September 2009


THE DINING REPORT – Laurelhurst Market

First Class Dining At The Convenience Store

Yes, it’s true that Laurelhurst Market has existed for many years now, but boy, has it changed. For eons it existed as a gritty little grocery store across the street from Music Millennium, a place I occasionally parked along the side of when going to MM (I hate parking at MM) but whose doorstop I never darkened, or really ever wanted to. Then it seemed to really start going down hill, and was closed, and finally, I read some interesting people were planning on putting a restaurant in there. That seemed a bit far fetched, since how many people envision turning buildings that began their lives as Plaid Pantry into fine dining establishments? I suppose though if you think about the fact that Sympatica is in the basement of a former church of Scientology and rock music venue, it’s not too far fetched. (Speaking of Sympathica, why can’t I ever remember to have a dinner there?)

Anyway, for those who don’t know, Laurelhurst Market (the restaurant) is from those guys who brought you Sympatica Dining Hall and Viande Meets, and not only is a really nice restaurant at night, but it’s actually a high end butcher shop during the day (which I think also makes sandwiches at lunchtime. Not counting places like delis that both sell meats and have tables when you can eat at, I would think this is a Portland first, Butcher Shop/Fine Dining Combo. I’ve heard it described as a “Steak House”, and there are a few more beef cuts on the menu than average, but Laurelhurst Market certainly doesn’t have the boys club atmosphere, exorbitant prices, or snooty attitude that characterizes many steakhouses, although some of the steaks do come ala carte, with a choice of several reasonably priced side dishes you can select to go with your meat. Besides the beef though, there’s chicken, duck, a couple of pork dishes, three kind of mussels, and at least two fish options to select from, so basically Laurelhurst Market is your typical, cutting edge Portland eatery, just one that really knows steak.

I was very excited to welcome at this dinner two new members, Heidi and Julian (although I appreciate you old, stale folks as well). IMG_1122This food knowledgeable young couple actually asked to join in after Heidi stumbled upon our blog during her internet rambles, although I wonder about her judgement a tad, since my writing didn’t scare her away. Although I was a tad worried about inviting them to Laurelhurst Market, because Heidi doesn’t eat meat and Julian eats little except for pepperoni pizza, they walked over one evening and looked at the menu at LM, saw some fish dishes, and enthusiastically joined in. It was really good having them at the dinner, and learning about some new folks (Heidi’s from Chicago and Julian was born in Holland, although they have been Northwesterners for some time now). (more…)

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THE DINING REPORT – NEL CENTRO – June 26, 2009

A Mini Review

Yes, another prompt review on my part. But let me tell you, I’m catching up.

I suppose it was a symbol of our harsh economic times (or maybe just an indication of what a boring hostess I am) but the RR dinner at Nel Centro tied for the most lightly attended meal ever, there were two of us. Normally if I only end up with one person to join me, I give them the option of whether they want to still have the dinner or not. You know me, I’m always ready to eat, but since I advertise this dining out experience as a “group affair”, I don’t necessarily assume that people want to come in they are just dining solo with me. After all, you’ve got to have a big honkin’ three people to have a “group”, right. I also know, however, that the food and the restaurant are the major components for Glenda, so the poor woman, I didn’t even give her the option of canceling. I just wove my web or trickery and made her show up for a dinner where there was no one to talk with but me. Torturous perhaps, but the food was good, so hopefully she forgives me.

As I mentioned when I sent out the obviously well-ignored RSVP, Nel Centro is the third restaurant venture for David Machado, that clever and well thought of Portland chef who has two other critically acclaimed neighborhood places, the always lovely Lauro Kitchen, and the interesting and very modern “spice route” joint Vindalho. Nel Centro is his big city, urbane, polished place, and features the high end cuisine of two fancy European metropoli, Genoa, Italy and Nice, France,  both located on the wealth drenched Riviera. Besides the challenge of raising the bar when you already have two critically acclaimed establishments, Machado also faced the challenge of filling the huge, ground floor restaurant space of the new Hotel Moderna, located on the revamped transit mall not far from PSU, a region of town where there are few well regarded restaurants.

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