The Dining Report – Market
How To Have A Pleasant Dining Experience In An Office Building

CLOSED

Okay, few will believe it, but I’m having a hard time getting this dinner review off of the ground. Usually I start out with some ZZZZ inducing preamble about the restaurant space, the neighborhood, the owner, the chef, the type of cuisine, some “relevant” experience in my life, anything, but Market is really a blank slate to me. What’s a long winded blogger to do, especially when the dinner deserves a decent amount of documentation?

Well, this has to start somewhere, so here are my dregs …

IMG_3128Market is another venture from Kurt Huffman’s ChefStable, the incredibly successful company who has brought us places like Gruner, St. Jack, Ox, and  Interurban (although they sold their share in that one) with only one major clunker in their collection, the Titanic-like Corazon, which started sinking the minute it sailed. ChefStable is a restaurant management group who knows an interesting chef when they see one, so if they got behind Market, you know good things are likely to start coming out of this kitchen immediately. The previous major local tie to Market’s chef, Troy Furuta, was Clyde Common, a place that seems to have produced like 20 other local chefs now who lead their own restaurants. That joint must know something.

Somehow, I don’t even associate SW 2nd and Market with a neighborhood. As Keller Auditorium and the Four Court Fountain are right across the street, I suppose it’s part of the cultural district, but unless it’s the daytime, Monday – Friday and people are streaming out of the office buildings around, or there’s an event at the auditorium, the whole area has that concrete wasteland vibe. Because of this, any restaurant in the 200 Market Building has incredible dry periods, and it’s amazing that Carafe (formerly in this space) and Restaurant Murata managed to amass a good amount of time there, as neither eatery is/was exactly on the tip of everyone’s tongue.IMG_3126 As I’m certain happens with the restaurants around the Performing Arts Center, if there’s an event, you are fully reserved, if you have a dark auditorium, no one flocks to proper downtown to eat these days, especially around 2nd and Market (the West End is doing better at least.) I think in the beginning days Market has been feeling this pinch, as less than two months in they started hosting some special dinners featuring visiting chefs, hoping to introduce more people to their restaurant. On the beautiful summer night we ate there it was somewhat hard to judge how much restaurant capacity was really being filled, as Market has a really large outdoor dining area, and at least half the people were eating outside.

As for Market’s space, it struck me as a pleasant place for a meal on a lovely summer evening, even if you don’t sit outside. Basically two sides of the restaurant are all glass, with a large section that opens onto the patio when it’s warm. With all this glass, it’s hard to know how cozy it is in the winter, I guess it depends on how well this 70’s office building was constructed, and if the bottom floor is relatively airtight and non-drafty. Several people who joined us for this dinner had dined at Carafe, and none thought the layout and new decor are a radical change from what was here before. I had read that Market had done extensive renovations (although fast ones, as Carafe didn’t close too many months ago) but maybe it’s hard to change the essence of a space like this, bar on the south side, lots of glass, banquettes, and a fancy patterned wood ceiling. Whatever the case, I thought it had much more character, class, and comfort than a somewhat similar modern space, Nel Centro in the Hotel Moderna (yes, I never pass up the opportunity to slam the sterile setting in that dining room.)

As far as style of food, it’s hard to classify, but I’m pretty sure I originally read Market was Continental in focus (can you be continental in focus? IMG_3129I would think continental would be an unfocus, sort of like being focused on American cuisine, how many styles of cooking does that involve?) Anyway, if we want to say Market is Continential, I would call it Continentally focused Northwest food. Although one obvious reason Market is called Market is its address, even more prevalent here seems to be the Market, particularly the Farmer’s Market, as there’s so much locally sourced produce and meat on the menu. I read that the roster here changes constantly, obviously based on what’s fresh and available right now. Also, at least on this evening, if one assumes Continental refers to Europe (isn’t that the continent usually referred to with that designation?) the region in focus was Italy, as the majority of entrees were pasta.

I did notice from the online menu, which just showed up the week of our dinner, that Market was a typical downtown high-end restaurant price-wise, not outrageous, but not particularly cheap, especially those starters. As such, I prepared once again to have a non-alcoholic beverage so as to not exceed my budget.IMG_3116 It’s sad, as it was only two weeks ago, but I can’t remember the house-made soda I ordered, except that it was a really pretty hot pink and featured some sort of fruit (maybe blackberry??) and lavender. I’m a lavender freak, my yard is full of it, and I always shower with lavender soap, but the idea of eating or drinking it usually gags me, as I’m not one who wants to be consuming perfume-like items (Rosewater, gross!) That being said, this was a really tasty elixir, the lavender evident, but not overwhelming, just enough to provide a contrast to whatever the heck the main flavor was (holy Moses, why am I this old?)

It had been a hot day out, hovering around 90, so Cora stuck to her policy of no cocktail if it was too hot. Instead she had iced tea, what I originally was thinking about before I saw the housemade soda. When I arrived at the restaurant David and Shuhong were in the bar knocking them back, so when I arrived they brought their Rusty Nails and Beer to the table to join me. IMG_3125Glenda had a gin and tonic featuring Aviation Gin, her summer habit. Peter and Tracy went in different directions, Peter ordered a nice mini bottle (I’m a wine goober, I don’t know what this size is called, but it was about 60-75% of a whole bottle) of a local red wine (I think it was a pinot noir) and Tracy wanted Campari and soda, although she had some of Peter’s wine later. Sylvie, who we’ve now seen at a few dinners, actually managed to bring a date, her husband Harvey finally joining us for the first time (Harvey is another of those medical professionals with a tricky schedule.) Peter and Harvey are both long time friends and share a profession, and sat next to each other, so we had to keep breaking up their operating room hijinks all evening. Sylvie has mentioned in the past that her husband is an ultra-healthy eater (can you believe he married a French woman, just off the plane?) but I think he indulged in something with some alcohol content, maybe a beer? I was sitting next to Sylvie (such a nice woman who likes talking about restaurants) but I can’t remember exactly what she was drinking, maybe some wine?

Market got off to the right foot with me, immediately bringing a giant platter of delicious, lightly toasted bread (perhaps with a touch of garlic?) IMG_3117If this was the Parish, this baby would have cost like $20. We being we, Restaurant Roulette, I think we ended up eating all but about one piece, and I was responsible for gobbling three or four. There was only one kind of bread, so I can’t give Market an A for ingenuity, but I’ll certainly gave them an A+ for generosity and prompt bread delivery. The bread was also mildly crispy but easy to chew, also good things in bread peddling.

As I mentioned previously, most of the the starters at Market were relatively expensive, but interesting, fresh, attractive and good sized portions.IMG_3122 Market is one of those artfully arranged kind of food slingers who employs all kinds of large fancy plates, and both of my plates of food this evening were big honkin’ rectangles that took up lots of table space (Luckily the table was spacious and the food on the plates was plentiful.

Here’s what we decided on this evening, very seasonally based …..

STARTERS

Fried green tomato salad, frisee, bacon, romesco, poached egg – rich and savory., served in a rich-colored, round,  earthenware casserole.

Fried cheese curds and padron peppers, smoked sea salt, basil, smoked pepper aioli – Flavorful and delicious, the classiest cheese curds I’ve ever had. Thanks, Cora.

Kordell farms heirloom tomato, melon salad, pink peppercorn, feta, radish sprouts, mint, jalapeno-golden watermelon consomme – I thought about having this, as it sounded like such an interesting combination and a good way to grasp onto summer’s final days. It was a bit more than I like to spend on a salad ($12) so I went in a different direction. Glenda and Harvey both splurged, however, and it was a beautiful composition and both seasoned diners appeared to enjoy it fully with its assortment of eye-catching, colorful heirloom tomatoes.

Black Mission Figs, house made ricotta, shaved prosciutto, basil, grilled ciabatta, burnt honey gastrique – We only see Peter and Tracy now and then, with their busy schedules, out of town weekend house, and love of travel, but I have learned some interesting facts about Peter, our stylish, dignified looking Swedish friend with the maniacal gleam in his eye.IMG_3120 He loves his smelly candles, he loves his spacey music, he loves his dog Berger, he loves pickle drinks, and he adores figs (he doesn’t like Anise though!) Anyway, Market was perfect for Peter on this evening, as they had not one, but two, fig dishes on the menu, and you can bet he ordered both. Actually, three of us ordered this beautiful fig starter (one of my two, large, rectangular plates of food) as I myself enjoy a few fresh figs in the late summer, although I’ve never really liked fig bars (probably too healthy.) Sylvie also ordered the figs, and all three of us agreed it was a wonderful combination of flavors, the mildly sweet figs, the extremely creamy ricotta, the salty prosciutto, and the burnt honey gastrique (which must have been the source of the citrus flavor.) I think we all really liked this, and we made everyone else at the table really jealous, although by the time we were done sharing out large starters, all who wanted some most likely had some fig and accompaniment. The closest I had to a complaint, the last fig or two seemed a little over citrused, but all would have been mitigated if just a bit more prosciutto had been added to each fig, the shavings were on the small side, and the saltiness would have nicely offset the lemony flavor on the figs that were a bit over saturated.

As I mentioned before, the menu was relatively Italian leaning this evening, with more pasta than anything, but as none of the pastas were irresistible creations to me, I steered myself away from that direction. Several people did have the various pastas though, and all enjoyed them, with one minor complaint.

ENTREES

Gnocchi, summer squash, wild mushrooms, arrabiata sauce, grana padano – Sylvie saw something outside on the patio she thought looked intriguing, and asked the waitress what it was. IMG_3133The waitress said it was the gnocchi, so Sylvie made that her selection. When it came, it was really the only thing all evening that was a relatively small portion. It was in one of the large earthenware casseroles, like the Fried Green Tomatoes, but there just wasn’t a whole lot inside that was substantial. Despite this, Sylvie shared one of her precious gnocchi with me, and we both agreed it was delicious, especially the sauce. But as Sylvie said, the main ingredient was the gnocchi, basically no more expensive than mashed potatoes, so it was baffling that the kitchen could not come up with a bit more, especially as items like steak were served in very generous portions. Tasty but scarce,

House made pappardelle pasta, kordell farms heirloom tomato, capers, garlic, pecorino romano – Sylvie’s husband Harvey had this, probably one of the healthier items on the menu (I think he might have even asked them to hold the cheese – infidel!)IMG_3127 I remember at a previous dinner Sylvie talking about her husband’s level of fitness and adherence to a good diet, and basically the tomato based items Dr. Carp ordered reflected someone who really watches what they eat, and of course he didn’t have dessert either. I know the Carps go out to interesting restaurants quite often, so it just proves you can go most places and make sensible choices (although I would never do such a CRAZY thing!) I didn’t talk to Harvey too much about his meal, as he was closer to the end of the table, but I got the impression from Sylvie that he liked everything this night. I seem to be having a temporary blackout as far as what Tracy had for her entree, but reviewing the photos and knowing she had pasta, I think she also had this one. I know for certain she liked Market and everything she tried.

Tortiglioni pasta, confit chicken, padron peppers, walla walla onions, smoked sea salt, pecorino romano, creme fraiche. There was a mistake associated with this pasta, and a kindness on David’s part. IMG_3130There were two chicken dishes on Market’s menu, a hunk of chicken with chicken sausage and a pasta with chicken confit. Peter, who is not a loud, booming voice type man (just as Glenda has her library voice, perhaps Peter has his operating theater voice. You probably don’t want to be a loud talker in there, doing all this screaming when you are trying to make the patient go to sleep) so when he softly gave his order of the pasta with chicken to the waitress, she thought he meant the young chicken. When the main courses arrived, the waitress gave David the pasta with chicken and Peter the “whole” chicken. Peter was confused, as he did not order a large piece of poultry, and the waitress said she would take it back, she misunderstood his order. David gallantly said he would switch with Peter, as he had thought of the chicken as well, and although Peter hesitated a bit at first, as he wanted David to have what he had ordered, he agreed and they switched. Peter said several times how really delicious the pasta was, especially the chicken confit, which made me feel a little bad for David, as I know he loves pastas with rich sauces and a bit of bite.

I’m sure one reason David agreed to switch was that the chicken was really pretty, all brown and roasted. IMG_3124 It came with an interesting list of accompaniments (Young chicken, chicken sausage, dirty rice, corn, cilantro, grilled walla walla onions, celery, farm carrot salad.) When you look at everything this came with, it really was a nice sounding combination (except for the cilantro – yuck) and David seemed to like it well enough, and like Market. That being said, I think he wished he would have kept the pasta, as Peter said it was exceptionally good, and he did mention he didn’t enjoy the dirty rice that came with the chicken (I warned him beforehand, they scraped it up from under the table. Do people think I make these things up?)

Pan roasted salmon, prickly ash, sea salt, smoked corn consomme, fingerling potato, farm corn, farm beans, parsley – This has been one of “those trends” this year, coating fancy food in ash, and not just because it fell in the bottom of the cooking implement or in the fireplace on the way to the table.IMG_3131 When Glenda’s salmon arrived it was a nice presentation, and looked like normal cooked fish, orange and not covered in debris, so I guess prickly ash was just one of the ingredients. I should have asked her about it, if she could point the prickly ash out to me, and what it tasted like, but somehow in the heat of one of these good-sized dinners I can’t be running all around the table scrutinizing every component of everyone’s food, and by the time Glenda got her entree and I saw it was the salmon, I had forgotten that it even involved one of those obscure, trendy “foodstuffs.” Ox was another of the places when we saw “ashy food”, so judging from the quality of food these two places are producing, these ash-lovers must be on to something. When I was growing up, although our income was quite modest, since there were only two of us, we quite often had either home barbecued steak (cheap cuts) or salmon from a run down fish market near my house for dinner. I’m still into that steak, but I became burnt out on salmon long ago, except for smoked salmon, always tasty! Because of this, I never order salmon in a restaurant. That being said, this sounds like a really lovely combination of items, with the smoked corn consomme, the potatoes, the corn, the beans, and the salmon on top. Judging by the way Glenda asked for the nearly empty bread platter at he end of her entree, I would judge it was pretty good, as she wanted a piece of bread to sop up every bit of the juices.

This was certainly one of the great things about Market, the way they assembled a list of really nice components to go with each of the entrees, creating both gigantically attractive, and compellingly tasty dishes without an overkill of needless ingredients (hey, they might have added the ash, but no foam was to be found.) This was also evident in the steak dish that three of us ordered, Grilled hanger steak, fingerling potato, farm cauliflower, walla walla onions, padron peppers and arrabiata sauce. IMG_3132Shuhong, Cora and I all decided this sounded good (especially because none of us wanted pasta) and when it came it was beautifully cooked, a(n) hearty portion, well composed, and quite flavorful. Especially attractive, the tiny cauliflower florets dyed purple, although somehow I doubt they left the farm this way. I commented on how good the potatoes were, as they were completely cooked and rich tasting (as I’ve said before, I can’t stand a crunchy cooked tater.) The sauce, although somewhat similar to the tomato based sauce we had at that Venetian place about three dinners ago (that I didn’t care for with beef) was a decent addition, thinner and more oily, augmented with the red chilli peppers that are a base for arrabiata and padron peppers (big in Portland this year.) With the charred tasting meat, it was a nice plate of food, and all three of us enjoyed it, some of the better steak I’ve had this year.

DESSERTS

Market had a variety of house made ice creams, and although Cora rarely has dessert, except to share, she decided on a serving of the salted caramel ice cream, part of which she forced Tracy and everyone else to share (even though only half of us ordered dessert, we still had too much, as they were large portions, just like almost all the entrees and starters before them.)

IMG_3135Brown-sugar roasted figs, house made ricotta, shortbread, pan jus – Who would have thought that someone would want figs and ricotta twice in the course of their dinner, but as I said, I’ve learned all kinds of interesting things about our Swedish- born dinner companion, and one is that he really fancies a well-cooked fig. I have to admit, this sounds like a nice dessert, but one serving of figs was enough for me on this evening. I’m pretty sure Peter was fine with his fig riches though.

White peach and blackberry crisp, house made creme fraiche – Sylvie often doesn’t order dessert (or so she says) but as she had the smallest entree, and she loves a good crisp, she decided the peach and blackberry crisp was a nice way to finish off her evening. IMG_3134I heard her ask if it was a problem to substitute a scoop of the house made ice cream for the cream fraiche, but for some reason I never heard the answer or saw the results (which was not too observant of me, as I was sitting right next to the woman and her dessert.) Whatever was the creamy bonus, this was a really well-baked end of summer creation, and I know it was delicious, as Sylvie insisted I taste it. I guess I need to review the photos to see if she got that ice cream (she did get a nice scoop of ice cream in a side dish.)

Bittersweet chocolate mousse, chocolate financier, almond truffle, cocoa cracklins – Great, decent, and somewhat less tasty. Okay, I know that’s a weird description, but it’s because this was a dessert that had several separate elements that, were you to taste them on their own, would have all been good, but when they were all in contrast with one another, made certain items taste not as yummy. IMG_3137If I was Market, I would have little toothpicks with flags sticking out of each piece of this dessert that said, eat this first, eat this second, eat this last, it’s the best. Part of the problem was that the big, roughly cut hunk of chocolate mousse was way too good for the rest of the items on the plate, and made the rest of the pieces seem boring and lacking sweetness. If I had eaten the chocolate financier first, I probably would have found it, with its bits of coconut, fine as a stand alone snack, but unfortunately I started with the dramatic, intense mousse, and the financier tasted really lackluster after. Also true of the cocoa cracklins, which didn’t even have tasty coconut to make them distinctive, they would have been good enough by themselves, but when I was so full from the big hunk of mousse, they were practically too much of an effort to bother with, as I was full anyway. As for the almond truffle perched on top of the mousse, give me a box of these by themselves and I’m loving every bite, but still not as tasty as the mousse, and although a cute decoration, not “necessary. ” It was nice that Market goes to all this work to give you this elaborate assortment of varying chocolate items, but if they want this dessert to be a bigger success, they should bring you out one piece at a time, finishing with the triumphant mousse, or as I said, offer directions as to the best eating sequence. Then each could be appreciated for its own merits.

Despite a little confusion about a requested second bill that was initially forgotten and a plethora of last minute credit card payments that ended up with the waitress having to re-bill the table three times, the service was excellent, the waitress being competent, professional and really nice, and the manager (I think) showing interest in the workings of Restaurant Roulette, always a positive development in my book (he liked our dining slips.)IMG_3123 We all agreed that Market was a great place with beautifully prepared, delicious food, and everyone said they would like to come back in the future. With the exception of the small gnocchi portion, I really heard no complaints about anything. As much as I love places like Ox and Toro Bravo, I would really like to see some of the masses that wait hours to eat at those places give Market a try, the food is excellent and the space is nice. I can tell much thought has gone into this place, and its execution, and it would be nice to know that they are filling their space on non-performance nights. Market deserves success, and as there isn’t much else in this concrete-laden area to draw people on non-theater nights, I would love to see Market become a dining destination. Surely then, other restaurants will come closer to the Naito Parkway abyss.

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