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


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. (more…)


Spock’s In The Potty and the Pork Rinds Are Humongous

Recently a member suggested that we have a dinner on a specific day to benefit a good cause. On April 29th, 2010,  Dining Out For Life International was the beneficiary of a collection of dinners at several Portland restaurants, each of the participating restaurants donating a percentage of their proceeds on this one evening to HIV/Aids research.IMG_1481 The Gilt Club, on Broadway, was donating one of the highest dollar figures per diner, 30%, and Melissa suggested that we should have our tri-weekly dinner on this rather unusual Thursday evening. As it happened, I had recently read in one of the local rags that the Gilt Club had ramped up their dinner offerings with a new chef with very sophisticated leanings, and had been thinking of maybe having hosting an RR dinner here, so I told Melissa I would send out an RSVP notice to see what sort of response we could get.

The response was good (of course three of those people were Melissa and her immediate family) so off we went to the Gilt Club on an unseasonably cool late April evening featuring annoying rain barrages seemingly every few minutes. One nice thing about this rather no man’s land of downtown (not quite Chinatown and not quite the Pearl) it’s not as hard to park as closer to Old Town or farther west by Powell’s.



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.



Cruising Up and Down MLK Just Like Those Pimp Mobiles of Olden Days

First of all, let me say that I’m sure people plan things, then miss them all the time, due to either unforeseeable circumstance or just plain lameness. I am not “people” though (no kidding) and have never missed, or been more than 5-10 minutes late for any RR dinner, the one time I was almost 10 minutes late due to Pearl parking (Fenouil). Otherwise though, I’m pretty rigorous about making it to the dinners, and being on time, after all, I am the ridiculous “hostess” at these gatherings.

The dinner at Ned Ludd was certainly the exception, however, not only was I at least 30 minutes late, but I nearly missed the entire dinner in my frustration over not being able to find the restaurant. That’s right, although I drove by at least 5 times, each way, I could not find the restaurant, eventhough I had supplied seemingly decent directions to other participants attending (approximately 2 blocks N. of Fremont on MLK). I had never actually seen Ned Ludd before, but those were the directions I got from their Google map. IMG_0978But those tricky folks at Ned Ludd, on their website they show a photo of what looks like the restaurant with their weird little sign perched in front of it, so I looked for that. And sure enough, two blocks N. of Fremont on MLK there is a big old building painted brick red, just like on their website. But as I approached, and drove around it several times, I could clearly see that the big red building was some sort of foot long sandwich shop, not Ned Ludd. (more…)



Where A Scream Becomes A Whisper

First of all, before I dump all over Clyde Common, let me just mention that I found it a pretty impressive place. Someone sure knew how to fill a niche when they opened this establishment, (supposedly that niche is European Tavern) because the place seems to be a madhouse, or it certainly was on the Friday evening Restaurant Roulette visited there. Top this off with nice people, excellent service, a fascinating, wide reaching menu (with wide-reaching prices) and skillful cooking execution, and you’ve got a restaurant operating on all burners.

That being said, this is not a place to hold any sort of conversation. The acoustics are brutal, especially upstairs, and trying to have any normal dinner conversation, even with only four, was nearly impossible. I would have to say that this has to be the loudest restaurant RR has ever visited, certainly put over the top by the throngs of people jammed in to eat, drink, and be merry. The place struck me as a three ring circus all evening, certainly over the three hours of our visit, and it was quite note-worthy to me that both the service and the quality of the food remained first rate. I’m really glad we scored a table on the upper level though, as there was just too much action at all times on the lower floor, especially anywhere near the bar area.

IMG_0964When I announced this dinner, I really did not know that Clyde Common was THIS popular. I knew it appealed to the younger set, and it was a good place for drinks and happy hour, but I didn’t know it was crazy, insanely popular. As our table was on a balcony overlooking the main floor, it was perfect for people watching, and at one time, around 6:30, I saw about 12 people in a row walk in the already packed restaurant all at once, and they didn’t seem to be a group. I don’t know how many of these people show up from the adjoining Ace Hotel, looking for drinks, and how many people end up flowing to and from the immensely popular Kenny and Zuke’s on the corner, but this stretch of SW Stark is the happening place to be. You would never know there was any such thing as an Economic Downturn strolling these sidewalks. Everywhere you look, the young and beautiful set is lurking, rather like there has been a giant spewage across Burnside from the Pearl.

Clyde Common has a reservation system much like many semi-casual Portland eateries, reservations for tables of six of more only (with a 12 person limit on Friday and Saturday.) For whatever reason, be it the fact that we just had a dinner a couple of weeks ago, or that Clyde Common has been open awhile and people have already been there (this was Glenda’s third time) I just could not manage to come up with six bodies for this dinner. I wanted to be fair to the restaurant though, so called in earlier in the day to tell them that I only ended up with four people, although I had reserved a table for six. So it was agreed that I would release the reservation, but they said they would put me on the waiting list for that evening, and hopefully our wait would not be a long one (as previously mentioned, I didn’t know what a madhouse I was walking into until I looked in from outside and saw bodies everywhere, at only 6:15). IMG_0951 Despite all the people waiting to eat, the moment I arrived (DD was already there) my name was found on the waiting list, and we were immediately escorted to a table upstairs, away from the surging bodies and constantly opening door (although not away from the din). One really great thing about this table being right against the wall of the balcony was, I could then look out for the other two members of our arriving party, who both entered when the host and hostess were away from their post, and I could scream their names and wave my white cloth napkin until they spotted us, and knew to head upstairs (incidentally, I swear I would not try this screaming/frantic napkin waving thing at a more sedate place with an upstairs, like Ten 01 or 23 Hoyt, but this was almost like being at a rock concert, so no one seemed to frown on my behavior). So even though I fretting the loss of reservation scenario, Clyde Common made it really easy for us, still basically having a table with our name on it. I think it also helped that a couple of us actually showed up early too, so this empty table was not standing there with the hoarding masses waiting to eat.

One thing David commented on, and I noticed almost immediately, the waiter was exceptional. He was a great mix of knowledge, manners, kindness and casual good humor, certainly the most impressive waiter I have experienced in many moons, and all the staff at Clyde Common, although on the younger end of the scale, were extremely good. This is the sort of place I can really imagine being run buy trendy, stuck-up types, but everyone at CC was friendly and professional, which said a great deal to me, with their seemingly boundless popularity right now. Another noteworthy thing, I never felt rushed along in the least over our almost three hour dinner, no subtle influence to turn over our table, which I actually had felt from the speed of the food delivery and such during our last visit to the ever hoppin’ Toro Bravo. (more…)

The Dining Report – BEAST – Take This Food and Like It!

First of all, before I get to my usual endless written wanderings, there are a few other subjects I would like to spew forth on –

After our dinner at Lovely Hula Hands, I actually had a pleasant email from Sarah, at aforementioned restaurant, telling us they appreciated our appreciation of their place, and elaborating a bit on their dining space. It turns out the second floor of their building is a dining area of approximate size to the dining room on the ground floor, so they actually have double the capacity I thought they did, and probably when patio months roll around, close to triple the space. So please don’t resist going there because you might be afraid they don’t have room for you, they are certainly busy at peak times, but from what I’ve witnessed in most of these revitalized North/Northeast dining areas, most of the popular places are. So thanks Sara for illuminating me on that, and for acknowledging Restaurant Roulette’s tiny and weird contribution to the Portland Dining scene.

Another thing I wanted to mention, which I’ve been thinking about lately, is the fact that while many PDX restaurants still seem quite busy, I’ve noticed that over the last 6 months or so, I’ve generally had a much easier time getting our group in at more desirable dining times, like 7:00, rather than the 8:00 or 8:30 that seemed to plague us a year or so ago (or course I realize I should not touch this subject with a 10 ft. pole, as it could lead to a sudden reversal of fortunes.) I do tend to wonder, however, if this is a sign that Portland has become so over-saturated with excellent places to eat, that even many of the really great places that we visit now need as many patrons as the can get these days, with Portland’s gigantic thriving dining scene sprawling all over tarnation. Just something to ponder, something good perhaps for groups like ours, but bad, perhaps, for the health of a lot of good restaurants in Portland, especially many that are not viewed as the “hot” places of the moment.

But speaking of “hot” places of the moment, on to Beast ….

One reason I suppose I started with the subject of restaurant over-glut is because at least at this point in time, Beast, already making a name for itself, still isn’t too difficult to get into, small though it is. I knew there were only 30 seats available, all at communal tables, with two main reservation seatings, 6:00 and 8:30 (or so,) and I did call around nine days in advance, but this was plenty of time to reserve the spaces I needed. It was nothing like the ordeal that Adele went through tying to make a reservation at the similarly sized Le Pigeon. It could be that Beast is still quite new, and Le Pigeon is heading into its second year, and has been nationally recognized. But the two restaurants do have many parallels, with daring young chefs, similar spaces, and French tinged menus. On a basic level, Beast seems more expensive, with its fixed price menu ($45 for 5 courses, $52 for 6.) It’s also perhaps scarier, as you must eat what they put before you, or not eat, but I thought a great deal about Le Pigeon while I was eating at Beast, and wonder if Beast will make a similar upward trajectory, especially after a relatively glowing review in the A & E a couple of weeks ago.

I rather like novel approaches to dining, and I must admit I found the idea of “you pay a relatively high price, and you eat what we want you to eat, or you eat nothing” rather intriguing. It’s a bold idea, especially coming from a well-regarded chef whose entire world and reputation was seemingly imploded over the last couple of years, and especially in Portland, where quality dining and the choice of wonderful restaurants is now a given. I was also a bit scared by the proposition, as I’m famous for being close-minded about meats and their by-products I don’t want to eat, things like lamb, veal, and foie gras. And Beast has already made a name for serving a great deal of these items on their meat-centric menu. But I like to think Restaurant Roulette is not only about having great food, and unique conversation, but very importantly, about stretching one’s dining boundaries. So prodded by an insane little voice in my head (always the loudest in there, it seems,) and our most ardent diner-out and fine food lover, I decided a special dinner at Beast was in order. It’s true, not too many people took the bait for this dinner, there were only three people this outing, (with three unfortunate cancelations,) but what this dinner lacked in quantity, it whole-heartedly made up for in quality, it was a great dining experience from beginning to end.