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Restaurants & Bars 4

PDX/Hillsdale - Alba Osteria & Enoteca

Jill-O | Nov 8, 200403:53 PM

This place (at 6440 SW Capital Hwy)is a keeper - had a very nice experience there on Sat. Went early to avoid crowds and the need for reservations and we were seated upon arrival somewhere betw. 5:30 and 6pm. It was fairly dark by then, so it didn't seem so early.

Nice menu consisting of about 9 antipasti, 4-5 pastas and a salad as primi, and 6 secondi/entree, and a couple of side dishes (fried potatoes w/sage, brussel sprouts) - I took a copy of it. Dessert menu is separate (and I don't have a copy of it), but I remember about 6-8 choices. Wine list is very nice - many reasonable $20ish-40ish bottles and a nice selection by the glass under $10, and also a few nice splits. Atmosphere is nice - white table cloths, candlelight, Spiegelau wine glasses (I really appreciate that so many places serving decent wines around town use Speigelau or Riedel.), tables not that close together (appreciate that, because this is fairly small place folks) - and service was both friendly and good.

Food? Well, here we go...

My date and I decided to share an antipasti and chose the leek tarta fonduta ($8) - a buttery flaky pastry about 3-4" in diameter and 3" high filled with tender and buttery leeks upon a pool of a delectable cheese-based sauce. Yum, just, yum - it was excellent. Other choices that looked good were the Jerusalem artichokes baked in bagna cauda ($8) and the zuppa of celeriac puree with proscuitto ($6) - but we were very happy with the tart.

For our next course, we decided to share a mixed greens salad ($6) and a pasta (most are $12) - the agnolotti verde - spinach pasta filled with fontina and tossed with butter and herbs. Salad was unremarkable mixed greens, sad but true. The pasta, though, OMG. Agnolotti (in this incarnation, anyway - they are often larger and not as delicate) are tiny, filled fingernail-sized pasta pockets. Their pasta is so incredibly delicate that it defies imagination how they could possibly fill and form these tasty little suckers. But I am glad that they have figured it out (and perfectly too) because they melt in your mouth (and slide down easily because of that cheese and butter, I tell ya). The herbs on top were great. I made sure to share this generous serving, lest I go into cardiac arrest before dessert. (Gotta love the Piedmont region...just keep drinking the good red wine, folks! ;o)

I'm sad to say that I can only report on one entree - the duck ($21) - grilled breast and leg confit (crispy skin, melt in your mouth meat - much better than the breast meat) with a saba glaze. We are both duck freaks and both just had to order it. It was good, but I wish there was more glaze on the plate to add more sweet and tart notes to the really rich duck. A few tasty brussel sprouts (don't usually like 'em much, either) came on the side. As I said, it was good...but it wasn't the best thing we ate that night. Other tasty sounding entrees were the Beef Braised in Nebbiolo ($17) and the Pan Roasted Sweetbreads w/Marsala and Hedgehog Mushrooms ($20).

For dessert my date ordered the chocolate hazelnut semifreddo, which was good but not really my thing. I ordered an apple tart that came with cinnamon gelato, but I asked for a sub of the vanilla bean ice cream instead and was told that I made an even better choice than the chef did by ordering it that way (!). It was delicious - the same tender and buttery pastry that appeared in the leek tart surrounding not too sweet apples with a yummy scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was sooo good, but there was no way I could finish it (this was one rich and heavy meal, to be sure - but we both wanted to try several things so we went for it).

We had a lovely split of a 2001 Barbera ($21), an extra glass of wine ($6), and I had a cup of coffee with dessert. Our total bill was around $100-120 which was a great deal for the quality, quantity, service, atmosphere, etc. Very nice, indeed.

You can get away spending less here very easily. A couple of antipasti, a couple of pastas, and dessert would be more than enough food - as would an entree with only one thing before it and then dessert. Very reasonable that way, especially if you order your wines by the glass. I would definitely suggest that you try one of their pastas here - someone in that kitchen seriously knows what they are doing.

Another thing to keep in mind - if there are vegans in your party - go somewhere else...and consider doing so if there are vegetarians as well. This just isn't the place for that.

FYI - It is possible that the Italian white truffles will arrive next week - and if they do, Alba will offer a 3 course Truffle Menu in addition to their ala carte menu. Mmmmm.

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