Follow up to "What Portland does better than SF"
The original thread:
Sorry it's taken me so long to report back, I came back to jury duty and a deadline at work. Overall, I loved PDX this time around and found it to be so much cleaner and nicer than I recalled from my last road trip through in college (6 or 7 years ago).
Our favorites were Le Pigeon (dinner) and Simpatica for brunch. We were staying at the Jupiter and were stoked on how close both of these were to us. Our entire meal at Le Pigeon was enjoyable, the great bread and butter, interaction with the staff, salad, entrees, and especially the apricot corn bread with bacon dessert. It was perfect for me b/c I love salty, fatty, rich foods and am not so into the sweet. The manfriend deemed it a bit much for him, but I was very content. Simpatica didn't have that long of a wait for 2 on Sunday and there were plenty of newspapers around to keep us occupied in the mean time. I always have a fried chicken craving and saw some nice looking plates go by. However, since it was nearing the end of summer and I was in Portland, I felt like I should get something that focused more on seasonal produce. I went with the savory crepes with corn, bacon, and creme fraiche. Delicious, my only complaint is I could have eaten 2x as many. Also ate some of the biscuits and gravy, a very hearty and large serving, could have used a little more gravy in my opinion but everything was well presented, fresh, and made with quality ingredients. Service was friendly and unobtrusive; the meal was a nice way to end our mini vacation.
Unfortunately, we ate dinner at Le Pigeon before our dinner at Park Kitchen. PK was so charming when we walked up, I really liked the open air feel at the front of the bar, that being said our meal was very disappointing. We were seated in the back near the open kitchen and wondered why it was taking forever to get our entrees b/c we could see the kitchen staff joking around, having cocktails, chatting, and staring off into space. I'm a leisurely eater and don't mind some time between courses, but it was clear that somebody had dropped the ball with our entrees. When they did finally arrive, everything on my plate and the plate itself was cold, not warm, but cold. I had gone with the pork 2 ways with some watermelon accents, the pork belly that I was told was one of the 2 preps was almost completely indiscernible. When I showed it to my dining companion he said, "That's it? You're kidding me right?" Unfortunately not. I expected the watermelon salsa or whatever it was to be cold but not the roasted loin or accompanying potatoes underneath. I was pretty bitter at this point, and his plate of braised SuDan Farms lamb was warmer, but not hot by any stretch and also had some cold bites. It was getting near closing time at that point and nobody checked back for a while so we ended up eating what we had. We got a cheese plate to finish to see if we could try to redeem the meal even though we both sort of felt like we should just cut our losses. The cheese plate was fine and did end up perking me up a bit. I will say that I enjoyed the variety and range of prices of the wine list but I would not return nor recommend Park Kitchen to anyone.
The table next to ours asked for a brunch rec; their waiter and the two of us couldn't say enough good things about Le Pigeon. I guess our waiter heard about it b/c when he brought the cheese plate out he said the chef tried to make it extra special so it could measure up to Le Pigeon. He said it in a joking tone, but I was a little taken aback. We felt like two kids in trouble at that point, but tried to make the most of it.
Our other giant disappointment was that we tried to go to Apizza Scholls twice and they were closed both times! Arg, it was our own fault for assuming they were open for lunch. It sounded like a great place though. We ended up trying Hawthorne Fish House instead. It was fine but not exactly what we were looking for. I like a thicker crunchier batter on my fish but I was interested in trying the whole gluten free experience.
We also enjoyed the farmer's market on Saturday, some wine tasting, and tasty mezza and wonderful warm pita at Nicholas Restaurant. Also stopped by a tiny wine bar around the corner from the Brazen Bean. I can't remember the name of it but I liked it and my glasses of Cava. The weather was amazing and sunny for our weekend and actually warmer than our Indian Summer in SF at the time so it was a perfect getaway. Thanks for the advice and here's a link to my full reviews on yelp.
Sorry about your experience at Park Kitchen. It's usually pretty good. Although I had lunch there a few days ago, near closing time and the service was horrible. I think they only had one waitress/bartender on duty and the restaurant was fairly full. The very puzzling thing was that a woman chef/cook showed up near the end of our meal and basically just chatted and snacked. My companions joked, "is she sampling our food?" and "why is she eating up our appetizers?" It may have been closer to the truth than we wanted.
We were wondering who she is?
Yeah, we saw her too. There was a round of cocktails brought back for the kitchen staff and a lot of snacking going on while stock was rotated and counters cleaned up. Strange b/c our food and other tags were fluttering in the breeze but nobody seemed to care about them. She eventually threw our plates together. You'd think they would be more concerned about appearing busy with an open kitchen.
We noted that everyone in the kitchen at PK seemed so relaxed, it was a total contrast to Le Pigeon where every move was calculated and a bit frenzied, more entertaining to watch, that's for sure.
We've eaten at the counter looking into the kitchen at both Fife and Tabla at closing time, and while they're not quite frenzied, they are working HARD right up to the time they start cleaning up. There is certainly some socializing in the kitchen (and with people at the counter) but you get the idea that their first priority is preparing your food.
Thanks for taking time to do a followup post, by the way! It sounds like we've got to get to Le Pigeon soon. Unfortunately Willamette Week and the Oregonian both did positive reviews recently, so I'm guessing that it will be pretty busy for a while.
I have been to Park Kitchen 3 or 4 times. Every time but once (the first time) the service has been horrible and the food not all that good. Yet, I know many folks that love the place and enjoy their meals there. It's like that place is really two different places and you never know which one you're gonna get then you go there.
FoodGroupie, wow, that's seriously odd...she was eating the food from your table??!
Glad Le Pigeon and Simpatica worked for you. Sorry about PK. I had lunch there not too long ago and the service was quite slow despite almost no one there at the time. Food has been better at dinner as well, but I was most disappointed with the desserts, which just aren't even close to their former glory days. And the prices keep going up and up. I still think there is plenty of good food to be had there, but I have my concerns...
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