Restaurants & Bars

[PDX] Roots: NW cuisine in the "couv"...

Nick | Feb 17, 200401:03 AM    

Ugh, I know, you hate the term "couv", too. Sounds nasty or something. But it's an appropriately lame term that actually matches the offerings up here most of the time. The big restaurants closest to me are Ruby Tuesday, McMenamins, Applebee's, and other chains. There are a couple Thai places, luckily, but mostly it's typical suburb chain food.

In this regard, Roots is a big improvement. The menu would fit in at Higgins, Wildwood, or Heathman, not surprising since chef/owner Root has worked for all three. (See http://www.wweek.com/story.php?story=...)

They started us with two nice breads, a crusty white bread and a dark sourdough. Both were tasty. I'm not sure if they bake their breads in-house or get them from somewhere. I should have asked.

My wife ordered an appetizer of Dungeness crab and avocado with baby greens and vermouth vinaigrette ($9.95). It also came with julienne of radishes. She enjoyed it very much. I thought it was decent, though the avocado was a bit overwhelming, imo. I would have liked more vinaigrette and crab relative to avocado for balance. But it was certainly decent.

For an entree, my wife got the pan seared salmon with preserved tomatoes, cauliflower, and housemade pancetta vinaigrette ($18.95). It also came with potatoes. The salmon was nice and crusty but still very moist inside. The tomatoes added a nice tartness. I don't know what was meant by "preserved". They reminded me of slightly oven-dried tomatoes. I wasn't sure if the potatoes were roasted or steamed or boiled. They didn't have the crustiness of a nicely roasted potatoes, but they weren't as soft as steamed or boiled potatoes. I would have liked them roasted with more flavor and texture.

I got the cassoulet with duck confit and housemade sausage, smoked bacon and toasted bread crumbs ($19.95). The duck confit and sausage were, I believe, prepared separately and added on top of the beans after they had cooked. I would have preferred at least the sausage being cooked in the beans. However, both the confit and the sausage were quite good. The skin on the thigh/leg piece was nice and crispy while the meat was succlent and flavorful. The sausage was very good, with lots of flavor, and very moist. The beans were okay. They highlighted a problem with Roots' preparations, though, I think: lack of seasoning. There's a pepper grinder on the table, but no salt. Yet the dishes were consistently under-salted, I think. And with something like beans you need adequate salt or an acid to bring out the flavor. My wife's potatoes had the same problem, as did her salmon, I thought. But it was still a decent dish.

We both got desserts. My wife got the twice-baked chocolate souffle with espresso whipped cream ($5.95). It was served in an espresso cup and was a cute presentation. I'm not sure what's meant by "twice-baked" for a souffle. However, it was very chocolatey. The espresso cream was a nice addition.

I got the chocolate pave with sour cherries and whipped cream ($5.95). I would wager it's the best dessert on the menu. Looking around, though, I think we got the best two options. The pave came in several rectangles topped with the sour cherries and sided with a bit of whipped cream. It wasn't a big dessert, but it was very rich and dense. The cherries were the perfect balance to the rich and dense chocolate.

Roots is a good restaurant. It's nice while not being formal inside. The menu features quality NW ingredients. It has a decent pastry menu with a dedicated pastry chef. And it's close to me. Less than 5 minutes away.

But the prices are up there. You wouldn't pay any more at Heathman, Higgins, Lucere, or Laslow's. And I'm not sure if it's quite as good, though it's close, to these. I'd like to see a little more adventurous menu items, especially among the appetizers and desserts. I'd also like more intensity of flavors.

Ultimately, though, it's the best restaurant in Vancouver right now that I know of, ahead of Applewood and Beaches. It'll certainly be worth saving gas and time to get Portland quality NW cuisine there.

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