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Restaurants & Bars 3

¡Oba! and Daily Cafe in the Pearl - NW Portland (long)

Jill-O | Apr 19, 200202:29 PM

On Wed. night, partner and I went to meet a friend who is from out of town and was in for the day for drinks and dinner. She spent the day with a friend from Salem and then all of us, including the Salem friend’s girlfriend, met at ¡Oba! for drinks.

I read up on ¡Oba! and knew it was a trendy joint before-hand. Too bad, my partner is a study in the opposite of “you can dress her up, but you can’t take her out” in that you can take her out, you just can’t dress her up. (If she had seen some of the earlier threads on this site about dressing “properly” for time and place, she would have laughed her casual butt off.) She is a shorts and t-shirts girl, no matter the season, no matter the reason. I gave up on trying to dress her up and she agrees to wear pants to things like weddings, bar mitzvahs, and the very occasional very fancy restaurant.(This is also why you hear a lot more from me about BBQ and hole-in-the-wall mexican joints than 'white tablecloth' places!)

So, too bad, we were there and she was in shorts and a bright and cheery tie-dyed t-shirt. I, personally, think she looked cute (OK, I’m biased), and since people can stare at us for a myriad of reasons that include physical attributes and the fact we are a same-gendered couple, I don’t notice the stares anymore anyway. OK, OK, the drinks/food, I’m getting to it…

So, the 5 of us got a table in the very large bar area of ¡Oba! (corner of NW 12th and Hoyt) which is a very pretty space though the chair upholstery is getting a bit worn (details, folks, details!). Poked my nose into the restaurant side of the place and it is a pretty place. We sat on uncomfortable chairs for a couple of hours meeting each other and chatting. We glanced at the menu and decided we would order drinks, but that we would eat elsewhere. The prices were too steep for us for dinner – avg of $20 for an entrée and the tapas menu was steep too at about $8-10/plate(!). We had a very nice time, even so, but I don’t think we will be back.

Partner had a mixed drink she didn’t care for…can’t remember what it was. Others at the table did not enjoy their mojito or their margarita. I ordered one of about 6 different sherries which was very good, and there were some nice choices. Another of us ordered ginger ale, which she was enjoying until a server topped off her glass with water before she could even stop him…gee, thanks. And then someone ordered a plate of the coconut shrimp (a tapas/appetizer plate) - $8 for 6 of the tiniest shrimp heavily coated (so you know those things were miniscule) with a really sweet coconut batter and smothered in an even sweeter melted jelly…and it is one of their signature items…

Since we were in the Pearl, we decided on a place we could walk to – The Daily Café (corner of NW 13th and Kearney). I had not been there before but I will be going back, I guarantee you that. It was a great meal and a wonderful value that other places would have charged 2x as much for.

The dinner menu changes daily but there is a 2nd menu with appetizers and salads and sandwiches and drinks on it that are available all of the time. The wine list was about 5 reds and 5 whites and a cava (Spanish sparkler) – ALL priced at $5/glass or $21/bottle. Nice choices all but I had a glass of the cava and it was yummy, all of the CA sparklers be damned! One of our party wasn’t sure about a wine so they gave her a taste and said that if she didn’t like it, she could try another until she found the wine she wanted to drink…never heard of that before…

So the food…most of the entrees were in the $8-$13 range – very reasonable, considering an entrée and a nice glass of wine would be a great under $20 dinner. I had an amazing plate of braised short ribs and buttermilk mashed potatoes. The ribs, so tender and melt-in-the-mouth good, reminded me of Bo, a now-closed restaurant in Queens, NY that many chowhounds mourned the loss of and spoke of quite lovingly on this site. One bite and it was almost as if Maria was there in the room with me…really folks, it was Bo good!

I didn’t have a starter but the 2 at our table were a spring salad and a yellowtail ceviche. Didn’t taste the ceviche, but it looked very good. Partner had the salad and it was just wonderful. It was an arranged salad (think traditional nicoise, with everything dressed and laid out on the plate) on butter lettuce and included pink/yellow beets, asparagus, carrots, onion sprouts (yum – so much nicer than alfalfas!) and other stuff I can’t remember. It was excellent.

For dinner, partner had a truly impressive hamburger. The meat came from a small farm on Sauvie Island and tasted like I barely remember meat tasting in my youth – fresh and meaty…with actual flavor. It was an $8 or $9 burger but it was a really good one and came with a huge mess-o-fries. Another in the group had turkey tetrazzini and it looked nothing like the dining hall and casserole things I have seen called by the same name. It was a fresh and tasty pasta dish chock full of turkey and not gloppy at all.
For dessert we had the strawberry clafoutis (had to be ordered 25 minutes ahead) with berries macerated in Grand Marnier and a demi-tasse cup of almond cream to pour over it. Didn’t taste it but it looked wonderful. Partner was nice and shared her bittersweet chocolate pudding (think molten chocolate cakelet made in single serving sizes) covered in a dark fudge sauce and lightly whipped cream. Oy, so good! Roll- your-eyes-up-in-your-head, good!

So: 3 glasses of wine, 2 apps, a salad, 4 entrees, 3 desserts (menu is a la carte) – five well-sated folks for around $90. The food was well-prepared, the service was just excellent, the ambiance casual but nice and comfy with original art on the walls (for sale). This place is a screaming good value. I could not imagine why there was only another couple there eating…maybe because it was a Wed. night? We can’t lose this place, Portland - go eat there!

P.S. – there is another location of Daily Café in the store Rejuvenation (SE Grand and Taylor) – anyone been there? It is closer to home, so maybe we will try that location next…

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