May 2011


THE DINING REPORT – ST. JACK

Tasty, But I Swear I Did Not Order Seven Butter Lettuce Salads!

I suppose this is an offshoot of some national trend, but French Bistro’s are popping up here like moss on North facing roofs. A year ago we had Allium in West Linn, then at the beginning of winter we saw Gabriel Rucker’s Little Bird. A few months ago, St. Jack ‘booooooooiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiged into being, then slightly later, Cocotte on Killingsworth. IMG_2198Now, just this week, the re-opening of Brasserie Montmarte, this latest reincarnation a French Bistro by the Allium guy. Funny thing about the Allium guy, Pascal Chureau, he’s also been on the inverse side as well, the fancy French downward spiral, he started at the now closed Fenouil, and was also  involved in the doomed from the beginning Lucier. We love our new French places full of hearty, filling, and moderately priced French tasties, but refuse to support the stuffy, high-end, really expensive, but you leave hungry, kind of places. You would think with an ever lingering recession that French would hardly be the way to go, but many “foodies” are having their economic challenges too, and want belly filling comfort food, well prepared but not costing an arm and a leg, and the French Bistros have been doing a great job filling this role.

As previous to this time, French restaurants in Portland were not places I flocked to on a regular basis (it’s that money thing) it was interesting to visit two rather similar French Bistro’s over a few months time span and compare what is going on there.IMG_2186 As many know. Little Bird Bistro has big shoes to fill, being the creation of one of Portland’s most famous chefs, and now the James Beard National winner for Best Young Chef, the aforementioned Rucker. I must admit I’d never heard of Aaron Barnett, who is at the helm of St. Jack, but his pedigree includes much admired kitchens like Paley’s Place, and the management behind St. Jack is ChefStable, already enjoying popularity for running establishments like Ping and Gruner. So there is a good pedigree at St. Jack, although not the local fame of being a Le Pigeon spin-off. (more…)

THE DINING REPORT – EAST INDIA COMPANY GRILL AND BAR
Spicy Food, Lurid Talk, and Scary Painting

IMG_2144Although India is a truly fascinating, wonderfully distinctive country, it’s hard to imagine most Westerners enjoying a lenghty visit to a typical urban area there, too chaotic, too crowded, and completely too harsh. That being said, almost everyone here seems to love Indian food, it’s always some of the most requested in Restaurant Roulette, and Indian and Thai food always do a wonderful job of catering to the non-meat eaters in our group. The last time RR dined Indian it was in NW Portland, at Indish, but that was quite a long time ago, a few months shy of 2 years ago. I actually liked Indish, as I thought the food was quite good and I loved the Indian Small Plate servings, but sadly, Indish recently converted itself into a place called the Temple Bar, the same ownership, but now with an emphasis on liquor rather than food. The time before that our Indian excursion was also to the East India Company Grill and Bar, but this was an entirely different sort of gathering, as that was a nightmare where everyone canceled at the last second and there were only two of us, and this time we had a hearty table of 9, many really excited to try out the food there (especially our vegetarians, as they even have a vegan menu.) Joining us for the first time this evening was Andrea’s friend Rachel, who seemed to have a good time, perhaps because she sat next to the always magnetizing David.

I’ve never been to any of those famous Indian restaurants in the far west regions, as we all know I’m terrified of anything west of NW Portland (okay, there was that one dinner on Capitol Hwy.) but aside from those places, which I can’t comment on, having never seen them, it’s hard to imagine an Indian restaurant in these parts with classier atmosphere than the East India Company, even the bathroom is really high end (I love that beautiful sink.) IMG_2167That being said, Andrea found the large painting above the end of our table, a very modernist sort of statement in red, yellow, black and white, quite upsetting. Although it was not particularly to my taste either, I actually didn’t even notice it before she mentioned it, even though it was just to my right on the other side of Heidi. Maybe her motherly glow was blocking out the surroundings. The painting was a weird choice, however, with the rest of the decor. A more positive note about East India C though, it seems well run, and has a good sprinkling of Indian employees, management, and perhaps Indian owners. Also, as David mentioned, you can actually go there and see people of Indian ancestry eating, probably not a rarity in Beaverton or Hillsboro, but not that common at most of the Indian restaurants in downtown Portland, so that’s another good thing EIC has going for it, the food appeals to East Indians! (more…)