When Reggie Carter stumbled throughout an advert for a yet-to-be-opened cocktail bar in search of a beverage director, it serendipitously aligned with what she was already engaged on: cocktails with Southeast Asian flavors. Born within the Philippines, Carter sailed world wide when she was 18, stopping in practically each nation in Southeast Asia. Her creations are a private illustration of her experiences.
Equally, Indian-American chef and restaurateur Sanjay Chandrasekaran has supplied his distinctive tackle Indian delicacies at The Sudra over the previous decade. Collectively, they collaborate with Lightning Bar’s design and assortment division to create a tropical oasis on the nook of Fremont, Mississippi. The XO Bar will open its doorways later this month — although it’ll supply a teaser pop-up in the course of the Mississippi Avenue Truthful on July 15.
XO Bar’s all-vegetarian menu consists of handcrafted drinks and snacks with a Southeast Asian twist. The menu contains cocktails made with rum washed down with coconut oil, Thai tea, and Vietnamese espresso, typically pulled from an island-inspired culinary menu. For instance, there’s an old school play involving a smoked coconut ice dice; Because the ice thaws, the wealthy, smoky flavors of Don Papa’s darkish rum will evolve into one thing extra tropical. Carter’s additionally brings her concept of a “glad, crunchy summer time drink” to life with cucumber, mint, jasmine, lychee, and gin infused with passionfruit and prosecco. Wine and non-alcoholic drinks may also be supplied.
Whereas many Portlanders are conversant in pineapple and papaya, the drinks will embody different Southeast Asian fruits, like durian and mangosteen, that Carter’s hasn’t seen on bar menus round city. Durian will seem in a rum slush with guaiabana, pineapple and coconut, whereas mangosteen will be part of crème de cassis and pea pudding in a rose-tinted cocktail. Additionally they incorporate substances, reminiscent of sugar peas and pink peppercorns, which can be generally related to savory functions in cocktails. Carter says a lot of her inspiration comes from the flavors she encountered in Madagascar, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Southeast China.
To pair with Carter’s quirky creations, Chandrasekaran has developed mini dishes, like creamy jalapeno cheesecake with citrus cactus, miso curry Brussels sprouts, and barbecue vegetable drumsticks. Bigger gadgets embody ginger sesame soy curls with black rice, tempura-filled “hen” sandwiches, and rice noodles with misuzuki tofu and kombu mushroom broth. For dessert, the chef will serve tempura battered bananas with peanut sauce, roasted hazelnuts, pickled ginger and vanilla ice cream. Whereas there are some Sudra influences all through the menu, reminiscent of Jackfruit vindaloo spring rolls, Chandrasekaran says XO goals to be a bar, not a restaurant. “I do not need individuals to suppose that is the Sodra man who opened one other restaurant,” he says.
However meals and drinks are solely a part of the expertise. Ben Hufford, a accomplice in Lightning Bar’s design and meeting division, is the opposite artistic mastermind behind the XO. Diners might acknowledge his work from fashionable areas like Display screen Door and Scotch Lodge, in addition to different LBC institutions, together with the Victoria Bar up the highway.
Hufford designed XO Bar to be shifting: Once you stroll by way of the door, you are coming into a mini-vacation retreat with moody leafy wallpaper, rattan chairs, pastel pink ribbon tiles, crops hanging from baskets, and greenery creeping alongside ceiling trellises. The architect created a tropical oasis for consuming, ingesting, and enjoyable, however leaves room for the customer’s creativeness as effectively. “It is magical while you stroll by way of the door,” he says. “Once you’re indoors, you may be anyplace…it is not meant to be particular.”
This mission marks Carter’s return to the meals trade in Portland from the East Coast, working in hospitality at The Roundhouse in Beacon, New York and nightclubs, reminiscent of Karma and Buddha Lounge, in New York Metropolis. Previous to that, I labored as a bartender at Radar and within the kitchens at Deschutes Brewery and pFriem Household Brewers. In the meantime, a longtime vet within the Portland restaurant world, Chandrasekaran is behind a number of vegan eating places previous and current: Sonny Bowl, The Sudra, Rabbits, Aviv, Lilla, and Daylily Espresso Store.
XO Bar occupies the area previously the North Portland outpost of vegan Indian restaurant The Sudra by way of the tip of April 2023. Though Sudra has been a vegetarian mainstay in Portland since 2013, this specific location hasn’t absolutely gained traction, in accordance with its proprietor. Chandrasekaran attributes this partly to the timing — it opened shortly earlier than the town entered a pandemic lockdown in 2020 — and partly to the idiosyncrasy of an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant. “There may be actually just one sudra wanted,” he says. “It is extra like a vacation spot restaurant, not a neighborhood restaurant.”
Though most Portlanders have resumed consuming out over the previous couple of years, Haford says the post-pandemic restaurant market has modified: In his view, Portland’s eating scene is presently pushed by individuals in search of good bars. On prime of Chandrasekaran’s menu and Carter’s bar program, Hufford hopes XO’s tropical vacation vibe will assist draw the gang to the southern tip of Mississippi — in the identical approach that Victoria Bar has grown right into a bustling hotspot on the different finish of the neighborhood.
XO Bar will open at 906 N Fremont Avenue in late July.