Finally putting up this LOOONG post (see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/890522 for the query thread if you’re interested).
Here's day one and two with some pix...
After a speedy drive down, we were ready for a Saraveza return visit, arriving just before happy hour at 3:50 pm. Not quite as good a pasty as last time with "corned" beef, cabbage and red potatoes. 8-oz Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws barley wine for the SO which grew on him. I had a Blenheim Ginger Ale which landed somewhere between ginger ale and ginger beer. $15 total.
We had a bit of rain while inside but it cleared up in time for our run to the hotel. Then Matchbox for awesome burger (best yet, perfectly rare) plus chips AND salad as the server brought the wrong side and then insisted on giving us the correct one as well. Commons Mirtle Farmhouse for J, which was a bit sour with a caramelly finish. They were setting up for a band as we left for our 8pm reservation at Wafu down the street. Not too busy so we had our pick of seats and opted for the beverage bar whilst waiting for a spot at the kitchen bar. We started off with a short Rogue Morimoto soba ale ($5) which did not impress (so far no Rogue offerings have) and lovely hibiscus Shirley with yuzu juice ($5). Very cool how bartenders here are equally keen to make you something tasty whether it is alcoholic or not.
We were trying not to overorder so of course the God of Good Things sent us a free order of edamame, which was tasty and filling, with togorashi, Sichuan salt and something dark -- maybe black bean sauce? The free-things-in-Portland trend continues. The sunomono with cucumber, avocado, habanero vinaigrette and kaiware ($4) was noodle free and therefore not what we were expecting but I loved it longtime. The SO thought the brined cuke was too salty.
Miso creamed kale with soy buttered mushrooms -- kale is definitely Having A Moment in Portland -- was a big hit for me ($7), rich and umami-laden. The fried duck drumettes looked so good being plated but were the disappointment of the meal, dried out and oversauced with a very strange side salad of the bits of celery I usually throw away and a lackluster ranch-style dressing ($10). To quote the SO: "There's a reason people don't eat duck wings" at least if they're cooked like this. And what's up with early 86es? We got the last order of duck at 8:15 on a Thursday?!
Bounced back for the final two dishes: the steak, miso and sake marinated chicken fried mushrooms and roasted garlic jus ($12) was a delicate marriage of flavours, and the meat was perfectly rare. The sashimi salad with hamachi, wasabi, tobiko, curly endive, seaweed, garlic and sesame vinaigrette ($14) was, while less original, well executed and the seaweed mixture was spot on. SO loved the hamachi.
Set out for Lauretta Jean’s not realizing there are two outposts. The one downtown is small and doesn’t have seats or cooked to order dishes, so we opted to head over to Courier instead as it was nearby. Mild cappuccino and lovely muffin with pear and their excellent house made vanilla syrup in a steamer (steamed milk – notice the vanilla bean flecks in the pic) plus a cannele for later (to try how they are after introducing the wax moulds). Love the beverage containers here as well.
The SO hit the record store (yes, really a record store) around the corner while I wandered over to Blue Star to secure a blueberry bourbon basil doughnut and a hard apple cider fritter. Had a look in the new Lardo’s window and noted with surprise that their signature porchetta is not on the posted menu.
Craving something savoury, I stopped by Bunk to grab a breakfast roll with bacon. Just as good as last time and well worth the $6; the rolls they use really are outstanding. The SO wanted to try another coffee place so we headed over to Maglia Rosa, located in a bike store. This cappuccino was made with Stumptown’s Valle de los Santos from Costa Rica. The barista was also talking up a new local roaster called Roseline that he was planning to feature the next day and we subsequently heard more about this newcomer so may be one to watch. We sat outside in the increasingly glorious weather and sampled our booty from Blue Star. The much-vaunted blueberry offering ($2.50) left me rather cold but the fritter ($2.75) was excellent, with lots of apple flavour, moist and dense but not kludgy with a crunchy carapace that was almost burnt-caramelized.
Strolled over to Echo Stereo (SO) to ogle the high end gear and 10th and Alder carts (me) to gaze soulfully at People’s Pig (next trip, next trip!).
Since the day was so unexpectedly perfect, we opted for an outdoor activity next, revisiting the Japanese Gardens. Saw the most enormous orange carp ever. Wonder if he would have been tastier as sashimi or grilled : -). All the natural beauty worked up an appetite for a lateish lunch at Evoe. Started with an elderflower spritzer ($5) using sparkling water and Nikolaihof syrup which so refreshing the SO searched out a bottle ($26) next door to take home. The SO indulged in a Double Mountain IRA (India Red Ale $5). A stunning salad of tiny whole mache, golden beets, pistachios and vinaigrette royale with a tiny hint of licorice flavour ($10) turned out to be the highlight of the trip and perhaps the best salad I’ve eaten. I nearly stabbed my beloved with a fork when he innocently tried to get the last bite!
Luckily, he was busy with a platter of foie gras au naturel ($14) that had been brined in salt and sugar, served with walnut toast and Seville marmalade. Even I, an inveterate furler toward all things livery, thought this buttery offering was delicious. Our third plate was a nifty vegetable take on goulash, with pork broth and baby turnips on top of a grilled white polenta cake ($10), a light but comforting dish.
How does chef Kevin Gibson get it so right every time? It’s like he has a blueprint of my palate stored on his cooking hard drive : -). With nary a misstep in three visits, Evoe is officially a must visit for us. And it doesn’t hurt that the semi-communal room layout is so conducive to chatting with your neighbours, which we did again.
Back to the hotel for a freshen up and rest before hitting Dove Vivi, only to find we’d missed the early window and there was a line up. Quick gear change to Uno Mas down the street instead, where we found no lineup and tried four tacos and a Jarritos for $11.75. The carnitas and fish tacos were very nice, the moronga too mild and the fried cheese just okay. Though a bit pricey for tacos, I’d like to come back and try the steamed tacos de canasta which are only available at lunch and have different fillings (the changes from the lunch to dinner menu are confusingly presented on the menu). The tortillas here are noteable. It was great to again be able to sit outside at this permanent food pod showcasing four or five places.
Dinner was at Smallwares where we met up with a couple we had met at last trip’s Racion popup. I started with a marionberry shrub and the SO tried an Everybody’s Country Boy IPA, both solid. Three local Netarts oysters ($2 a pop) were declared good, and an octopus, miso, pumpkin, radish, pine nut and chile dish ($12) impressed everyone, even non-octopus fan me, with the octopus being almost too tender. The Brussels sprouts in XO sauce with Satsuma and black bean ($9) was bursting with umami and well cooked. I was disappointed to find that my target dish, the mapo tofu, had come off the menu a scant four days previously. It had been replaced by a version of shrimp chawan mushi ($10) with chile, sherry cream, shiso and tarragon (which I fortunately couldn’t detect). I found this dish to be good but not outstanding, despite the top-notch custard base.
The one fail on the night was the short rib ($10) with corn cake (referred to as an arepa on the bill, which had I noted previously would have precluded ordering it, as my previous multiple experiences with arepas in Venezuela have not been salutary). Meat was blah, too chewy, cake was a puck, muddled flavours. The star of the show was the kale ($10) which was also a very generous portion and great for sharing. This dish was light and perfectly deep fried, with candied bacon, fish sauce and mint. I want to be buried in a coffin full of it.
We were full but decided to share one dessert and again got the last item in the house when we selected the special, a horchata pannacotta with date puree and a sherry reduction ($7). Really tiny for you duff hounds out there but fine for a one-bite-each finish. The use of sherry here is judicious, the room is nicely appointed if a bit loud with very awkward table legs, and the food was consistent enough to draw me back in the future. Get a window seat if you go.
photo one: Courier Coffee; two: Maglia Rosa; three: Blue Star doughnuts; four, five, six: mache salad, foie and spritzer at Evoe; seven: tacos from Uno Mas; eight and nine: hamachi and steak dishes at Wafu