The wife and I hit Hudson's Bar & Grill in Vancouver tonight. It's the restaurant for The Heathman Lodge (http://www.heathmanlodge.com/hudsons/...) headed by Mark Hosack, Portland Iron Chef 2003 and former chef at Pazzo and Red Star.
They're part of the Dine Around Portland (formerly 25 for $25) promotion this month. Here's the menu:
* Millenium farmers greens iwth balsamic-herb dressing
* Butter lettuce salad with ranch dressing, point reyes blue cheese and eggs
* Hearts of romaine with creamy lemon garlic vinaigrette and aged jack cheese
* Bowl of baby lettuce salad with candied walnuts, pears, and bleu cheese
* Dungeness crab stuffed halibut with spaghetti squash and creamy dijon sauce
* Goat cheese and herb stuffed Draper Valley chicken breast with wild rice pancakes and bourbon sauce
* Tri-tip filet on roasted celery root enchiladas with habanero-pineapple glaze
* Chocolate molten cake with orange creamsicle ice cream
* Hudson's bread pudding with caramel sauce
We actually decided to order off the menu. The starters on the normal menu were a little weak and the starters on the $25 menu were only salads. The starters have no items, except maybe the clams for two, that sound like small plate entrees. They're closer to sides, eg, sizzling forest mushrooms, whole roasted garlic, and over roasted fingerling potatoes. So we ordered three entrees instead. We had a difficult time deciding which three, too, because there were several that we were interested in.
We ordered the chicken ($14.95), the duck ($14.95), and a special, the short ribs ($16.95). We also ordered a dessert.
The chicken was the same as the entree on the $25 menu. It was cooked nicely --juicy and tender with a crisp and well-seasoned skin. The cheese stuffing added a helpful salty/tangy aspect. The rice pancakes were both interesting and yummy. They were literally pancakes with wild rice mixed in adding textural interest. It made an interesting starch on a somewhat typical dish. There always seems to be a chicken dish on every restaurant's menu. But it's nice to see Hudson's try to do something a little more interesting with such a typical main. The bourbon sauce was decent, although I thought all the jus/sauces/reductions could have used a little more intensity. My wife disagreed, though. It may have been that the bread I was sopping up these sauces with was sourdough. But still, I think a little more intesity would have been helpful.
The duck, we agreed, was our favorite dish. The breast came smoked medium with a crispy, intensely flavored skin atop creamy grits and sweet potato slices. It came with a brandied cherry wine sauce. The slices of breast were tender and juicy. The cherries added a wonderful tartness to balance both the richness and smokiness. The sauce went quite well with the creamy/cheesy grits, too. There was also a mixture of shoestring vegetables, mostly zucchini and carrots, that was very well executed, not mushy and well-balanced.
The short ribs, as I said, were a special. It was between this and a tri-tip dish on the normal menu, a filet that came with roasted celery enchiladas (another interesting sounding starch). It was a tough choice. But we were quite happy with the short ribs. They were rich, tender, and meaty, braised in a wine sauce, I believe. They came with a mixture of mushrooms, gnocchi, and fennel (which I think was actually leeks). The gnocchi were light and tender. The sauce was complex and the most intense of the three. Very good. The (alleged) fennel, was a little off, maybe too stringy. It was a huge portion of beef, btw. I would guess about 12 ozs or more. And since it was our last course and my wife doesn't like beef much, I valiantly stuffed each last bit into my bloated stomach to keep from having to take any home in a box.
The dessert I wanted was sold out, the molten chocolate cake. Instead we got a cranberry walnut tart with vanila bean ice cream, a tuile cookie, and a chocolate cognac sauce. ($6.50) The tart came as an individual tartlet with the ice cream scoop sitting on the base of the crescent moon tuile, the chocolate sauce off to the side in a decorative design. The pastry shell was a little dry, maybe, but the inside mixture of cranberries and walnuts was quite good and not overly sweet. The ice cream made a nice variance in texture, temperature, and flavor. The chocolate sauce was too cognacy, imo.
Hudson's is very good and an excellent value. I'd say it's comparable in quality to any hotel restaurant in Portland. I'm not sure which is better, it or Roots. They're different enough in style to make it a difficult choice. I would say that Hudson's is a better value, though.