Wow. That's what I have been missing. More than good bagels, more than Ben's Best Pastrami or even a good kasha knish from Mrs. Stahl's in Brighton Beach...more than any of these I have been missing service in a fine restaurant the likes of which I received last night at Hurley's (1987 NW Kearney - corner of 20th). I hadn't even realized how much I missed it until last night.
From a cordial and accomodating Maitre'D to our fine server, Gregory, to the gentleman who bussed our table and filled our water glasses - we wanted for nothing and felt welcome and cared for. Silver was cleared and replaced quickly, quietly and professionally - we always had what we needed when we needed it. Wine was poured at the pace we were drinking it, not at the rate the server wished to pour. It was formal in a good way - not stuffy in the least, but a major step up from the casual and often mediocre service one gets around town. Now, don't get me wrong, I've had good service at many higher end places...this was just clearly a major cut above. It is obvious that this place is about a dining experience - service AND cuisine - and that Tom Hurley has taken great pains to make sure that everything is as it should be.
And hey, yeah, the food was good too... ;o) hee.
The menu (see link below - it is very close to the current menu, BTW) is a collection of smaller plates meant to be ordered as courses as you go through the menu. You can order as many as you like, and it does add up impressively. (Folks, you are looking at about $100/person here, make no mistake about that...but really, it's worth it. More on cost later...)
I started with the simple cucumber and gathered greens salad and my dining companion had a pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad with pomegranate (this year's wonder ingredient?) and chives. Mine was simple and dressed deliciously and went well with the Tori Mor Deux Verres we ordered. Hers was simply gorgeous. A hollowed out seckle pear filled with the cheese, plated on a bed of frisee, beautifully dressed, pomegranate seeds scattered about, long chives flowing out of the top of the pear - stunning food and it was delicious.
Then my companion had the tarte flambe - a bacon, onion, fromage blanc tart in puff pastry. I had the yellow fin tuna tartare. The tarte did not do it for me - too bacony (yeah, never thought I'd say that about something...) and smoky for me to be pleasing but she liked it. My tuna tartare was another stunning plate that was crazy delicious. Thin slices of cucumber as a base and a formed tower of the tuna, avocado, and a fabulous celeriac creme fraiche, topped with roe - with the best freakin' potato chips I have ever had (long thin slices for the chips, helpful in getting the tuna creation onto the fork and into the mouth). My companion loved this as much as I and she lamented that we should have ordered another one! The flavors and textures were amazing and all worked together so well.
Then my companion and I shared a savory flan. We had the wild mushroom flan with matsutakes and black trumpet mushrooms, shards of celery, in a pool of truffle blanquette. Wow. It's a small 2 oz. serving but it was enough for the 2 of us 'cuz it's sooo rich. Again, all the components were simply marvelous together - the creamy richness of the flan with the crunchy shards of celery and the earthiness of the 'shrooms and truffles. Amazing stuff - if you go, you must get the savory flan.
For our main beast course, I had the kobe ribeye bordelaise and my companion had the cedar roasted lamb loin. Both were great. The ribeye was delicious and not oversauced and came with an amazing pomme risole - an unbelievably crispy square of shredded potato, topped with a few ambrosial tid bits of foie gras. Those of you following along here and playing the home game know I am no fan of lamb...but this was really great stuff - and another gorgeous plate. The apple sides and garnishes were delicious with it, too.
For dessert we decided to share the liquid center chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and mango-caramel sauce. It takes an extra 14 minutes, but it is worth the wait. It was perfect. The best molten center chocolate cake I have ever had, great ice cream, and the mango in the sauce gave it a bit of a bite and cut through the richness of the chocolate and the ice cream. Fabulous. My companion, who has lived in Portland for over 25 years and knows good food and has eaten around town quite a bit declared it the best dessert she has ever had in Portland. (Damn, please tell me I don't have to pick just one!)
So, to total this up: glass of Argyle sparkler, bottle of Tori Mor pinot, two salad courses, the tarte, the tuna, the flan, lamb, kobe ribeye, dessert...$170.
Keep in mind that we didn't order the $3 bread course; we didn't drink anything other than the wine - not even coffee; we didn't order special water (still or sparkling, domestic or imported - gotta love the choices!) - gasp! we drank Portland cuvee 2004 ;o); we also shared a dessert. So, if you don't drink wine or alcohol, it might be a bit less, but not that much less if you have other drinks, order bread, each have dessert, order more courses, etc. Maybe you could get out of here for $75/person, but I don't think you could for under or near $50/p.
But folks, it IS worth it. What a fabulous meal, what amazing service, what a nice and quiet and cozy spot. (And comfortable seating!!! They want you to be comfortable!! Not fancy chairs, simple wooden chairs that are actually not torture devices...hallelujah!)
GO! Save your pennies and the next time you have something to celebrate (hey, it's Wednesday! ;o) go there. I can't wait to go again! :o)