Well, I finally got to bluehour. Took a celebratory occasion (the finality of my divorce) to make it happen, and I am glad I finally got there.
The atmosphere is industrial with baffled accoustical tiles on the ceiling and walls, cement pillars, simple leather unpadded chairs (which I found suprsisngly comfortable), and long gauzy curtains breaking up the room a bit. The decor is not much on color, just relies on the play of light and dark. The candles on the tables and the curtains make it feel a lot more intimate than one would think it could. We had 6pm reservations (which were confirmed via phone at 11:30 am that morning - the first time I have ever had a reservation confirmed via a phone number I left here in PDX) and it was more pleasant in the restaurant until about 7pm than after 7pm, when it was a bit loud and crowded. They have free valet parking, but I found a spot on the street before I turned the corner.
My dining partner and I shared a caesar salad for 2 ($15) and seared foie gras with grilled pineapple and a gingery sauce ($20). The caesar salad was OK - whole leaves dressed with added cheese and pepper on top and croutons. A few weeks ago I had a similar caesar at Ken's place. It was as big or bigger (though it did not bill itself as "for 2") and cheaper than $15. It had much better and more croutons on it and the dressing (which had more anchovy) was superior to the one at bluehour. The bluehour caesar was good, just not as good as the one at Ken's Place.
The seared foie gras was delicious. The richness of the rare seared liver, spiciness of the ginger, tart and sweet grilled pineapple - it really worked for me. I loved this dish, it was really yummy.
I had the osso buco with sage polenta ($28) and my dining partner had the steak with scalloped potatoes ($38). The osso buco was very good - melt in the mouth meat goodness with a nice sauce and very creamy polenta. The steak was also good, it came rare as ordered, and was a large piece, with some wilted greens on the plate more as a garnish than as a side veg. I didn't try the potatoes, but the partner liked them. Both of these dishes were good, but not drop dead fabulous. It doesn't help bluehour's case that I had a great steak a week ago at Basta's that was every bit as good as the one I tasted at bluehour...but at exactly half the price: $19.
There were several dessert offerings that sounded good, we selected the mango sorbet ($8) and the mascarpone crepes with carmel and sour cherry sauce ($7). The mango sorbet was not highly/brightly flavored enough at all and the lime cookies didn't have as much lime flavor as I would have liked, either. In Feb. I tried Pix's mango sorbet and it was amazing - like eating frozen mangoes with a sublime texture...this fell way short of that experience. The dessert crepes, however, were delicious. Two delicate crepes (a bit crispy at the edges), each folded with a rich mascarpone cream within and well sauced with a sweet caramel and a tart sour cherry sauce and dried sour cherries dotting the top. It was delicious. We also had two decent cups of espresso, and though it comes with a sugar cube, it doesn't come with lemon peel.
Since we were both driving we each had a glass of champagne at the beginning of the meal and then shared a glass of that great Tori Mor '02 pinot noir. The total price for the two glasses of champagne($14 & $16) and one glass of pinot ($10) was $40...yup, that's right. A bit pricey to say the least, and there weren't a lot of inexpensive (under $40) choices by the bottle.
Service was good with a division of labor among bussing staff and serving staff you tend to find at the higher end places here. Service was, of course, better earlier in the evening than it was later in the evening, but it was good overall.
So the total bill was $160 before tip...making the grand total around $200. That's a lot for 2 by Portland standards, especially when you are sharing a first and second course (though the salad was, technically, for 2) and you're not getting a bottle of wine. In the post I linked to below, where I recounted my first meal at Hurley's, the total for a reasonably equivalent meal was $170 (Bread is $4 at Hurley's and free at bluehour, btw - I do want to be fair here.).
If I was making the choice, I'd pick Hurley's over bluehour in a heartbeat. The service at Hurley's (though some folks may not like the formality, I find that I do...especially when I am paying about $100/person) is on a whole other level. The attention to the food (ingredients/prep/plating/taste) is greater at Hurley's. The atmosphere is more to my liking at Hurley's - small, quiet, elegant.
In addition, bluehour is more expensive than places like Park Kitchen or clarklewis or Alba Osteria and I don't know that I would say it is any better. I have to say my last meal at saucebox (Bruce Carey's other restaurant) was better in value, in terms of the food, and the overall experience than my meal at bluehour this weekend.
It was a nice meal at bluehour, don't get me wrong. It's just that at that price point, IMO, you can do better in this city. And so, we have reservations at Hurley's this coming Sat. for my birthday. Thanks, Hon!! ;o)
I also proposed that we start looking at other high end places to make a special occasion/splurge list, starting with Genoa and including places like Caprial's and possibly Paley's, Wildwood, maybe even Castagna (only been to the Cafe, which I like a lot), etc. What's your favorite place in town for a splurge meal?
So, what say you, those who have been recently to bluehour and other higher end places around PDX - how do you think it measures up at that level? The meal I had on Sat., though it was good, would make me recommend Hurley's, clarklewis, Park Kitchen, Ken's Place, Alba's and maybe others over bluehour. That kind of surprised me, I expected to like it more and be more impressed by the food.