The Rise of the Phoenix and the Return of the Honking Loon

IMG_2765As many people who follow Portland dining know, Aviary opened on NE Alberta early in 2011, most noteworthy because it featured the vision of not one, but three, classically trained French chefs from NYC, Kat Whitehead, Jasper Shen, and Sarah Pliner. When they first opened, a few people mentioned that the portions were relatively small and the prices were somewhat high, something that always scares me away, since if I’m going to plunk down $40-$50 for a decent meal, I want to be pleasantly full at the end. Shortly after, however, people started to rave about the quality of the French/Asian fusion cuisine being produced at Aviary, Food Dude at Portland Food and Drink being incredibly enthusiastic about the items he tried, and the Oregonian also adding a very favorable review. I still wasn’t too sure about adding it to the roster though, because as I’ve said time and time again, fusion and experimental cooking techniques are not my favorites (and I am the restaurant-deciding despot!!!)

It was very hard not to feel bad, however, when some bozo with July 4th fireworks caused major fire damage to the roof of their nice new building, putting Aviary and at least one other popular new business out of commission for at least a month or two (which turned into five months.) IMG_2776This is the same scenario that put an end to Sel Gris, but perhaps because their building was nice and new, or perhaps had better ownership, a new and improved Aviary did finally reopen a few months ago, after much support from various Portland restaurants (who let Aviary host pop-up dinners in their eateries to keep themselves viable during their long closure.) The new Aviary not only has their original modernist space, but now has an interesting, light filled bar area and a small private dining area beyond that (which so far opens out onto a field of unruly grass, but I’m sure they’ll do something nice with it eventually.)

Anyway, I have plenty of French food lovers in this group, and I’ve been reading even more positive comments on Aviary since they reopened in December, so when Tracy asked if I would consider doing a dinner there, lacking any other firm plan for the next dinner up, Aviary became the latest spin of the Restaurant Roulette wheel. As good/bad timing would have it, I also contracted a virus and sinus infection during this general time frame, so as my appetite was slightly off, I didn’t worry too much whether the portions at Aviary would fill my usual insatiable appetite!