For some chefs, maybe even most chefs, a call from Cooking Channel announcing an upcoming visit would be the sort of good news that would send them cartwheeling into whooping, fist-pumping celebrations.

Just picture it: a single half-hour of television that has the power to introduce hundreds of thousands of viewers to your restaurant, your food and, perhaps most importantly, to you.

Joshua Doria, formerly of Central Provisions and now executive chef at Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Company, had a different response to the network sending a team to showcase two of his dishes on “Late Night Eats.”

“Eh,” he said.

“It was a little stressful. Basically 12 hours of them filming, and honestly, I’m not that kind of chef. I’m in the kitchen for a reason: I like to hide out.”

Liquid Riot, which bills itself as a brewery/distillery/resto-bar offers him plenty of opportunities to do just that, starting early in the morning, when prep begins for a marathon of continuous service that runs from noon until as late as 1 a.m. No matter what time of day or night you visit, the menu is the same.


That approach fits well with Doria’s understated attitude. “We don’t do a traditional lunch or dinner seating. I wouldn’t want to,” he explained. “It’s a bar, and the bar comes first.”

In truth, Liquid Riot is much more than a bar. Its in-house distillery bottles a minty, 41-percent ABV Italian-style amaro called Fernet Michaud that is the star ingredient in the subtly sweet, wonderfully puckery Endless Summer cocktail ($10). And don’t forget the on-site brewery that produces upwards of a dozen beers, all available on tap – from an almost delicately effervescent lime-peel flavored session IPA called Herbie ($7 for 16 oz.), to a rough and ready dry lambic-style Raspy Trouble ($7.50 for 16 oz.) that tastes like sipping dark ale from a cold raspberry jam jar.

Doria’s roasted mushroom toast features North Spore mushrooms drizzled with a sauce flavored with Liquid Riot’s Beer Schnapps, topped with arugula and pickled onions and layered on a slab of Standard Baking sourdough.

Doria also doesn’t miss his chance to echo Liquid Riot’s primary identity in his cooking. His roasted mushroom toast ($12) features North Spore Mushroom’s “kitchen grade assortment,” a blend of oyster, shiitake and sometimes hen of the woods mushrooms, seared to order, then drizzled with a pan sauce made by deglazing with Liquid Riot’s Beer Schnapps. “Whatever is left at the bottom of the tanks and going to waste, we distill it into schnapps, and it tastes almost like a light whiskey,” Doria said. Served on a thick plank of Standard Baking sourdough and garnished with a few tiny, crisp-fried mushrooms, it’s an umami supernova that would be improved only by a few more pickled onions.

In his rum cake ($7), he goes to even greater lengths to link dining to the surroundings. “I take the spent grains from brewing (malt, barley and oats) and dehydrate them for two days. It’s a long process,” he explained. “Once they’re dried, I can blast them in the Vitamix to turn them into sort of a flour. They usually go to pigs at a local farm, but before we give them to the farmer, I take some. A lot of places just throw it away.” His unorthodox flour gives the dense, perhaps sludgy cake a heady, bready flavor that marries well with the crunchy, sugary topping of housemade Dow’s Demise dark rum and coconut. One slice is enough to share.

Creative dishes like these make it hard not to notice Doria’s positive influence on Liquid Riot. Stop for a second and look at the menu he redesigned when he took over the kitchen in July. What you see there isn’t just typical bar food.

Sure, there’s a phenomenally good housemade pretzel ($6), looped into the shape of a napping figure eight as an homage to Liquid Riot’s former name: Infinity. And yes, you’ll also find a 6-ounce beef burger ($15) served with sweet pickles and peppery arugula, pickled onions and Cabot cheddar cheese, all layered in a precise order that somehow keeps the brioche bun from ever getting soggy. Hamburger witchcraft, really.


But further in, something unusual: an excellent salad of local goat cheese, kale and heirloom cherry tomatoes ($9), exuberantly seasoned with tarragon and mint and fortified with soft, barely chewy farro. “I wanted something a vegetarian could come in and have and feel satisfied. Farro is good for you and it’s filling,” Doria said. It’s not just for herbivores, either. I spotted a party of 12 college students seated on comfy, black leather sofas, sharing three servings of the farro salad with their burgers. Then, underneath sparkly sail tarps on the back patio, a couple cuddled up on adjacent aluminum-and-plywood barstools and split both the salad and the Chinese Takeout chicken wings ($12) as they watched the moonlight over Union Wharf.

I followed their lead and ordered the wings myself, which is how I discovered that Doria is kind of a fryer genius.

He starts with double-fried wings that require no breading, coating or dredge, yet still develop a brittle, shatteringly crisp exterior. These are tossed in Doria’s special red sauce, a trans-national blend of Korean gochujang chili paste, Japanese mirin, soy sauce and chili oil before receiving a finishing sprinkle of black and white sesame seeds. In the end, I’m not sure how Chinese the dish is, but it’s undeniably good – sweet and sticky, with a 9-volt current of spicy heat sparking through every bite.

There’s gochujang in the aioli-based dipping sauce for Liquid Riot’s French fries ($6), as well, but that’s not the best thing about the dish. Cut from skin-on potatoes from Green Thumb Farms in Fryeburg, Doria’s fries are blanched in oil, frozen and then fried again to order and dusted with salt. Two ingredients. No margin for error. But Doria doesn’t need it. His fries are crisp, with buff-toned blisters and a steamy, tender interior. They are probably the best fries I have eaten in Maine.

A little more fryer magic makes its way into the kimchi-flavored Korean bowl ($17) entrée, here in the form of two thumb-sized portions of juicy, barely fried local hake that sit atop a pyramid of cockles, seared pork belly and mussels. Underneath, a kaleidoscopically herbal broth made from lemongrass, cilantro, star anise, citrus and green onion sends puffs of brightness up like smoke signals.

And apart from a few pieces of cabbage in the kimchi, there are pretty much no carbs in the bowl. “I know it’s weird. People always ask why I don’t add starch, but I don’t think every dish needs starch. That one is all protein, and it’s super clean,” Doria told me over the phone. I laughed and told him I agreed with his decision. What I didn’t have the heart to tell him is that the episode of “Late Night Eats” that aired this Thursday might be the least of his concerns. If he persists with such a wide-ranging, strongly conceived and executed menu, he won’t be able to stay incognito much longer, no matter how hard he tries.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at:

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

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