Updated Polynesian grog comes to Portland

mahogany clams

Mahogany clam ceviche

If cocktails on tap, 500 year-old mahogany clams and an enflamed treasure chest of grog sounds mighty fine to you, hold onto your pirate’s hat because some top-tier plunder is headed for Portland.

Last week we blogged about Rhum, an ambitious tiki lounge opening January 3rd on Free Street. But few details regarding cuisine were available. Urban Eye just caught up with chef Frank W. Anderson, and apparently we ain’t seen nothing yet.

“Everybody wants to go local, we want to do something different,” said the Caribou native, who cooked his way through Los Angeles in places like Animal and Son of a Gun for 10 years. “The menu will be pretty heavily seafood based, not all local. I’ve made great relationships with purveyors.”

Mahogany clam ceviche invigorated with soy sauce, chopped avocado and topped with crisp tortillas is one signature app in the works. Served on shaved ice, “you knock them back like oysters.”

Then there’s the Spam dish. In Hawaii surfers down a rice, hamburger, Spam and fried egg concoction smothered in brown gravy called loco moco. At Rhum the novelty goes uptown. Deconstructed into a taco made of inari (fried tofu skin), Anderson stuffs rice; hamburger meat, seared Spam, foie gras and a quail egg. Refined finger food.

“I hate to use the word small plates,” said Anderson, whose wife Rebecca Ambrosi is  Rhum’s general manager. “Our theme is food and grog.”

Clearly Anderson is having fun creating Rhum’s tropical bent featuring Singapore, Philippine and Malaysian style cuisine. An echoing wave to Tempo Dulu in the West End? 

There will be pork ribs with char siu sauce, an updated pu pu platter consisting of pates and whipped lardo flavored with pho from Thailand. “Perfect to smear on bread,” he said.

Seafood towers, (“because no one is really doing them”) will be loaded with oysters, Mexican shrimp, raw scallops, King crab from Alaska, chilled mussels and periwinkles. Three options — dinghy, yacht and the big guns — should satisfy your captain and crew. To wash it down, painkillers on tap and mai tais made with in-house almond syrup — a nutty elixir that makes up 90 percent of all tiki drinks — should slake all thirsts and correct all moods.

“The crowd pleaser is kaya toast,” said Anderson, of the toasted white bread, coconut jam dish served with a soft egg and sweet soy sauce. “It’s eaten in the Philippines as breakfast. It will be different and decadent.”

Speaking of decadent: something called the treasure chest is sure to make a splash with high rollers. This granddaddy of big format drinks is Anderson’s creation and if it makes it onto the menu (70 percent chance) it may induce skulduggery below deck.

Enough to sate six to eight people, the blazing treasure chest comes with champagne, caviar service and a bottle of rum for $400. Inspired by a similar concept at Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash, this is new for the Port City. “There will be theatrics when this comes out,” said Anderson, whose caviar service includes toasted brioche with onions, eggs and creme fraiche, inviting guests to make their own tea sandwiches and drinks!

“There is something in there for everybody,  the Baby Boomers, even the hipsters not here yet from California … they are coming.”

Too bad they will not be open for New Year’s Eve, but chart a course here in early January and drop anchor. Rhum, 4 Free St. Rear, Portland.







Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.