Long over due review of Calyle.
(I actually went on July 16th, so I apologize in the delay in posting.)
My partner decided to surprise me on my birthday by 'taking me to a restaurant he hadn't heard me talk about.' I was surprised- a restaurant I didn't know in PDX- oooooooo.
So we arrived at Carlyle. Located in an out of the way spot on NW Thurman & 17th. A NW part of the Pearl that hasn't been upgraded in the mad rush of recent years.
The atmosphere was dark wood, cool, and warm art on the walls.
The host, who might have been a owner/co-owner or manager, Michael, sat us and was very friendly. We did discuss the fact that I was involved in the food scene in Portland and was surprised to learn about Carlyle. It was very obvious that Michael wanted to get the word out and was very nice, even giving us a tour of the kitchen after the meal. Which it should be noted that the kitchen is one large open room, and there is a special table in the kitchen for large special parties (holds about 10 I'd guess but don't quote me on it.) Might be a great dining option for a group.
I started my evening with a Cucumber Martini. Vodka infused cucumber. Very light & very refreshing on such a beautiful summer day. The drink menu had a lot of classics that had been updated - newer versions of the Sidecar, or the Rusty Nail (that type of stuff.) I saw a lot of drinks I was interested in.
(Unfortunately they do not do a 'happy hour' so to say. No drink specials and only a few food specials- many of the items coming off their main menu at a very similar cost. BUT they do $1 martini's on Monday.)
For starters I had the oysters on the half shell and my partner had the mussels in a chorizo & tomato broth.
My partner really enjoyed the mussels. Usually you're pretty limited to 3 options, tomato broth, white wine or coconut. This was a great dish and different than the norm. My partner does like chorizo sausage though so I'm sure some may not like it as much.
As for my starter they had two types of oysters available that evening and I choose the Kumamoto. They were the smallest, most delicate Kumamoto's I've ever had. Very impressive.
Next we had salads.
I had the heirloom tomato salad and my partner had the Caesar. He liked his Caesar fine but put it as pretty standard. The leaf was served whole with long thin breadsticks. (Best Caesar was still the tableside Caesar at El Gaucho.)
My heirloom tomato salad was very good. Fresh tomatoes. The biggest draw back was that it came with fried Parmesan, which although looked as if it was fried perfectly to a golden brown- tasted burnt. So I just put it to the side.
Our entrees were the Alaskan Halibut Cheeks with homemade Mac & Cheese, and the Loin of Lamb.
My halibut cheeks were wonderful. Not over cooked and I really like the pairing with the Mac and cheese. They make their own pasta for the Mac and cheese- these little round balls that almost make it feel like a risotto.
My dining companion seemed to really enjoy their lamb. Though I did not have any I did notice that the lamb looked as if it was cook very well- not over done.
I should also mention that I did get in to a discussion with our waiter about whether or not Carlyle served Foie Gras, so later - the chef sent out a plate on the house. A very nice gesture.
Overall I enjoyed Carlyle. They were very attentive. They had a lot of drinks I enjoyed (not a menu full of candy martini's.) They had wonderful ingredients and well prepared dishes. They had a nice atmosphere...a bit classic- nothing to 'new' or 'hip'. Closer to a McCormicks or Mortons than Bluehour or Wildwood - if you catch my drift.
I would recommend it to people visiting Portland. There were some Italian influenced items but a lot of the dishes have great NW ingredients - oysters, tomatoes, mussels, lamb, halibut....
It is not quite as 'local' as Wildwood but definitely a more refined atmosphere. (Wildwood I feel like it is nice but I could go in jeans if the mood suits me- I probably wouldn't at Carlyle.)
Haven't been to Hurley's yet so can't compare. Like it a bit better than Higgins.
Overall, since it seems a bit over-looked in the food circles, I want to put a good nod in and send some people their way. I will be going back. Enjoy!