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Restaurants & Bars 5

[PDX] Epicure...

extramsg | Jan 11, 200601:22 AM

This is the last one today, I promise. Just catching up places I've newly visited.

Epicure has moved to NE Broadway in the old Rustica spot. It has a casual yet elegant interior with comfortable bench seating, nice lighting, etc.

Menu has about a dozen entrees and even more appetizers, about half of which are salads. They also have a few nightly specials.

Prices for small plates are generally under $10. Large places vary more with vegetarian dishes staring at $12, but with lamb chops at $26.

They also have a happy hour menu until 6pm. (They call it "social hour".) There's a daily drink special for $4. There are nine happy hour "eats" with nothing over $5, including a burger and fries for $3, calimari with a trio of aiolis for $3, and short ribs for $4. There's no requirements to enjoy the happy hour pricing. You can order just those items if you wish.

We ordered three appetizers and an entree and shared them: a special of fried fennel ($4); the santa fe potato cakes ($6); the large Caesar ($8, $5 for the small); and the maple leaf duck breast ($22).

The fried fennel came sliced and lightly coated in a crispy breading, stacked tall on a plate with chive oil and red pepper coulis. The sauces were mediocre, but the flavor of the fennel itself was really nice. They were warm and soft inside, but not mushy, which contrasted with the exterior. Good price at $4, too.

The potato cakes were a letdown, even for my wife who loves potatoes. They were two potato patties topped with paprika or chile powder of some sort and a little sour cream, I think. They were sided by a jicama "slaw". They were supposed to have smoked gouda, but it wasn't noticeable. There were red pepper pieces in the potatoes and julienned red peppers in the slaw which totally permeated the jicama, which was a pretty simple slaw of just jicama matchsticks and nothing else.

As you can see, both of these dishes had red pepper, and I'm not so sure that it helped either one. Red pepper is a strong flavor and it has to be used judiciously, but it's used throughout the menu. I'd say that it's a sign of immature recipe-making on the part of the chef. They're just tossed into dishes without much purposed except perhaps to "kick up" (poorly) otherwise fine dishes.

Caesar was unremarkable. Mixed leaves and hearts with a creamy, plain dressing and garlic croutons. The croutons were crunchy and good. Lots of grated parmesan. The flavors were greatly helped by a squeeze of lemon. A good value at $8 for a huge salad, but it's certainly not going to satisfy those who like to have a garlicky bite to their salad or those who like to have a more gourmet version with high quality ingredients and refined flavors.

The duck was cooked nicely, still medium rare to rare in the center and very tender. The outside was a bit overcharred and carbony, but the inside tasted great. A light blood orange sauce went well with the bird, but there needed to be more of it. Wild rice cakes (ie, patties) were served along with the duck, but were dry and a bit dense. I don't know that they added anything to the dish except a poorly conceived starch. (Reminds me of McCormick and Schmick's.) A piece of broccolini and some sweet onion jam were welcome sides, OTOH.

Not a bad meal for $40 total. Some things were good, some things were mediocre. I think the happy hour looks like a great deal. The autumn salad with endive, frisee, pears, hazelnuts, chevre, etc, looked and sounded good. Perhaps a better lunch option, too.


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