Based on one visit (that's representative, right?), I have anointed Alberta St. Oyster Bar & Grill my new, new favorite among the crop of recent openings.
Think high end food at low to moderate prices in a casual (hey, it's Portland) setting. High end as in pan-fried veal sweetbreads ($9 starter), diver scallops (the big ones) with lentils and a chicken liver sauce ($8 starter), a beet salad with apple and blue cheese. Food temps were perfect, flavors amazing. I didn't think the chicken liver sauce was going to work with scallops, but it was delicious. I also had a dozen assorted oysters, 2 each of 6 kinds. Pricey, but briney fresh. The standard champagne mignonette was excellent, the black pepper-vanilla version novel, yet still well-suited to the bivalves. An order of fries with spicy remoulade provided a classic fry--crispy, lightly browned exterior with a hot mealy/starchy core, salted noticeably but not excessively--with a sauce that lived up to its billing.
All the courses I tried were from the top half of the menu where the most amazing values reside. Next visit, I will have to try the entrees. (Dessert, donut holes with a cup of coffee pot de creme and foamed cream, was an imaginative, bordering on brilliant, twist on coffee and donuts.)
Other things I like about Alberta St.: Friendly, professional service (yes, I have a new server to be infatuated with, though I'm sure she is part of a "we"); a sensible reservation policy (half the house for walk-ins, half for rezzies--David Machado, are you listening?); furnishings and fixtures, predominantly in red and black, attractive yet simple.
This is a new start for Oritalia organizer, Peter Hochman. Chef Eric Berchard, a Heathman alum, is creatively focused (and seemed like a damn nice person beside). Lisa and Emily, working the floor, seemed to keep everyone happy, with fine timing and easy smiles--obvious pros.
Unlike most of the new places, the owners here have kept everything simple, so they aren't going to need hit the Portland restaurant lottery just to stay afloat. Funny thing is that if the food and service hold to form, they may hit it anyway.
(cross-posted to portlandfood.org)