seafood


THE DINING REPORT- BLOCK + TACKLE

Not A Fumble In Sight

IMG_3678Okay, if anyone still reads this thing, they may be thinking, hey, how come I didn’t get my reservation to this dinner? It’s true, you were not invited to the Block + Tackle dinner. There were no RSVPs. We had our dinner at Bistro Marquee the week that Block + Tackle opened. I mentioned at BM that I had already made the reservation for the next dinner, B + T. At that time enough people (basically everyone from that dinner) told me they wanted to be included in the B + T dinner, so i had no spaces left. Well, that was easy. Exclusionary, but easy.

Anyway, sorry to the rest of you, especially you seafood lovers, but Block + Tackle is not the world biggest place, so 10 places pretty much monopolized the establishment. IMG_3673Also, it’s already crowded, so I felt lucky to get any seats. As it happens, originally the reservation was for the over 80 time of 5:45, as that was all Open Table would allow. As fate would have it, however, Melissa Halle is in like Flynn with the GM or someone at B + T, so she was able to switch the reservation to our more usual 6:30 PM. (It’s true that this time also seems early to some folks, especially those from places like Spain, but after a three hour dinner, this still allows my members time left in their evening go out and party down! And/or put on their jammies and go to sleep).

Portland is fortunate these days to have many chefs who have attained national status, and others who are less talked about, but still acknowledged to be at the top of their game and putting out amazing food. Into this last category no one is more noteworthy than Trent Pierce, whose small and short lived eatery, Fin, produced amazing seafood dishes from opening until it abruptly closed just a few months later, largely due to building ownership mismanagement. IMG_3680Much of the Portland food world was distraught over the loss of Fin, and couldn’t wait for Mr. Piece to get another place going, hopefully one where he had more control over his own fate. Eventually came Wafu, Pierce’s take on Japanese noodle joints, one of the earliest additions to the soon to be exploding Division St. restaurant row. Wafu gained a loyal following immediately, but it was clear Trent Pierce’s heart belongs only to seafood, as he soon opened a tiny, elite, reservation only seafood den in the back of Wafu called Roe. At Roe you pay your tariff and enjoy a very drawn out, but exquisite, meal of freshly architecturalized seafood plates. The reviews have been glowing since inception.

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THE DINING REPORT – RIFFLE NW
No Firearms Involved, But Lots of Fishing Poles.

CLOSED

IMG_2935According to those informative folks at Wikipedia …. “A Riffle is a short, relatively shallow and coarse-bedded length of stream over which the stream flows at higher velocity and higher turbulence than it normally does in comparison to a pool. As a result of the increased velocity and heightened turbulence, small ripples are frequently found. Riffles are usually caused by an increase in a stream bed’s slope or an obstruction in the water.” My guess would be that lots of fishermen don’t even know this term, although they are probably acquainted with the phenomenon. Maybe it’s more of an East Coast thing.

Many months ago, I read on my source for much local food news, eater.com, that a couple of high-end chefs (and/or high-end chefs that are also a couple) from New York were scouting out downtown locations for their catch-inspired seafood restaurant (no, I don’t really know what catch-inspired means either, but I would assume it refers to seafood fresher than you can find in your local dumpster.) After much passing time the Norris duo, Ken and Jennifer, decided the now vacant 50 Plates space (I NEVER wanted to go to that place, retro food, ick) looked good, so they started remodeling their new eatery in their vision, a block from Andina and right across from the always charming Cargo. They also settled on a name, Riffle NW. I would guess that about 25% of the people who have gone to the restaurant or have heard about the restaurant have any clue what the name refers to. I am very anti-firearm, so I associated the name with some weapon, despite the added r, and thought maybe they shot the fish out of the water (which could be a bit rough if you wanted intact product. Fish sticks, maybe.) (more…)

THE DINING REPORT – THE RINGSIDE FISH HOUSE
Feeling Poor on Park Avenue

I’ve never been a Ringside kind of gal. IMG_2392Even before I started this group, I’d been eating out quite freely since my teenage years, certainly more than average, but for one reason or other, the Ringside never drew me in (maybe it’s the name, somehow sitting next to an elevated platform where two guys are beating the daylights out of each other, with spit flying, just doesn’t sound overly appetizing to me.) We all know I love my beef though, so it’s hard to figure out. I’ve never been a fan of those sporty guy or corporate sort of places, so maybe that’s the issue. We did go to “nicer” restaurants though, so why the Ringside never came into the mix is a bit surprising, maybe it’s because we BBQed steak at home quite often, so wanted something different when we ate out.

I was only at the Original Ringside (of course now we have the totally revamped Original Ringside) once in fact, right around the turn of the 21st Century. Wow, that was a miserable experience (not due to the cooking or decor at the Ringside that evening, although those upscale prices did not help.) The guy whom I had been hanging around with forever, had a father who was having some big birthday (65th, 70th?) and as this was a nouveau rich kind of family, Dad’s favorite eatery was that Old Boy’s Paradise, the Ringside. It was decided that almost the entire family would come, all four sons and their spouses and me, the arm accessory of the middle brother. Although I balked at having to pay for a Ringside dinner, as this whole family and I always seemed like we were from different galaxies, I was assured that if I went my meal would be paid for, as the birthday boy was going to be paying for everyone’s meal, via the family matriarch. Of course lots of expensive grub was ordered, with starters, and big honkin’ steaks. When the bill came, third brother is line decided that it was tasteless to have daddy pay for the birthday extravaganza (duh) and that everyone would have to split up the bill, including payment for mom and dad. It’s funny how when it came time to pay the bill, all of these brothers, who had been talking about virtually nothing the entire evening but stocks and expensive houses and cars, had no money on them and few credit cards (but plenty of rancor towards one another.) Plus, the brothers with the families that had eaten the most food wanted to pay the smallest part of the bill, or have mommy pay for everyone. Anyway, as you might guess from this quaint little story, innocents like me were the people caught in the crossfire and ended up emptying their wallet when the check came. It’s true, I was paid back for a portion of what I put out, but the entire evening was so idiotic, it hardly gave me reason to ever want to return to the Ringside.Over the last couple of years I had read many comments online, alluding to the fact that the Ringside was starting to show its age, that it was way behind the times, was full or tattered decor, and ofter smelled of mildew. Also, many comments were made that the steaks were only about the fourth best in town. The other thing I always remembered about my evening at the Ringside, besides the three ring family circus I was dining with, was how dark, dank, and old fashioned the ringside seemed. It was like crawling inside a pair of old flannel pajamas for a nice dinner, not you wearing pajamas, but the restaurant trapped inside some old fragrant jammies. (more…)

THE DINING REPORT – FIN
To Lardo or Not To Lardo, That Is The Question

CLOSED

I read last week on Eater.com, my source for much daily restaurant info, that Fin restaurant, opened this summer, has decided to “dumb down” the menu there to make their eatery more accessible to the masses and less elitist and Sel Gris like (the previous tenant in their space before the Barefoot Sage rooftop fire took Sel Gris with it.) After having had our last Restaurant Roulette dinner there, I must say this sounds like a shame, as few restaurants have as intriguing a menu of unusual food preparations as what we experienced during our meal at Fin.

To this point, two of the most buzzed about new restaurants this year (not counting the breakfast oriented Tasty N’ Sons and the soon to open Little Bird) almost seem like sister restaurants, as they are both in the same part of town (mid-eastside) both have hot young chefs, and both seemingly appeal to those ultra trendy folks who overflow at many of our town’s most popular dining spots. IMG_1893June, on E. Burnside, is the brainchild of Greg Perrault, previously head man at DOC, and from what I’ve read and heard, he has done a decent job creating a pleasant, middle of the road contemporary NW/Italian restaurant which has so far been long on talent (Daniel Mondok was sous chef, but has already left for Genoa) but short on rave reviews (but nonetheless packed.)  Fin, on lower Hawthorne, opened during the same approximate late summer time period, also has a well-respected young chef, Trent Pierce, and has a novel, for Portland anyway, approach to food “slinging”, a small menu, seafood only, and much of it raw. (more…)

THE DINING REPORT – SOUTHPARK

Less Disgusting Than The TV Show, and Lasts A Lot Longer

Southpark, remember that place? (The restaurant, not the off-color TV show.) IMG_1713Well, I didn’t. I thought of it several summers ago, when I was compiling the original list of places I thought my new dining group should go to, but so many places opened after that, and Portland became a “dining destination”, and low and behold, I forgot about downtown stalwart Southpark (which I believe was originally billed as a mediterranean seafood restaurant.) Back when it opened, 10 years ago, 12 years ago, it was one of Portland’s nicer places, an attractive big space with “edgier” cooking than places like Jake’s or the now gone McCormick and Schmicks.

As most of the interesting dining locations are on the eastside now, except for a smattering in the Pearl and NW, I wasn’t sure how Southpark was doing these days, as I rarely go downtown, and you never read anything about it in the food publications. IMG_1708It does have a locational advantage over many eateries though, upscale dining really close to the Schnitz, so I figured it was still doing okay, at least as far as a special occasion customer base. I was actually relatively amazed when I got there on this fine summer Friday to see how well Southpark was doing, really, really busy, especially as it was entertaining a booming outdoor business. This fact came to haunt our evening, however, big restaurant, many full tables, 2/3rd the necessary staffing, many having to continually run outside to wait on al fresco patrons.
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THE DINING REPORT – CABEZON

With Eight You Get Really Ill And Want To Die!

Let me just start this latest exodus off by saying that yes, a few hours after our dinner at Cabezon, I got violently, incredibly ill, ill is ways that most people would associate with bad food, or unclean conditions, or something equally nasty and unsavory. But was it Cabezon?IMG_1431 I just don’t know, so I won’t point any fingers, or any other shaky appendages, and was I to guess based on food quality and seeming freshness, I would guess no. Also, there was nothing I consumed that others didn’t also consume, there was a great deal of repetition of ordering and sharing of food at this dinner, and although I never heard back from one attendee, everyone else let me know they felt hunky dory later, if not better than usual, as seafood can seem less gut-wrenching than many other heavy duty meals. So if I got sick from some interaction at Cabezon, it must have been a fluke, Ebola on my fork or Typhoid in my wineglass, and I would certainly return to Cabezon without qualms (although they might not want me back if they see the headline on this entry.) But you know me, I’m into those headlines with immediate impact!!!!

If you want a gigantic menu of fresh seafood specials and a fancy red flocked dining room, better go somewhere else like Jake’s. Although Cabezon is plenty pleasant, and perfectly tasteful, the menu is relatively small, with quite a few starters but a moderate amount of entrees, and maybe one special in each category each night. Supposedly the menu changes on a daily basis (now that would be a real pain) but certain items appear as regulars, items like the house pate, Mac n’ Cheese, and the Cioppino. (more…)