XV matures in niche for grown-up night life
Stick with your strengths.
It's a simple premise but one that a lot of club owners lose sight of. Having spent 26 of his 41 years in some aspect of the restaurant business, XV owner Mark Byrns had a clear vision of what he wanted in a club when he opened just over a year ago.
'I wanted to create a place where I'd like to go, and hopefully other people would want to be there, too,' Byrns says. 'So when the opportunity for this space came up, I grabbed it; it was too good to pass up.'
But in a town where new dining establishments crop up like chanterelles, XV ran the risk of being passed up. It might have been, were it not for Byrns' experience at a few of Portland's best training grounds.
After working under Bruce Carey and Chris Israel as wine buyer for Zefiro, Byrns moved on to Carey's current hit, Bluehour. He then managed its sister business, Saucebox, before testing his mettle with XV.
Byrns had a good idea of what was missing in the Portland dining scene. 'People want a casual setting where you can get good food, without it being too upscale,' he says, citing Zefiro's bar as an example of the perfect melding of comfort and cuisine.
'I wanted to reproduce that 'adult-type' bar Ñ someplace where a little bit older crowd could enjoy themselves.'
A bar with depth and the Caribbean-inspired menu of chef Lorenzo Dahliana make this an unchallenging proposition at XV.
Happy hour goes until 7 each night, so it's economically feasible to work your way through cleverly delicious drinks such as Naughty Girl Lemonade (punched up with Absolut Kurant and cassis) and the house favorite, Caipirinha: cachaca (sugar cane alcohol) with muddled lime.
Byrns' grape expertise is evident in the carefully crafted wine list; beer drinkers also have plenty of choices, from Pabst to Paulaner.
Dahliana, who sharpened his skills at Zefiro and Higgins, brings to XV the Caribbean tapas (small plates) concept he employed at his own restaurant, Tropicove.
Don't miss the crispy coconut shrimp and the yam fries before moving on to something more substantial, such as the sautŽed tama-rind chicken or the baked curried lamb pot pie Ñ perfect antidotes to our anything-but-tropical weather.
Equally multifaceted is XV's interior, which offers a darkly elegant setting for any mood. Sit at the bar and chat with the regulars, or kick back with friends in the elevated lounge while listening to your selections from the jukebox.
'Everybody's got a DJ,' Byrns explains. 'With a jukebox, you can listen to your own choices.' Choice is the right word. The constantly updated selection includes everything from Johnny Cash to Mary J. Blige.
XV also showcases live music in an adjoining space, punctuated by a large Hindu goddess statue and a second bar.
Tuesdays currently feature the Pink Martini spinoff Sub-Straight.
The group Rosebud performs on Wednesdays, and on Thursdays you'll hear Big Yeah.