The wife and I ate at Caprial's tonight. They are part of the Dine Around Portland promotion (formerly know as 25 for $25). Here was the fixed price menu:
* Bruschetta: flageolet bean puree, chevre, cured tomatoes, topped with lemon-olive oil
* House salad: Mixed greens with choice of orange-sesame, green goddess, or balsamic vinaigrette with bleu cheese crumbles
* Soup: Smoked salmon chowder
* Chicken: Greener Pastures hind quarter, herb roasted and served on red potatoes, finished with Oregon morel compound butter
* Pacific Black Cod: Topped with herbed fontina, wrapped in filo and baked, finished with greens and cured tomato vinaigrette
* Flat Iron Steak: Grilled, served on blue cheese mashed potatoes and green peppercorn beurre rouge
* Lemon-ginger creme brulee served with a cookie
* White chocolate semifredo served with mango, chocolate sauces, and cookie
* House made ice creams and sorbets
My wife ordered the bruschetta, black cod, and creme brulee. The bruschetta was nicely balanced and had flavor but I would have changed a few things. The bread would have been better crispier and maybe thinner, eg. The black cod had a good mix of textures with tender and moist, but not mushy, fish, and the crispy filo. I don't know that the fontina helped that much, though the herbs were nice. The sauce, though, was too salty, even for me. The dessert was nice, though creme brulee never excites me too much, but it was a nice one, not overly gingery.
I ordered off the normal menu. No appetizer. For my entree I got the pork grilled and served with crispy fried polenta, chile-citrus stock reduction, topped with a mildly spicy rhubarb relish ($22). The crispy fried polenta was interesting. It was like a tall hucky puck, maybe a two inch tall and 2 inch diameter cylinder, with a thin, cripy outer layer unlike any other polenta creations I've had. Think of it like the shell on a chocolate dipped ice cream or something. Apparently, they do a spinach salad with "polenta croutons" that I think are similarly fried. The pork was very nicely crusted, but a little overdone. It wasn't Big Daddy dry, but it needed to be 10 degrees or so cooler inside. They did seem to leave it in the oven a long time. The sauces were a good compliment for each other. The chile-citrus reduction had a bit of bitterness to it. The rhubarb had a bit of sweetness. Both had a little spiciness. Either sauce by itself was okay, but together with the meat were quite tasty. If they just hadn't overcooked the pork, the dish would have been excellent, I think.
For my dessert, I got the chocolate turtle torte with pecans and caramel baked in a sweet pastry crust, topped with chocolate kahlua mousse and a thin layer of ganache served with caramel and chocolate sauces. The first couple bites of this exploded with flavor. I'm sure most reviewers would call this "decadent". The only problem was that after about the third bite it became overwhelming. The sweetness started to get to me. By the end I was kind of sick of it.
I think both this dessert and my wife's would have made much better desserts on a tasting menu where with only a couple bites you'd be left wanting more, but with any more bites you'd start to be overwhelmed or bored by the same flavors and textures without much to break them up.
I really like Caprial's. I was a little disappointed with the execution tonight, but they have a good $25 menu and give you good portions on the $25 menu. I also like the mild fusion of NW ingredients and ethnic flavors that are locally appropriate. Since I didn't take my own advice to get the duck, I drooled as a couple of plates of the poultry were dished up.
One little oddity was that we asked to sit at the counter in front of the open kitchen and at first they were going to sit us right behind a large fish tank and some huge bottles of champagne where we wouldn't have been able to see into the kitchen. I had to ask to be seated where we could see and it seemed to cause some problems that they had to take care of before we got seated there. What's the point in sitting at the counter if you can't watch the show, talk to the chefs, and whatever? They were nice and accomodating, but it seems odd that the default counter seating isn't overlooking the kitchen. I'd never sat at the counter at Caprial's before and it's handled much better at Wildwood and the cooks go out of their way to interact with you there.