Not fusion, but not exactly authentic, the Latin American-inspired restaurant Mestizo is a celebration of different cultures, which the name and menu are meant to reflect. Owner Ketsuda “Nan” Chaison serves up a menu of dishes sourced from Latin American countries — chifles from Ecuador, a vegan Cuban ropa vieja made with jackfruit, Peruvian ceviche — and every last morsel is gluten- and soy-free.
“A lot of people think it’s a trend, but I don’t see it as another way people choose to eat and I want to be able to adapt to all of that,” Chaison said.
In addition to making its food accessible to diners of all stripes, Chaison strives to be community-driven. (And indeed, Chaison has opened up her space to host pop-ups from some of Portland’s fastest rising stars, like Mitate, Plant Based Papi, Tume, Kumare, and HeyDay.) She’s also food program manager at The Midnight, offering an abbreviated menu of Latin American-inspired vegan and vegetarian bar bites. On Division’s eat street, the self-taught restaurateur dominates an entire city block. Its first restaurant, the vegan/vegetarian Thai restaurant Kati, is located next door.
“I’m an immigrant from Thailand, but I’m really into Latin American food. I wanted to open a gluten-free restaurant, and this type of cuisine fits that concept perfectly,” Chaison said.
Mestizo opened in December 2019 and did well until COVID hit a few months later; they’ve been on the same 2020 roller coaster ride as the rest of the industry, making the same takeout/dinner back and forths that have proven fatal for some restaurants. During this period, Chaison also parted ways with business partners with whom she launched the restaurant, citing creative differences.
Chaison currently runs the kitchen, but credits former executive chef Kanani Mahecha for coming along and refining the restaurant’s opening menu. Drawing on her Mexican-Filipino heritage, Mahecha put her personal touch on the dishes, bringing Chaison’s vision to life with an infusion of the home cooking she makes for her family. Chaison draws inspiration for her menu from her travels, as well as the restaurants she likes to frequent around town.
Mestizo’s games on traditional dishes are bearing fruit. An already brilliant shrimp ceviche is made brighter with juicy chunks of grilled pineapple. It’s served with homemade chips, but an extra dollar and a half will get you a stack of homemade golden chifles – fried plantain chips that are quite addictive on their own but killer when used as a vehicle for ceviche. .
The banana flower tacos, three for one serving, are substantial. These aren’t your delicate squash blossoms, oh no. Chaison compares them to artichoke hearts, but they are larger and have a subtle banana flavor. Fried to crispy perfection, rice flour breaded flowers are nestled with crispy coleslaw on Three Sisters tricolor corn tortillas and finished with a tangy orange habanero sauce and a drizzle of walnut cream. coconut.
If bowls are your thing, Mestizo offers rice and salad bowls with your choice of grilled Caribbean-spiced jumbo prawns, seared redfish or garlicky oyster mushroom Pals. The rice bowl is filling and well rounded, with yams, tomatoes, corn, black beans, Haitian pikliz, and a nice touch of spice from the chipotle aioli.
The patio at Mestizo’s popular dining room will soon be heated for the colder months ahead. Janey Wong
I advise you to save a little space and cross your fingers for the pumpkin! Spice up! Flank! is available during your visit, as it is an absolute must. Even though we had it on an 80-degree day, savoring it brought me visions of jumping into a pile of crisp leaves and frolicking through a pumpkin patch floating in my head. This will kick your overpriced PSL into the middle of next week. And now that the colder months are upon us, Chaison is currently working on installing the heating for the restaurant’s large terrace.
Métis, Division 2910 SE, (503) 384-2273, mestizopdx.com