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Jul 27, 2004 09:46 PM

clarklewis - "eh" - as in "big deal"

  • b

I had lunch last Friday at clarklewis. Naturally, my expectations were high considering the recent press and foodie accolades. Well, the food was good, very one dimentional, not a lot of spread concerning texture, color, distinguishing one dish from the rest . But, I was Very Disapointed at the lack of service and education of the staff.

Any inquiry (may I have a second espresso), (may I have some bread, I will be pleaaed to add it to the check), (may I anything) was looked at with dramatic slacker indignation. WHAT?

I left an above average tip without thinking that I should have left nothing because cafeteria service requires none.

Restaurant of the Year! How about better than average cuisine (that's for Portland, less for any larger city) with a nod to the Do It Yourself network.

I will take the gracious service and level cuisine at Tabla, or bar food at Higgens over that media hype anytime.

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  1. Remember that WW's Restaurant of the Year doesn't necessarily imply that it's the best restaurant in Portland. I think that clarklewis makes a good choice as RofY because it represents a trend in Portland and does it pretty well. I wasn't too impressed by the service there, either, though. Worse, though, was the comfort level and noise level.

    But if you go back and look at WW's RofYs from the past, few could make a claim as best in Portland. Others I can remember: Noble Rot and Mother's. I like both, but they're clearly not the best.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Nick

      Well stated Nick. The other restaurants noted were also one time dining for me. Maybe a glass of wine at Noble Rot with some Spanish almonds will entice me again. But these places are not noteworthy and neither is clarklewis.

      Nonetheless, if the RotY is a business to be emulated and promoted I would prefer establishments such as Pho Hung (Beaverton) or Taquaria Guatalahara in Wordburn. The food has ten times the punch with twice the hospitality (and that is not saying much about service). Unfortunately these restaurants will never have the dollars, connections, or hip draw that the fuzzy chin crowd does.

      Adequately prepared cuisine, laisez faire attitude, and street dust do not equate with a detour from a journey. No stars from me.

      1. re: Biggest Al

        Maybe it's best to think of it like Time's Man of the Year. You look back at those and it's not necessarily who should be emulated, but who was the most important figure. Hitler was Time's Man of the Year in '38, but I don't think anyone wants him emulated.

        Not that clarklewis is the Hitler of Portland dining. But it's helped me to think of the RofY as representative -- as a meaningful statement of where Portland's food scene is and where it's going and what restaurant has affected it. Clarklewis fits, I think. I sure would love it, though, if we had a good local source for rating restaurants. The best, though it's often out of date, is the Best Places: Portland. I'd like it if the Oregonian or Portland Tribune or Willamette Week gave star ratings.

        I should add that except for the desserts, I like the food at clarklewis pretty darn well. I don't mind the simple approach. I think it represents Portland's style pretty well. I don't mind that. I do wish we had some of the other options, some French Laundry type of place. But I think Portlanders tend to error on the side against pretense.

        1. re: Nick

          "Not that clarklewis is the Hitler of Portland dining."

          Really? Whew, thank goodness! ;o)

          Damn Nick, you owe my employer one keyboard to replace the coffee-sodden one in front of me now...

          I wished we had a "Best of Chowhound NW Board Quotes" because this one would be at the top of the list, for sure. Too funny...

          And to keep on topic, I still want to try clarklewis one day, even though reviews tend to be mixed.

          1. re: Jill-O

            Clarklewis and Higgins are next on my list. Or maybe I'll just keep going to the Bluehour over and over and over again!! LOL ***kim***

            1. re: kim c

              I've been thinking about going to clarklewis but since we don't get out very often (due to having a small child), I'm not so sure that I want to risk it. Now that you bring up Bluehour, though, I haven't been there in a few years but I sure loved it the last time I went! I might just follow your lead, Kim, and head to Bluehour.


              1. re: Kristi

                I consider clarklewis an easy place to try because: a) they are open for lunch, and b) you can order anything as a small plate.

                1. re: Nick

                  I recommend trying clarklewis for lunch. I was underwhelmed by dinner there, except by the noise -- the four of us couldn't hear one another, perhaps you have to be under 40 with better hearing. Paley's and Genoa are still at the top of my list, the food at Andina is more creative, and the service at Bluehour is impeccable -- IMHO. On the other hand, I love good little tacquerias as much as anything.

                  1. re: J/J

                    I'm only 31 and found the noise level rather unbearable. But then, I've never been much of a partyier, unless by partyier you mean eating til you puke instead of drinking til you puke. The greater the noise level, the greater my desire to get the f' out.

                    1. re: Nick

                      Beside the pasta, there is not one redeeming factor that would make me want to return. Surely the reviewer that gave it RofTY should have looked beyond Portland initiation to "the new ding trend". It is old school in NYC, SF, Seattle. Many of Portland's restaurants have so much more to offer beyond obnoxiuos waitstaff. If you want to play the role of a rude waiter, at least find witty and funny ones.

                2. re: Kristi

                  If you go, order the potato gnocchi! It was the hit of the meal!! ***kim***

                  1. re: kim c

                    Thanks, I will! That and the scallops (which I love) should make a great meal. OK, my husband and I are going to have to go SOON.


                    By the way, Kim, I love reading about all your food adventures and I am insanely jealous! Oh well, I can live vicariously through you while I'm chained to my computer at work.

      2. My wife and I dined at Clarklewis last Friday during a long weekend we spent in Portland. I'm so glad I found this post, because I thought I was alone in my so-so feelings about the place. We both had the 4-course "chef's tasting menu," which I thought wasn't bad. True, the "tasting menu" is basically just items taken from their regular a la carte menu shrunken to tapas-style portions. But we each got to try different pastas (the pork belly ravioli was excellent), salads, main courses and desserts. One dessert which was truly delectable was a fig pudding with sherry caramel glaze. The other dessert we had was a mini flowerless cake (listed on the menu high-mindedly as a "gateau au chocolat," which was mostly memorable for how badly the server mangled the French pronunciation of this dish).

        I was really surprised at how truly mediocre the service was. The service staff really was nothing more than a ragamuffin "youth brigade," not particularly well trained to make out the needs of any particular table. Our table was tended to by a svelte young lady who, while not unpleasant, didn't seem to particularly care about our experience. Example: we began our evening with a glass of champagne. Despite the fact that we finished our champagne not far into the first course of dinner, she didn't come back to half-heartedly ask if we wanted anything else to drink until we were well into the main course. This type of inattentivenes is simply inexcusable for a restaurant purporting to be a Restaurant of the Year. I noticed another table she served was also a bit fed up with her and actually had to walk over to her to ask for the check.

        I also completely agree with the poster above who noted the loudness of the dining room. The decibel level on the Friday night we were there was simply rock concert-level, ear drum-splittingly loud. Luckily, the price for two tasting menus plus two glasses of wine each amounted to about $75 per person. Not wallet-crushing and makes the above-mentioned service misdeeds a little easier to take.

        2 Replies
        1. re: OCKevin

          You should know that the whole place has undergone two ownership changes since then. It's interesting, though, to see this old thread full of people who've moved on to other sites.

          1. re: extramsg

            I was too lazy to start another subject on the board! I should've also mentioned that I was surprised at how little had changed since my visit: noise, service, ambience... There are other postings from 2006 on the site basically saying the same thing as this thread.