Posts filed under ‘restaurants’

Serrato – Italian Restaurant

My best friend and I were supposed to head out to a nice dinner last night (we both share a love of fine restaurants and dressing up), but the weather was stunning and we got side tracked into a Coldstone Ice Cream appetizer.  We wandered a bit outside and ate our treats in the sun.

When we finally were starting to be hungry again we headed over to Northwest Portland.  We drove down 21st, and I thought we were heading to Lucy’s table, but he had some place new in mind.  We browsed one of my favorite shops for a little bit and then headed for the Italian place he was thinking of.  Turns out it was Serrato, which is a place I have passed by many times (always admiring their cute little snail decals on the windows) but had never been in.

It was your usual sort of Italian restaurant atmosphere, rather dim, with white table cloths.  The space was L shaped and had a fair bit of room for tables in addition to the bar.  The blue wall in the back of the restaurant really caught my eye.  It was the color of dusk or of certain summer storm skies that I have seen.  I really appreciated that they had a rather larger candle at the table, as I was able to read my menu without trouble, the lack of visibility being something that tends to plague nearsighted people in dim restaurants.

We ordered the calamari for a starter, though the kitchen didn’t bring it.  We ended up receiving it at the end after I mentioned that it hadn’t arrived.  They comped us the appetizer.  It was quite nice.  Tender calamari takes care in picking how long you cook it for.

He ordered the special, which was a lamb shank served over polenta and topped with tomato sauce.  The bite of polenta I had was lovely.  Just the right amount of additional flavor to make the polenta interesting, but not overwhelm its natural appeal.  It was creamy and buttery.  The lamb (by report) was very good, but not quite good enough that he felt he had to convince me to try a bite.

I order the seared sea scallops.  They were served with diced Yukon Gold potatoes, zucchini slices, sautéed chanterelles and onions with greens, and drizzled with a saffron-citrus cream.  The scallops managed a wonderful crust on top and bottom that drew out that savory Maillard reaction, but very tender everywhere else.  The potatoes would have been extremely dangerous had there been slightly more of them, as they were very tasty.  They were cooked just enough to be soft, yet retain their structural integrity and had obviously been slow cooked with herbs of some kind.  Probably at least a bit of rosemary and garlic.  The mushrooms and vegetables were also good.  Over all, the flavors balanced very nicely.

We were quite full after our meal (especially after snacking on the calamari which came mid-course with the entrées) and didn’t end up ordering dessert, though there were a few things that looked like they would be worth trying.  We certainly plan to go back another time.

March 25, 2010 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Chennai Masala

After wine tasting at Renaissance we had the usual debate about dinner locations and decided on Chennai Masala as M’s sisters had not been there.  It is my favorite Indian food restaurant in Portland.  There are many tasty places to eat Indian food, but Chennai Masala specializes in South Indian fare.

I lived in South India for six months, residing in Pune for most of that time.  Pune is roughly four hours east of Mumbai (Bombay).  It is an important center for both the software and automobile industries and is also well known for its educational institutions.  The food is amazing.  When I get home sick for Indian food it is the food of Pune, both what you find in restaurants and the food that my aai, my Indian host mother, would cook for me at home.  After school each day my fellow students and I would pile into rickshaws or walk down the street to one of the cafes to feast on South Indian snacks and fresh lime sodas to tide us over until the supper hour, which was more at the European hour, say nine o’clock at night.

Chennai Masala specializes in South Indian food and has a substantial menu of South Indian snacks, hard to find most places that I have been in the US.  Dosa, idli, uttapam, sambhar….  Just thinking about them gets me salivating.

We ordered the spinach dosa to share, and then each ordered something on our own.  If you have never had dosa before, it is fun food.  A giant thin crepe is loosely rolled around a filling or folded over in half over it.  The flour is a combination of rice and lentil and has its own particular flavor, being a little earthy and nutty once fried.  You can get a variety of fillings put in them and they usually come with a number of accompaniments for dipping.  Our came with a spicy spinach filling and had sambhar, and two chutneys on the side.

I don’t recall what everyone else got, but I ordered aloo gobi (an indian curry with cauliflower and potatoes) for my entree, which was quite tasty.  Our meals were served with naan.  I am more partial to chappati for eating with, though I certainly enjoy eating naan, especially if it is garlicy and has butter.

I highly recommend that you go and check out Chennai Masala, located in Hillsboro.  They were even written up in the Willamette Week restaurant ratings.  All of their food is great, but go and try the South Indian snacks.  They are stellar and will get you wishing you could travel to Pune to eat in the cafes.

December 7, 2009 at 12:24 pm 2 comments

Du Kuh Bee

M suggested that we check out this Korean restaurant last night.  I was excited to see that it was located in Beaverton, close to places that I go fairly frequently on errands.  I have passed that corner numerous times and never been in.  Beaverton does have some good places to eat, but Portland has a far higher concentration of interesting and innovative restaurants, so I am always excited to find new places a little closer to home.

Du Kuh Bee was written up in the Willamette Week Restaurant Guide 2009. Oddly enough, their description of its location could fit the restaurant next door, which is also Korean and in close proximity to a hair salon.  They are mid way down the building to the east of Watson on 1st.  Their signage is minimal compared to the large windows of the other restaurant.

We were initially seated by the door, but a couple minutes later the people at the bar left, and we were able to move up where we could watch the kitchen.

The atmosphere is unassuming.  It is a long, narrow space.  There is seating for roughly 20.  A TV was playing the news in the background.  Sitting at the bar you get to see their ingredients spread out in front of you, onions, cabbage, and such, in numerous containers of mostly humble origin (at one point I saw him take sliced green onions out of a blue lidded ziplock container).  A small fridge off to the left appeared to hold their fish and meats.

We ended up ordering the two dishes that were recommended in the Willamette Week, the squid pasta and the bok choy.  They brought us plates and chopsticks, and two little bowls of appetizer while we waited for our food.  One was a kimchi, while the other was a slightly pickled or vinegared daikon radish.  Both were tasty, but I was especially partial to the daikon.

Sitting at the bar we got to watch them prepare the food.  It was fun to watch them make everything, though watching them prepare the noodles was the best part.  Long, blocks of dough were taken out of the fridge and 3/4″ square lengths were cut off of the dough.  The chef then stretched them and pulled them repeatedly, slapping the strands of noodle hard against the counter top, before tossing them into a pot of boiling water.

Their compact kitchen manages to cram in a grill, stove, prep, and storage space.  A giant stockpot of water appeared to be kept at a fairly constant boil, briefly becoming home to both noodles and seafood.  A large portion of the food was prepared in a wok on the stove.  We also watched them grill up numerous things and at one point something they were doing on the grill sent up a large fragrant cloud of steam.

Our noodle dish arrived first.  It was a lovely red-orange color and had bits of onion, cabbage, and pepper along with the noodles and squid.  The squid blended itself well with the noodles, many of which were of a similar size.  It was pleasantly spicy, without being terribly hot.  The flavors were tantalizingly on the verge of familiar.  I kept thinking that I ought to be able to identify things, but it was also uniquely its own thing.  I love asian food and eat a fair bit of Thai, Chinese, and Indian.  It was really nice to be introduced to some new cuisine.

The bok choy was also lovely and different in flavor from the noodle dish.  It was somewhat akin to the ways you might see bok choy prepared at a Chinese restaurant, coming with a liquid, light brown sauce which perhaps owed some of its flavor to soy sauce.  But it was also slightly sweet and had a lovely smokey flavor.

They do have some veggie dishes on the menu, but it looks to me like this isn’t the friendliest place for a strict vegetarian.  Luckily, I also encompass fish and seafood in my diet, which allows me to mark this restaurant some place I must return to.

Our meal was very reasonably priced (we got out of there for $26 including tip), and generously portioned.  We ended up with a meal for one from the leftovers.  I also hear tell that they are open fairly late, even on weeknights, which is rare for this part of town.  We’ll definitely be going back and hopefully dragging a few friends along.

November 19, 2009 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

Tabla Mediterranean Bistro

My best friend and I ended up at Tabla last night for his birthday based on M’s suggestion.  M didn’t say anything about the restaurant really, other than to suggest it when I said Sel Gris was unavailable.

They offer a 3 course tasting menu which lets you pick an appetizer, pasta, and entree dish, or you may choose al a carte.  We both chose to do the tasting menu.  I also opted to order the set of wine pairings to go with mine.

My appetizer: beet and buckwheat salad with ricotta di capra, succulent greens, tarragon

Rounds of cooked and slightly sweetened beets were then layered with thin, similarly sized buckwheat crepes and then topped with leaves from a succulent and ribbon like curls of cheese.  The succulent I wasn’t actually able to identify, not being the world’s most plant savvy person.  The salad was slightly sweet (beets), slightly earthy (buckwheat), a little milky (cheese), and brightly green in flavor (succulent leaves).  The textures also bridged a variety of categories.  The beets still had a nice solidity, the tiny crepes were  tender, the cheese was creamy, and the greens….  The succulent was the most intriguing and surprising thing about this dish, both in appearance, flavor, and mouth feel.  They were firm and crisp, slightly furry, and your entire mouth exploded with juicy green flavor when you bit into one.

It was paired with a glass of 2008 domaine rochette, gamay rosé, beaujolais, france.  The wine was a rosy pink in color.  It smelled of strawberry and lemon and added apples flavors when you sipped it, having light sweetness.

Z’s appetizer: delicata squash flan with brussels sprouts, maple brown butter, crispy prosciutto, walnuts

A small flan shaped delicata custard perched atop a bed of thinly shaved brussel sprouts done up with brown butter and walnuts.  A crispy long piece of prosciutto was decoratively place on top.

My pasta: mushroom and sherry agnolotti with pickled chanterelles, sorrel, parmigiano-reggiano

This dish was the prize of the evening.  Everything was delicious, but this pairing was so perfectly matched I would have eaten it all night.  Agnolotti are tiny little pocket like pasta that are a bit like ravioli and a bit like flattened tortellini.  They were about the size of the first joint of my little finger and oh so delicate.  I believe that they were filled with something similar to what was served mixed in with them, pickled chanterelles and strips of sorrel.  I have never had a pickled mushrooms before, but now may have to look into how to do that.  It added this light flavor which would have been hard to identify if you hadn’t been told.

It was paired with a pinot noir, and I had selected to have a glass of their wine special of the evening instead of the usual pairing.  I believe what I had was the 2007 Evesham Wood, Le Puits Sec, Eola-Amity, though it is possible I am wrong.  It is the only thing present on their online wine menu that sounds like the description I got verbally and I didn’t end up calling back last week to check.  I think that this might have been the best wine pairing I have had, definitely the best one in a really long time.  The pinot noir was lovely, very fruity nose, with plum and raspberry scents, with cherry and currant flavors once you tasted it.  It was lightly sweet and had a mild level of tannins, but enough to give the wine body.  And it tasted ten times better when you took a sip right after a bite of the agnolotti.  I am pretty sure that it had something to do with the pickled mushroom flavor, though I am afraid I can’t put my finger on just what.

Z’s pasta: tajarin – thin housemade pasta, truffle butter, grana padano

This was also very lovely.  The pasta texture was walking that lovely zone between tender and al dente, the truffle butter added some lovely deeper notes to the flavor of the sauce, and the grana padano was a creamier tasting version of Parmigiano Reggiano.

My entree: pan-seared sea scallops, fall vegetable scafata, celery root, salsa verde

Once upon a time I disliked scallops, but I had never had them done right.  They have in recent years become a favorite if I am going for seafood.  Tabla knows how to do them right.  They were seared the right brief amount of time the salsa verde on top was lovely with them.  The scafata and celery root I believe were both served pureed (though I am behind on posting and it has been a few days now) and I wasn’t quite as keen on the flavors there, though it was certainly unusual.  I think that perhaps the scafata was just slightly more earthy than I wanted it to be along side the scallops.

This was paired with an unoaked chardonnay, 2007 domaine de montlaville, mâcon-villages, france.  It went nicely with the scallops.  It had hints of grapefruit, pear, apple, and lemon on the nose and added some peach and apricot flavors upon tasting.  This was Z’s favorite of the three wines.  He isn’t much of a wine person, so it was nice to discover one that he liked.

Z’s entree: the special on offer, a of rack of goat, to which I am afraid I have forgotten the sides

His description of this dish stuck out in my mind.  He mentioned that he really loved the unadorned flavor of the goat.  The way the dish was prepared, the goat was resting on an artistic presentation of the accompaniment, and the sauce was to the side, which allowed him to use sparing amounts according to taste.  Apparently goat is often served with strong sauces or marinades which obscure some of its natural flavor (or this is what I gathered from him, still haven’t been truly tempted yet to find out myself).

We glanced at the dessert menu, but were both quite full.  So instead we opted to head home for cheese cake and raspberry coulis, as it was already in my fridge and the travel gave us some time to digest.

November 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

Fire Strikes at Sel Gris

I just found out that one of my favorite restaurants in Portland was subject to a fire that ran through the building that they are located in.  I called to leave a message requesting a reservation and their voice mail informed me that they were closed due to a fire.  I am taking my best friend out for a birthday dinner and have been telling him about Sel Gris off and on for almost a year.

M and I went there most recently in early October and the whole meal was stunning, as usual.  I had my heart set on having their nectarine melba again, assuming it was still on the menu.  It was one of the best desserts that I have had this year.  A wine poached nectarine is topped with a scoop of concord grape sorbet and surrounded by a huckleberry sauce.  The plate is garnished with a few whole huckleberries and a few leaves of mint.  I tend to avoid mint and fruit, as we all know what happens when mint interacts with certain fruit flavors, especially oranges.  Mint and huckleberry, however, is a one of those rare pairings where the mint perfectly sets off the fruity flavors of the huckleberries.

Sel Gris is hoping to reopen at the end of November, once their remodeling is done.  Needless to say, I am left to find an alternate restaurant for tomorrow’s birthday dinner.

November 2, 2009 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

Clyde Commons

M and I did indeed go out last night.  We ended up at Clyde Common, courtesy of my desire to see what their whiskey list looked like.

I very much enjoyed our meal there.  We began with some Bourbon and Scotch.  Unfortunately, the liquor menu isn’t up online, though you can view a selection of their cocktail menu, and the names escape me.  I got a single barrel Bourbon that was hand picked for use in the restaurant.  Matt got some sort of Glenfiddich Scotch.  Both were quite nice.

Our starter:  roasted beets, autumn squash, hazelnuts, oregano, yogurt

Pale pink beets were cooked just slightly, still having some crunch.  Delicata squash wedges were served up with a hint of spices and appeared to have been baked.  Crushed hazelnuts brought a nutty, woodsy flavored crunch.  Yogurt in a thin layer across the plate was slightly sweet, perhaps a hint of honey or sugar in it.

It made me really want to dig up a couple of the squash recipes I have found over the last year.  With squash, especially delicata, I tend to be a purist, plain or with butter.  It is practically candy.  Why do anything more?  But perhaps I will have to do some experimenting in the near future.

My entree:  tagliatelle, roasted wild mushrooms, shallots, thyme

Noodles were al dente, wide and firm with a nice slight bite to them.  The shallots were not visually apparent, but they were slightly caramelized, lending the sauce a slight sweetness.  The thyme stood out very nicely.  Often relegated to an adjunct spice, used in combination with other more recognizable spices, it got to shine here.  The dish was garnished with parsley, which fit, other than the couple of bites where I got a larger piece of parsley which threw the flavor balance off, as the parsley was then too bright of a flavor.  The wild mushrooms were cooked just to juicy tenderness and had a lovely sweetness to them.

M’s entree:  cornish game hen, brussels sprouts, foie gras, seckel pear

The game hen was nicely presented and quite good, judging from the nice expressions on his face through the meal.  Despite the impressions of enjoyment, this one wasn’t one to tempt me away from my vegetarianess.  Once in a while, watching something he will eat, gets me to wondering a bit.  If I switched over, would I enjoy it that much?  I appear to still solidly be an egg and seafood eating vegetarian.

Our dessert: caramelized fig tart tartine, balsalmic, praline, cream

Despite being rather full, we were intrigued by this.  It was quite nice.  Not nearly as sweet as I was expecting.  The sauce lent some lovely salt and savory tones and the caramelized figs had far less sugar than most apple tart tartine that I have had.

October 22, 2009 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment