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[PDX] Portland, Pearl District - 1st time, need recommendation for one dinner

1st time in Portland, $ no object, party of 4 adults, Friday night, staying at 5th Ave Suites, have a car, don't like loud restaurants, hate chains. We need yummy food and good service as my boyfriend and I have different priorities. Looking for something that would represent the tastes of Portland. I have read the boards, and it looks like Navarre, Le Pidgeon, Simpatica, Clarklewis, Wildwood, Andina, Park Kitchen, Alba Osteria, and Fenouil may fit our tastes. Please help, I can only pick one!!

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  1. Le Pigeon, Clarklewis, and Simpatica can be pretty noisy. Wildwood can be decently noisy if you're not in a booth. Park Kitchen has you jammed in pretty tight with other customers, so while I don't recall it being especially noisy, it's not exactly good for a private conversation. I would not describe Alba or Fenouil as noisy. However, I don't think either one of them say "Portland" especially well. One's pretty solidly Italian while the other is pretty solidly French. They're both quite good, but I don't know if you're getting food that you couldn't get elsewhere. Same with Andina, except it might be tougher to find Peruvian food depending on where you are.

    You might want to look at Hurley's or Paley's Place, especially the latter, which will have more ingredients from the NW. However, if it were me, I would probably go with Wildwood which is a happy medium and request a booth.

    1. Of the places you mentioned, I'd go with Alba or Navarre. Alba is northern Italian, so you understand.

      Navarre is usually pretty quiet early in the eve.

      Both are great places to eat!

      1 Reply
      1. re: MichaelG

        While I love Navarre and highly recommend it, I do think the service is a little idiosyncratic. They know the food and the wine very well, but sometimes they aren't real highly attentive. Maybe this is OK with you (it is with me) but I'd want you to know what to expect.

        Genoa is very quiet and has great service, and if money is really no object for you it could be just the place!

      2. I vote for Paley's Place (food and service are something special), and if you'd like to walk there, there's a very nice place to stay just 1 short block away at the Northrup Station:
        http://www.northrupstation.com/

        Paley's Place reviewed:
        http://tinyurl.com/yzm83k

        1. I would concur with the recommendation for Paley's Place. I don't think there's any place that says "Portland" better. It can be a little cramped, but in a good dinner party kind of way if that makes any sense. Service is excellent and the "Northwest" food is very impressive. I also agree with the assessment that Alba and Fenouil are good, but not so different from other restaurants in other cities (and primarily Italian and French as pointed out). One other place to check out would be Alberta Street Oyster Bar & Grill. Don't let the name fool you. I haven't been there yet, but based on a recent article in Portland Monthly "Best Restaurants 2006: 15 Restaurants Changing the Way We Eat", it looks great. The sample dish in the picture was "heirloom pumpkin soup with chanterelles, chestnuts, foie gras and vanilla-scented apples". Le Pigeon is a place with a great feel and great food but the service is mixed: sometimes good, sometimes bad, and it will be near-impossible to get in with room for only about 25 and it being featured in the Portland Monthly article mentioned above along with the added distinction of the chef being voted "Chef of the Year".

          5 Replies
          1. re: daithimac

            Alberta Street is a good restaurant with interesting menu items, but it can get quite noisy as well.

            1. re: daithimac

              You're probably correct that a party of four wouldn't be able to get into Le Pigeon on a Friday night. But other diners shouldn't be discouraged from going because of the recent good press. I've heard that the wait for a table can be upwards of an hour on the weekends, but last Thursday we were able to walk right in after 9 PM and get a seat at the bar with a party of two. It was really good, too (and our service was excellent).

              1. re: Nettie

                I had good luck on a Thursday night too (party of 2 at the bar - hey, are you me??) and the service was excellent. More recently (but before the Portland Monthly press) I went on another weeknight and we waited for about 75 minutes for a table for two (the bar would have been fine too, the table just came up first) and the service was really bad (no cutlery when the main course arrived, wine order forgotten...taht kind of thing). But man I love that place - it's the feel and the attitude as much as the food for me.

                1. re: Nettie

                  I got into Pigeon with no wait and a party of three last Friday night (at a four-top, so we could have just as easilyl been four). I don't recall exactly what time it was, but it was distinctly early, but no earlier than 6, and perhaps pushing 7. RIGHT after we were seated, the floodgates opened, so we lucked out. And as the eve of Xmas weekend, it might have been unrepresentative. But if you can stand to dine early, go. (BTW, it would be my recommendation, both for the food and for the sheer Portlandness of it.)

                  1. re: purefog

                    We went to Le Pigoen at about 5:30 last Sat. night and had a choice of a two-top or sitting at the bar, and there was a 4-top available at that time. In about 5 minutes, that 4-top and every seat at the bar filled up and two other parties came in and put their names on the waiting list (they were referred to Doug Fir as a place to have a drink and wait for their cell phopne to ring). By about 5:45 the place was full with a waiting list...but if you get there before 5:30, you shouldn't have a problem.

                    Food was very good, btw. Great parnip and foie gras soup; beef cheeks bourguignon; flat iron steak; and honey/apricot cornbread with maple ice cream and bacon. I'd definitely recommend it.

              2. If you want a unique Portland experience, warm service, and good honest food that is very reasonably priced, Simpatica is my first choice in your list. It's not too noisy; no loud music; just lots of happy people chatting (Community seating.)
                Menu changes daily (you get the menu via their email list).

                Here is the menu for Friday 11-17-06. (Better call to see if they are not sold out already. (503)235-1600.

                Friday

                Slow-Poached Tuna Salad with Olives, Eggs & Roasted Celery Root

                Soupe au Choux - Classic Cabbage & Pork Soup

                Roast New York Strip with Sweet & Sour Cipollini Onions & Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

                Hubbard Squash Tart with Spiced Whipped Cream

                Price per person is $35 plus Beverages & Gratuity
                Dinner begins at 7:30pm