Portland - Weekend in Food & Drink (long)
Oolong - we arrived about 7:30 on Friday night for some simple American Chinese. We were seated right away and had a very nice waitress. The drinks were really well made - my Planters Punch had plenty of liquor and attention to the spices promised in the presentation. The beef and chicken satay was overcooked and under-portioned, but the peanut sauce was very good. I had a steak stir fry dish and my husband had a pork stir fry. My dish was very, very, dry and salty. His was dry and salty, but did have the spice he was hoping for. Our empty drinks were refilled and dishes were cleaned away promptly. The bar was packed. All in all, the staff was quite good, but the kitchen disappointed. I recommend eating elsewhere and going here for great Mai Tais.
The Wine Bar - we ordered a 2004 Rioja from a great bartender and wished we had found the place before eating at Oolong. We chatted the evening away with some new found friends and are looking forward to hunkering down here for the long haul on a winter weekend. Good people, cozy atmospehere.
Standard Bakery - got pastries and coffee Saturday and Sunday. Pain au chocolate is highly recommended (wish I had one now). The morning glory pastry was too sticky for me, but still well made. On Saturday they temporarily ran out of coffee and the cashier couldn't bring herself to say hello. Oh well, it's just a grab and go, anyway. Great for a morning pastry and coffee.
Duckfat - busy, busy, busy, but be patient and you'll snag a seat. Good homemade sodas and a nice if small selection of sandwiches. My bacon, cheese and tomato sandwich was good, but the tomato reduction seemed too sweet after a while and I could no longer taste the bacon. His duck confit sandwich met with a thumbs up. I thought the fries were a bit mushy, but I did like the selections of sauces. I recommend the duck gravy. He ordered the sweet & sour mustard, but thought it would have had more punch if it wasn't plain yellow mustard. A good choice for lunch.
Regency Hotel bar - a cozy and well-appointed bar that seemed populated with regulars stopping in for an early dinner. Well made drinks, nice staff, small menu. Seems like a nice place to be on a snowy afternoon.
Cinque Terre - After seeing mixed reviews, we decided to check it out. We met a very nice bartender for our before dinner drink and were then promptly seated. I had a reservation, but there seemed to be room for anyone who might walk in without one. We both got the tasting menu with wine flights with mixed results. Our bread and tomato starter was great, but my risotto with mushroom and pancetta, though tasty, was clearly missing even the smallest piece of pancetta (husband shared his). I found the scallops with red wine to be a nice idea, but the scallops au poivre is what we were served - way too much pepper. The veal shank was perfect, but I was (again) missing the promised sauce (husband shared his). The cheese course was fine, the dessert course forgettable. There was plenty of wine, but I think they'd be better served giving you 4 smaller portions (more variety) than three large ones (hard to finish in time for the next course). Our waitress was very pleasant and I didn't find the noise to be overwhelming. I would give this restaurant another try - but listen up, kitchen - quality control! Taste it, look at it - sheesh.
The Chocolate Bar - Very quiet, nice bartender, but no chocolate menu....hmmmmm.... You can look into the case, but don't hold your breath waiting for anyone to ask if you'd like dessert. Again, met some great people here to chat with.
There are so many places we'd like to try, just ran out of time! Hopefully we'll be up again before next spring!
I'd like to add a few observations of places I didn't eat that I may check out the next time up:
Mims - was the busiest place we saw and heard compliments from diners on the good brunch.
Street & Co - also packed and I've heard raves from this board and others
Market Street Deli - observed many people popping in and out for sandwiches and snacks
J's Oysters - looked grungy and the perfect spot to slurp oysters seaside on a nice day
Old Port Grille - advertised oysters and champagne, so what can be bad about that?
Fore Street - the concierge said they hold tables back, so if you're in the mood for an early dinner with no reservation a table can be had here before 6 o'clock.
oh..also, I really happen to like Cinque Terre but I think all the negative points made so far are valid. I just go there for a few glasses of wine and usually one or two half orders of pasta and maybe one more appetizer. I do not think that the tasting menu is worth it. Also, Cinque Terre is notrious for long delays in between courses, I mean really long, like an hour. Can't say its from personal experience since mine have been fine, but I heard that from at least a dozen people. My suggestion, stay at the bar.
I like to refer to Oolong at "PU Changs" or "Oowrong"
Bar area is always fun, but the food is just bad. I ordered their creme brulee (I think it was ginger flavored) and it came out "un-bruleed" and warm, like it had been sitting out. I'm also pretty confident they use frozen lobster meat in the springrolls since when I had them the texture was just not right, something that happens when it thaws out.
Oolong has actually improved over the past year and made their menu much more "accessible" - for the first six months that they were open it was possible to run through the entire menu and not find a single familiar entre that piqued my interest. The food there is a full cut above standard-issue Asian/American Chinese, but still, it tends to come up short in comparison to other restaurants in the neighborhood. It's not horrid by any stretch, and if you want to gnosh appetizers (the crab rangoon is fantastic) and people watch, its a great place...
That being said, the running joke in my building has always been that the translation of Oolong is "Go for the drinks, not the food".