June 2008

Restaurant Roulette Elite
The Dining Report
Lauro Kitchen – All Around the Mediterranean in Under Two Hours

I’ve been fond of Lauro Kitchen since the very beginning. I had an acquaintance who lived just two blocks south of 34th and Division, and every time I went past the space being rehabbed around five years ago,IMG_0401.JPG I would wonder what was going in at that corner. I could see it slowly turning into what looked like a halfway decent restaurant, which I found exciting, as at that point none of the good restaurants that are now in this Richmond neighborhood existed, with the exception of the pretty new and rapidly becoming famous Pix Patisserie. Lauro soon opened, and from opening, I heard nothing but good things about what a great place it was. I managed to go there a few times in the first couple years, and always loved the warm but sophisticated vibe the space exuded, and the interesting menu and fun drinks. From the very start, Lauro has been one of those few restaurants that you just never read anything bad about, except for the fact that it’s always SO hard to get into, a not especially large space and no reservations. Even if you took a large group there, it was still first come, first served, and you were not allowed to sit down until almost all your group was present, which might mean you could lose your table if everyone was not there promptly.

IMG_0402.JPGBecause of this, although it was always in my top ten, I never tried to take an RR group to Lauro. Just too impossible. I even remember reading an interview from of Lauro owner David Machado a couple or so years back where he said he was never planning on having reservations at Lauro, as reservations result in empty tables even if walk-ins are wanting to eat. In the mean time, things seemed to have changed though, Machado’s second restaurant Vindalho, has had reservations pretty successfully from the beginning, and whether it’s the fact that Mr. Machado has seen from Vindalho that you can successfully manage a neighborhood restaurant with a reservation policy, or if it’s that these tough economic times and all the stiff competition of respected restaurants has made it harder for Lauro to always fill tables, Lauro now has reservations (and beginning this month, even lunch, including take-out.) Now, if only my other favorite Division St. restaurant about 12 blocks down, Nuestra Cocina would follow suit, I would be one happy camper.

This was our first Restaurant dinner in quite some time, so I was really happy to fill all the places I could at my table so easily (Lauro limits reserved tables to eight.) On one of the nicer late spring evenings we’ve had lately, we all met at our appointed time and place to see what Lauro had to offer us these days. IMG_0414.JPGSince opening, Lauro has billed itself as a Mediterranean Kitchen, but what these means in Portland is always sketchy, it could be food leaning toward Greece, Spain, Italy, or even France, or all of these places (I believe Olea and Tabla also bill themselves as Mediterranean, but Olea tends to be all over the map with perhaps an emphasis on Spain and France, while Tabla tends to be more Italian. I recently read that David Machado has recently been trying to take his menu in a more Middle Eastern direction while at the same time exploring his Portuguese roots, which seems like a weird combination, but Middle Eastern touches were certainly noticeable all over the Lauro menu, as were Greek, although my knowledge of Portuguese food is limited enough to not recognize it unless the menu makes mention of Portuguese this or that, unless it was the Romesco sauce all over the place (although I think this is actually Spanish.) IMG_0410.JPGTo be honest, one of my favorite things back in my traveling days was sampling different culture’s cuisines, but almost all of the food I had during my limited time in Portugal was ghastly, even on Lisbon’s official restaurant row it was difficult to find something appealing sounding. I certainly had the worst fish I’ve ever had in Portugal, something called a Sea Bream which was dry as a bone and an odd combination of flavorless and weird tasting. (more…)


The Dining Report – Special Edition

Shiver Me Belly Timbers!!!!


As many of you know, who actually read some of my incessant blatherings, I’ve been at this Restaurant Roulette thing for almost two years now (come next month. Hmm, it seems like July used to be a summer month in these here parts.) It’s true, the group has had a couple of months where it was on the shelf, the most recent being this May. But by and large, RR has existed over the last 23 months, and although it hasn’t exactly bought me fame and fortune, now and then a pleasant perk has come my way, especially since last fall. So I have had a few nice things fall in my lap as the result of the hours spent at my keyboard and my insane ramblings.

Of course the dinners are always a wonderful thing, the great food and fun company, those are what I will always remember most about my days as Ruler of Restaurant Roulette. And every once in awhile someone does something nice for me as well, be it furnish me a drink or even a lovely birthday dinner, totally unexpected. The Foodbuzz Food Network haas been good to me as well, giving me some added exposure, a connection with some local food bloggers, that sweet little signing bonus that helped me get the digital camera, sending we my wonderful little RR business cards, and having that elaborate dinner at Ten 01 for all the interested Portland Featured Publishers. So lately I feel like I’ve been scoring.

I mention this all because my most recent perk was having an email sent to the RR mailbox inviting me to a special pre-opening sneak peek at that interesting new, and crazily named, restaurant on Hawthorne, Belly Timber. IMG_0400.JPGNaturally I said yes, because when do I ever turn down free food and liquor? I THINK NOT! Belly Timber, named after a Victorian (those people were such cards) term for food, is now open as of Wednesday, June 11th, at 3257 SE Hawthorne, in that wonderful old Victorian appropriately built around 1850. The pre-opening party was Tuesday evening, June 10th, and featured an array of complimentary high-end creative cocktails and noshes to be featured on their regular menu. Why I was so lucky to get an invite, I have no idea, I must have confused someone into thinking I’m somebody, but stalwart RR member Pam in tow, we headed to the Belly Timber shindig promptly upon its opening hour of 7:00, on the cold, sucky, drizzly June evening that was taking place this year on June 10th.