The Dining Report – MetroVino

Great Food, But Don’t Forget Your Asbestos Oven Mitt

This dinner took place October 24th

It was strange for me to visit MetroVino, as I remembered the place that was in this space before, the unfortunate DF (good margaritas). As far as dinners in the P.District go, I must say I appreciate the ease of parking in these farthest northern reaches, you don’t have to drive around for an hour looking for a space. I also like checking out what’s going on in Tanner Springs Park, that cute little wetland park that I could gaze out at from our window booth at MetroVino.

So far MetroVino has had two claims to fame. Their original claim to fame, their Enomatic Wine System, this allowing MV to keep a multitude of open bottles of wine fresh, and consequently serve 64 varieties by the taste or glass. The Dining Report – MetroVinoTheir second claim to fame? Although no one expected it, once they opened their doors it became clear that their food was every bit as good as their wine selection. No little wine noshes at this place (although they do have small plates of varying sizes) this is full on high-end food coming out of this kitchen.

IMG_1310Five seems to be our lucky number these days, I can’t remember the last dinner where I had more or less than five, but a slightly varying five each time. At MV, our variance was long time member Jody, MIA for 10 months but raring to eat on this evening. Jody seems to prefer fine, rather classy dining, so I was glad that MV came along at the right time for her schedule. It was fun reminiscing with Jody on some of her past RR dinners, especially as her first dinner with the group was perhaps our most ill-fated dinner ever, Menji-En, the sushi place that ran out of rice (although experiences at Assaggio and Elenis (both in the same block, and both now closed – hmmm) were pretty lousy too, but Jody missed out on those, poor woman).

As we were sitting by the window in a high booth, in a side area of MetroVino, I really didn’t get much of a look as far as what they’ve done with the place, although those fancy vessel sinks from DF brought back memories in the restroom. The general vibe in MetroVino struck me as modern Pearl District fancy, but I must say that the booth was a bit smallish for the three across butts it was meant to hold, and with our purses and jackets it was rather a tight fit (I keep asking David to leave that big purse of his at home). IMG_1311That being said, although the quarters seem rather cramped for sitting, the table seemed endless when it came to the servers trying to distibute food to those by the window, when my entree came I was warned it was burning hot, and sure enough, the waiter (using a towel for a potholder) handed me a burning hot plate of food which I got to grab with my bare hands and set in front of myself. Because of the window/booth situation, perhaps MV should think about distributing pot holders to those sitting in the farthest reaches of the booths. Aside from this, however, service at MetroVino was very good, and it seems like a really professionally run establishment.

Reading the wine list at MetroVino isn’t the easiest task, since if you want a glass you can basically select almost anything. Heidi, who loves wine, was completely hindered, mainly as the first page in her wine list was missing, and she couldn’t figure out where I was getting my choices from. Classy wine connoisuer that I am, my train of thought was, okay, how do you get the most booze for the smallest amount of money? Seriously though (???) my general wine interest tends to gravitate towards Pinot Grigo/Pinot Gris or Viogner/Vigne, but every once in awhile I throw in some different white variety to mix things up and maybe know what more than two wines taste like. IMG_1306So I plunked down my $7.00 and went for MV’s value white wine flight, three tastes equaling one glass of wine, none of which I can remember in the foggiest. I’m pretty sure that as her second wine selection Heidi had the value red wine flight, but I didn’t hear her comments of the different glasses, since most of the emphasis at our table this evening seemed to be commentary on the food.

MetroVino is another of those places that charges for bread, in this case $3.00, but it was a pretty generous portion, came with a dipping ramekin of grilled leeks in very grassy olive oil, and had an automatic free refill (just like at the fast food place). Originally I wasn’t sure what I wanted as my starter, because although the smoked trout and cucumber salad sounded delicious, at $13, on top of wine and an entree, I didn’t want to break the bank, which feels wobblier all the time anyway. IMG_1303Because of this I was quite happy to hear that the starter special of the evening was Lobster Bisque, which not only sounded incredibly yummy on this cold fall evening, but was only $7.00. I’m not really a gigantic lobster person (sounds uncomfortable and pinchy) but I’ve been a fan of creamy soups since my formative food years, so if you can get a well-made, silky texture soup, and maybe throw in a bit of lobster to boot, who can resist? I’m thinking Julian couldn’t, as he got this bisque too, and we were both rewarded with lovely, large deep bowls of this delicate shellfish ambrosia. I must say that although I hate making them, (eek, it’s a bleder!!!) I have had some wonderful creamy soups here and abroad over the years (I’m trying to sound extra classy because of the swanky subject matter) and this was certainly one of the better soups I remember having, so smooth, yet hearty, and pleasantly tangy as well. I don’t know if it tasted like lobster in particular, but it sure tasted like something exquisite that should cost lots of greenbacks.

IMG_1302Poor Heidi, not only was she originally deprived of the entire wine list, but she seemed nearly in agony over what to order, so many good sounding meatless and seafood oriented items for a change. Finally, at that moment of decision, her choice was the “Cream of Heirloom Tomato Soup with a grilled blue cheese sandwich”. Campbell’s this wasn’t, as the soup was made with oven dried tomatoes and basil, and in the center of the bowl a mini sandwich of fine blue cheese was floating amongst the creamy redness. David also had this soup, and both he and Heidi started raving as soon as they tasted this starter, they found it totally delicious. IMG_1301Only Jody was soupless on this evening, instead selecting a salad, the delicious sounding “Grilled Figs Wrapped in Bacon with blue cheese, arugula, and toasted almonds” very good, but priced at a very hefty $11 (I’m that crazy person who rants when salads cost more than about $9).

At this point I’ll make a few more enchanting comments about the general ambience of our dinner at  MetroVino, as for one thing, they just popped into my head, and for another thing, it will stretch this delightful review out more, and we all know that just like Charlie Dickens, I get paid by the word (if only that were true, I’d be living in Spain now. And can you imagine if I got paid by punctuation????)!!!! David practically did handstands when he was told by the waiter that his Rusty Nail was only $5, he vowed to sell his condo and move in with Michael across the street at The Sitka, until the waiter came back and told him he had made a mistake, and the Rusty Nails were considerably more expensive (David welcomed this news like a tetanus shot). Between the starters and the entrees, the waiter came to our table once or twice apologizing for the delay, saying that the kitchen was backed up from a large volume of orders, but no one at our party noticed the wait to be overly long in the least (he should try dining at certain rice deficient Japanese restaurants. Now that’s a wait!) One slight negativity I must note on this particular night, maybe because the weather had just started to get nippy, MetroVino had perhaps cranked up that old thermostat a bit much, I was wearing a medium weight long sleeved shirt and was overly warm, and the majority of the people at our table who had whipped out those fall sweaters were boiling. Since MV is relatively new in the space, they probably were still learning the subtleties of their heating system. Pretty minor complaints though.

Although she did enjoy her salad, Jody was put a bit off balance when her entree arrived, as it was pretty darn strange. She had selected the “Ravioli of Roasted Eggplant and Goat Cheese with English peas, summer squash, spinach and fingerlings in a basil pesto broth” and when it arrived, it was basically a big bowl of soup. (It’s good she didn’t have soup as a starter).IMG_1308 I suppose she might have been tipped off by the part of the description that mentioned broth and fingerlings (potatoes with ravioli??) but who orders ravioli and gets a bowl of soup unless the dish is listed as a soup? I myself tasted a bite of Jody’s dish (man, those plates are dang hard to chew) and agreed that the ingredients were complex and flavorful, but not what one expects when they order a ravioli entree.

Heidi had the “Grilled Fillet of Halibut with potato tomato gratin, brandade coquette, onion and soft-boiled egg” and certainly had the hottest plate at the table, inside and out, and while we were all gobbling up what we had ordered, Heidi had to do a great deal of blow and wait, blow and wait, the whole situation exacerbated by the casserole nature of the presentation. IMG_1309When she eventually got to eat a substantial portion, Heidi mentioned that this was one of the best seafood preparations she had ever had, complex and delicious, and as a longtime pescatarian, this is someone who has had their share of fish nibbles (get it, fish nibbles? How do I keep coming up with all this brilliant material?) So thumbs up from Heidi for the halibut.

The day before the MetroVino dinner the A&E had published a cover story of the best pork preparations by restaurants in Portland. Metrovino was mentioned in this article, which might have had something to do with the other three of us having the “Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Chanterelle mushrooms, new potatoes, green beans and chimicurri”. IMG_1307As MetroVino had a grilled ribeye steak on their menu, everyone naturally assumed this was what I was planning on ordering, as we all know my love of ribeye, but to be honest, sometimes I get tired of always having to pay for the most expensive thing on the menu, and while the Lobster Bisque for only $7.00 made things easier, I had decided before I came that I would have something different than beef on this evening, so that’s what I did. The pork was excellent, not one of the top five pork dishes I’ve even had at restaurants, but certainly close, the pork fall-off-the-bone tender and the chimicurri adding a slightly tangy and mildly sweet bite. David and Julian found it exceptional as well, David calling this one of his favorite RR dinners ever based on food quality (and luckily for your hostess, he’s been to many Restaurant Roulette dinners).

Since my starter and wine were reasonably priced, I contemplated having dessert, but realized as I visited the restroom that my food was just too filling. I remember standing at the sink at MV washing my hands contemplating if I felt more like exploding, passing out, or throwing up. High Praise Indeed! Seriously though, since I had only consumed about an average amount of food for a RR dinner, it must have been the richness. Interestingly, the previous time when I remember feeling this way was our dinner at Park Kitchen a few months ago, when I also had roasted pork. There must be something in the content of pork that sets off my Glutton/Overload alarm.

Even three weeks later at the next dinner, the four people who were at both RR dinners were still talking about how much they enjoyed the food at MetroVino, and how it seemed such a good bargain for high quality food, creative cooking, and an upscale atmosphere. Jody perhaps was the least enthused of all of us on this evening, but she seemed to acknowledge at the time that she also thought MetroVino was very good, she just selected the wrong entree, a rather strange preparation. This was definitely a very suitable dinner for a brisk fall evening, and hopefully the beginning of many successful RR dinners over the following dark months. Please join us at some!