Acadia LogoAfter the fiasco that constituted Meiji-En, I was more than a bit nervous to get Restaurant Roulette back on the right track. My only blessing from Meiji-En was the fact that the majority of people who had attended that protracted, impacted, and not at all compacted ordeal had been regulars, people who know that the dinners usually didn’t go THAT badly. Acadia was to be a new beast, however, nine newcomers were on the roster, and if nine new people were to be given a bad impression first go round, it would surely lead me back to the world of advertising for people to eat dinner with yet again. Over the two weeks after the RSVP went out, the list of RSVPees dwindled from the original 18 to the 13 that eventually showed up at Acadia, seven of these being new faces. So thanks to newcomers Julia, Erica, Larry, David, Bev., Pat and Regis for joining us in this evening of New Orleans style eating and conversational adventure.

I made the reservations at Acadia quite a bit in advance this time, as it was Mardi Gras, and Valentine’s week, and lots of newcomers had said they wanted to come. With the original 18 people committed, I knew two tables would be necessary, and I made two separate reservations. Since this was going to make things very difficult with so many new faces, I commissioned famous blog-mistress and all around good person Marnie to be my second table hostess and to write a review from the alternate table. Luckily, when “only” 13 people ended up showing at Acadia, we managed to squeeze into one table taking up an entire wall. Fortunately I still had Marnie to “man” the South end of the table and write her review, since from my vantage point I had no idea what was going on down there, except for much laughter and oyster gulping.

Here’s Marnie’s review, from her Acadia South viewpoint. Below that, you will find my impressions of what was going on, and being ordered, at the North end of Acadia. Dig In. Acadia from the South End of the Table –

En route to Acadia, Leo proclaims, “I’m going to get me some crawfish, tonight!” I didn’t know how to break it to him, so I ask, “Did you look at the menu I had up on the computer?” “No.” “They don’t have crawfish on the menu, Leo, just shrimp.” There was a moment of silence before he says, “A Cajun restaurant without crawfish is like a French restaurant that uses I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter.” We both contemplated these ever-so-sage words and wondered what was in store for us tonight. Restaurant Roulette, like it’s Russian cousin, can be unpredictable and fraught with unpleasant consequences. Could we move the bar lower than Meiji-En tonight? Perhaps an outbreak of Ebola was in our future. What if the new members of the group dined and ditched? There was so much tension, you could cut it with one of those little swords shaped toothpicks.

As we entered Acadia, a large sampling of our group had already begun assembling near the bar (brilliant people that they are) and were making small talk. We squeezed ourselves in, and left all thought of personal space aside. Despite our imposing presence, though, the staff was gracious every last time they needed to ask us to get our of their way. The co-owner and hostess was gracious and ensured that no one’s drink went empty for any longer than he or she desired. Erica, with her eagle-eyed ability to pick a great cocktail from 16 blocks away, chose the St Charles martini; a peppery and sweet concoction that soon became the key player at our end of the table.

After a short mingle and lubrication, we were seated and began to peruse the menu. The waiter brought us all a complimentary dish of cheese served with a rye cracker. Our end of the table agreed with Erica’s assessment that it was “too much jell-o, not enough cheese.” However, free is free and it certainly trumped the complimentary edamame we waited 2 hours for at Meiji-EN.

Leo and I decided to start our meals with the Hot Shots; an oyster served in a shot of bloody mary mix and jalapeño vodka. The oysters were sweet and plump, and perfectly set off by the spice of the concoction. Personally, I still prefer lemon and horseradish for my oysters, but the shooter was good enough that Leo and I had seconds for dessert, much to the disgust of some of our dinner mates.

Erica and Larry shared a cheese plate, which was a dainty plate of cheeses, fruits and nuts. The selection was reported to be quite nice and much improved over the complimentary cheese dish.

As entrees, both Geri and Michael ordered the Shrimp Acadian; Sautéed jumbo shrimp atop shrimp, crab, and crawfish stuffing, laced with smoked tomato beurre blanc, served with rice. Both said they enjoyed the dish. Michael specifically chose this option over some others because it was less spicy than some of the alternatives, so for those hoping for a mild Creole experience, this may be a good choice.

Leo ordered the Taste Of New Orleans; A combination plate with Flash fried Soft Shell Crab with a ribbon of hollandaise, atop jalapeno tartar sauce, & Crawfish Etouffee with rice. Leo felt the Etouffee was a bit bland on its own, while the crab was quite nice, however as a combination, the two elevated each other to something greater than the sum of their parts.

Larry ordered the Shrimp Creole, which both Leo and Larry agreed was excellent and flavorful. Leo, happily tested the shrimp heads and reported them to be delicious. I suspect if our oyster-averse friends, at the other end of the table had been privy to this, they may have left a wider berth as we passed them on the way out.

Erica tried the Big Easy; Lightly blackened drum (aka redfish) brushed with Dijon and laced with a ribbon of Hollandaise, sprinkled with toasted almonds, served with potatoes and vegetables. The redfish was delicate and light while the accoutrements added that spark of flavor. They were delightfully combined. Definitely a dish I’d order when I return someday.

Finally, I had the Catfish Belle Chasse; farm raised catfish fried in a corn-flour batter with potatoes, hollandaise, and Jalapeno tartar sauce. Michael had commented that he was a little put off by the idea of corn-flour batter and I was admittedly unsure, myself, but the result was unexpected and excellent. The crust was crispy to the point of being brittle, but next to moist and light fish, it was a well paired. I’m not a huge fan of tartar sauce, so I will not speak to that portion of the meal, but I’m a real sucker for hollandaise and thought it added just the right amount of extra moisture to the dish, making the tartar sauce superfluous.

To finish the meal, as I stated earlier, Leo and I partook of a second round of shooters with Larry joining us. This was followed by a glass of rot-gut style Grappa (is there any other sort?) for Leo, and some espressos. The waiter warned Leo against the grappa, rightfully so, and it became a sort of Restaurant Roulette Fear Factor to see who would try it. The similes abounded, but all of us concluded that there is something decidedly wrong with a person who would drink Grappa when there are so many more palatable options, like, say, shampoo.

I cannot complete this review without commenting on the excellent service we received. Our waiter, Zack (Zach?) was attentive, helpful, efficient and had a great sense of humor. As far as our experience with eating in Portland, he surely is number one, to date. Erica offered to send him a roster of our upcoming dining events and dates so he can quickly gain employment at those restaurants before we arrive. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Jackie’s Review, Acadia from the South End of the Table –

I was a tad disappointed by how long it took for our table to be ready, but I suppose when you need to clear out at least three tables of people who are themselves eating and enjoying their evening out, you really can’t do much to hurry them. I also had to take some of the blame for selecting such a small restaurant, but until approximately 20 people were huddled in there, I must say I had not really noticed how small the bar end of Acadia is. As Marnie mentioned, however, the staff was to a fault kind and polite each and every time they had to shoe-horn themselves by our group, and the close quarters did lead to a sense of friendliness and intimacy for RR veterans and novices alike. The only downside was that because of the size restrictions, the newcomers at far end of the bar never really got to introduce themselves to those closer to the door, an arrangement that by chance was carried on at the table as well. I would have liked the newcomers to have been able to intermingle more fully, but hopefully this will happen at future dinners.

The only other semi-negative note on the evening, which was mainly just a personal letdown I suppose, was the fact that Acadia really did nothing to acknowledge the fact that it was Mardi Gras Week, and four days before Fat Tuesday. I know PDX is a long way from New O., but couldn’t there have been some specials, or beads, or anything to say this was a special week for a special city, one honored by this restaurant’s brand of cooking? I know, I’m such a nit picker, but if you have such a fun holiday to promote, please do.

I suppose the North end of the table would have to be looked at as less daring, we chugaluged no briny oysters and we slurped no peppery St. Charles (although I did have a sip of Marnie’s, and still had ground pepper in my mouth when I got home.) Our refreshments of choice were Hurricanes, wine, dark beers and classic martinis. Four of us selected the creamy, parmesan laden Caesar salad, and were not disappointed, certainly one of the best Caesars I have ever had. Other pleasing appetizers selected by my table mates included Shrimp Bourbon Street, and a superior clam chowder, proclaimed by Pat to be absolutely delicious.

The Big Easy and the Shrimp Acadian were both popular at our end of the table, the Shrimp being particularly well liked. David and Grant, both intense heat lovers, decided the Jambalaya sounded perfect for their pepper seeking palates, this particular version featuring shrimp, smoked duck and andouille sausage. Judging by the water gulping and “wow this is hot” comments that were playing in surroundsound from both sides of my chair, I would guess Acadia’s version of this southern classic fell into the spicier realm for this particular dish. I heard no complaints, however, just occasional yelps of pain.

I must say, my choice of entree, the Pork Chop Toulouse was certainly the most eye-catching and table wowing, even vegetarian Geri felt compelled to snap a photo. The reason? This was one gigantic hunk of hog. When the entrees were being served I left the table for a few minutes to visit the restroom ( a nice place, incidently, with fragrant candles and a weird drumming noise in the ceiling,) only to return to find my Pork Chop Toulouse massively sitting in my place, waiting to devour me. (In fact, when I returned to my seat, my napkin was missing. Could my pork chop have eaten it?) I should have known this was going to be one big piece of meat when the waiter warned me it would take 35 minutes to prepare, but I wasn’t expecting three inches thick. Everyone was gasping and pointing at my pork, which was in a rich, sweet cane sugar wine sauce with drenched fingerling potatoes and some sort of shriveled greens redolent of sauce. The pork chop edges, probably intentionally, were fatty and juicy and delicious. Judging by the comments as I passed the big piggy up and down the table for samples, (the pork chop, not me,) this entree was praised as being wonderfully tasty by all who tried it.

While South Acadia was finishing up their meal with oysters and espresso (how’s that for a combo,) our end was tucking into two scrumptuous desserts, both with its’ own delicious merits. Acadia’s moist and yummy bread pudding featured creme brulee custard and bread pudding with white chocolate frangelico sauce and toasted pecans. It was rich, and creamy, and tasted of a beautifully burnished pecan. I loved it, and it wasn’t even my dessert. Also immensely enjoyed, Paula’s Gooey Butter Cake, a moist yellow cake with cream cheese layers finished with saffron lemon sauce. Sometimes lemon desserts can be intensely, teeth hurtingly sweet. The gooey cake was the opposite, light, flavorful, lemony, but without an over-powering bite. I was sad that I didn’t have more than a taste of the bread pudding, but I probably would have been equally sad had I not had the decent sized portion of gooey cake I did have. Acadia is open Wednesday’s only for lunch, perhaps I could go every week and just have desserts (at least until I could no longer fit into my car, probably not too long.)

So was the meal a success? I would say so. Except for the complimentary cheese mountain with rye cracker and a seafood mousse starter, almost everything at the table was praised and enjoyed to the fullest. As Marnie mentioned, the service was professional and personable, and the waiter even showed interest in RR. Pat says it was the best dining experience she and Regis have enjoyed in their 2+ years in the metro area. Except for the initial lack of room while we were waiting for the tables to empty, I think both the kitchen and the wait staff handled our large group admirably, especially when all of our food arrived at precisely the same time, hot. I’ve eaten at Acadia three times before, but this time the food was certainly the best I’ve experienced there, although I’ve always found the service and atmosphere good. It’s always a pleasure to see a good restaurant mature over a five year period into a very good restaurant.

So thanks to my fellow RRers, I hope to see you and everyone else soon.

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