Been out and about quite a bit lately. Wanted to share a few comments:
1. Roux--All new and shiny on N. Killingsworth. Light walls, dark floor, recessed lights, wood tables, cushy booths. A large space. Service as fresh and nice as the space itself. No SeWAs (Servers With Attitude) here. They even have matching uniforms. OK, OK, the food: understanding that Creole is supposed to be more restrained than Cajun, the dishes I tried were still a bit bland. That would be the Crawfish Pie ($8), crawdaddy tails in a mild sauce dished into a small tart shell; and the broiled soft-shell crab ($9), as named with an undistinguished "napa cabbage slaw" and "horseradish remoulade" which seemed to be missing its horseradish. Highlight was the "croque monsieur" salad ($8), the best spinach salad I have had in quite a while, with abundant chunks of shredded ham hock, grated gruyere and just the right quantity of creole mustard vinaigrette to dress the greens. Dessert was a frozen chocolate souffle ($7.5), not a souffle at all, but a frozen cylinder of chocolate mousse, with warm, lightly boozed caramel ("banana foster's [sic]") sauce and topped with paper-thin slices of "bruleed bananas." Not rating this place. Too soon. A little bolder hand in the kitchen may be the key.
2. Savoy Grill--Jeff Reiter, who is a friend (and former sous chef at Park Kitchen), is sous chef here under Alton Garcia. SE Clinton location, just west of the weird intersection at 26th. American comfort food is the genre. Not my favorite, but with a cheeseburger & fries, a guarantee of something la nina will eat. Long narrow room. Tables packed too close together along the banquette running the length of one wall. Burger and fries were a standard version; chunk of meatloaf same, accompanied by two sides, in my case beans and corn on the cob in lots of yummy butter "sauce" (butter + butter???); battered, deep-fried chedder cheese curds were kick ass, all greasy and oozy and salty. Bonus course of steamer clams were fresh and tender, in a buttery, but still light broth. Dessert was the devil's food cake, which was dark and not-too-sweet, though the frosting wasn't quite right, seemingly with a citrus hit. Server, who might have shaved a couple days before we visited, was in the SeWA category, but worked hard to smile and be helpful. The place is a good value, with total at $33 (exclusive of clams) before tip.
3. Pambiche: I know it's been around (on NE Glisan at about 28th) for 4 years now, but I hadn't made it before last week. It's that tiny space, no reservations thing. Late dinner was the draw the first time. Lengthy menu of Cuban temptations. I went with the Lengua en Salsa ($12), chunks of yummy pork tongue in a piquant red, but not real spicy, "creole" sauce as my main, preceded by garlicky taro frituras. I sipped a cold glass of fresh squeezed pineapple juice ($2.75) with my meal. Desserts are in a refrigerated case for all to see. They are all beautiful and delicious-looking. I had the Aleman (accent over the "e"; $6.50), their take on a German chocolate cake. I took it and it was fantastic. I enjoyed the dinner so much on Wednesday night, I dragged my office mates there for lunch on Friday. Everything great again. My entree was the empanada mariscos ($7), a turnover filled with mixed seafood in a light "bullabesa" sauce. Funny thing is that they messed up, so I also was given an emapanada puerro ($6.50), leek in a custard cream which was like a rich chicken pot pie turnover without the chicken or any other vegetables beside leeks. The frituras maiz ($4.50) and croquetas pollo ($5.50) were highlights; deep-fried golden, but virtually greaseless. The former, a thick sweet corn dough; the latter, a potato casing filled with bits of chicken and chorizo. Service was uniformly friendly and knowledgeable. The pastry chef I talked to, like so many pastry chefs, was a beautiful, slender young woman understandably proud of her work, especially the hand-decorated white chocolate domino tiles that accompany the Kahlua and cafe cubano-soaked white chocolate mocha cake ($6.50). Only quibbles here are the tight quarters and the tostones. The latter are batttered, fried plaintain slices which accompany almost everything and which are bland and limp. Maybe a good jolt of sodium right out of the fryer would help. That aside, next to Gotham Building Tavern and Park Kitchen, this is the best place I have tried in the last year or so.
Other places I have visited in the last two weeks that I enjoyed a lot: Fire On The Mountain Buffalo Wings (hot grease, do you take chicken wing to be your lawfully wedded spouse. . .); Cafe Castagna (serious food in a casual setting; seriously lovely server); Tuesday Low BBQ @ Ken's Place (brisket, pulled pork and ribs all worth a stop); Gourmet Shack @ Portland Farmers Market (speaking of great bbq; finely shredded Carolina pulled pork; sweet and hot, in sandwiches or omelettes); La Bonita (give me some tongue, baby; lengua en tacos y burritos es fabuloso--and cheap)
One place that sucked: City Thai in Hillsdale (where Garbanzo's used to be). Mediocre or worse dishes, with the deft accompaniment of incompetent service. Ick.
What I'm looking forward to: Nostrana. I have seen a draft menu. Most important, Cathy Whims rocks!
(Cross-posted to PortlandFood.org)