Dan and I recently visited Smallwares, a modern Asian fusion restaurant in the NE Fremont area. Attracted to their creative menu, offering street style Asian dishes, we knew we'd be in for a treat.
Set in the lovely, residential NE Fremont strip of shops and restaurants, Smallwares is located in the center of this commercial area, which makes it easy to find. Known for its red and white modern motif, the inside reminds me of a cheery Ikea catalog, as the space feels sleek, breathable and attractive.
Dan and I happened to sit outside since it was such a beautiful night, so we didn't really experience the vibe of the interior but we'll have to come back for that. The outdoor tables are great and provide for some good people watching - and I must say that the alfresco service doesn't suffer at all.
The happy hour menu, offered from 5-7 p.m. each day isn't extensive, but it's fun and creative and definitely piqued our interest. There's also a number of cleverly named drinks that made the happy hour menu truly complete.
Chicken Pot Pie Bao - The "gold standard" of the night, the bao provided something inventive and different and I couldn't get enough. Presented on a fluffy, almost pretzel-like roll, it was stuffed with a savory filling of shredded chicken, peas, carrots and a hearty stew that tied it all together. My only complaint was that it was so tiny, and I would've loved if the portion included two rolls instead of just one.
Pork Skin Ragu - Intrigued by the description of this dish, it also delivered and instead of being served with pasta, it was was accompanied by sticky rice cakes on the bottom of the bowl. The latter was my favorite aspect of the dish, as it soaked up the hearty ragu beautifully. While the ragu was lovely and bright, and speckled with tons of fresh ingredients, it was a tad too salty for my taste.
Shrimp Meatballs - Non traditional in appearance and flavor, the shrimp meatballs looked more like flat patties, which was OK. Also small in size, the flavor was interesting and included lots of Asian spices, resting on a bed of sweet soy sauce. Once again, a pretty dish but a tad too salty.
Oysters - The oysters too, were on special for happy hour, so Dan decided to indulge. Accompanied by natural accouterments such as seaweed, fresh cilantro and lemon juice, it had a flavor-of-the-sea essence, which evoked freshness.
Service and Cost:
From the beginning to the end, our waitress was nothing but attentive and helpful. As I already mentioned, she made sure we were well taken care of at our outdoor table and always refilled our water glasses, brought us new chopsticks when I dropped mine and had an overall lovely disposition.
Costs are decent but a little high for happy hour, given the modest portions. We paid about $30 including tip and a specialty cocktail as well.
Smallwares - 4605 NE Fremont Street, Portland OR 97213