[PDX] Lovely Hula Hands
Had an exceptionally nice meal at Lovely Hula Hands last night. This place was on my list to try for a long time and I finally made it over into their new location [4057 N Mississippi. 503.445.9910]
While the menu changes regularly, here is what we had; all of which were excellent:
- Pureed cauliflower soup with curry spiced yogurt.
- Radicchio salad with pear butter vinaigrette, candied pecans and brie.
- Shrimp, blood orange and avocado salad with marash pepper.
- Braised chicken with roasted fennel, cippolini onion, and winter squash bread salad.
- Meyer lemon and bittersweet chocolate tart with crème fraiche
Their new location is warm an cozy (2 levels in a small house) and the new chef (about 5 weeks I am told) seems to be doing a great job with local seasonal ingredients.
It was refreshing to enjoy excellent food with fresh ingredients at very reasonable prices and warm yet professional service. The menu changes regularly. None of the entries exceeded $19; starters range $6 to $9, desserts $7, wines mostly in the mid twenties with glasses $6.50 to $7.00. (And the tap water bottle is placed on the table without the ritual of “what kind of fancy water can we $$$ hit you with?” that is getting to be a bit tiresome in some places around town.)
Went there last night. Didn't take notes and don't have the menu in front of me, so cannot be specific. Everything we had was tasty, but there seemed to be a little trouble with timing; i.e., dishes sat for varying lengths of time before coming to the table, and were thus different temps. Also, the service -- though pleasant and friendly -- was (I thought) insufficiently attentive. On a surreal note: there were small bread plates, but no bread ever arrived. I asked about this as the plates were cleared, and was told that they don't *serve* bread; those plates were for sharing dishes for those who might be so inclined. Uh, okay. (I like the place, and I liked the old place, so, e-msg, I may not be much guidance for you.)
btw, I went. Posted at PortlandFood.org:
My wife and I went to Lovely Hula Hands tonight. I like the warm glow from the window. It looks inviting. When you walk in they have a narrow area separated from the lower dining room by attractive curtains. A good design choice both for those entering and for those dining. There were only about 24 seats downstairs. Not sure how many they have upstairs, but there are more apparently. The room continues some of the same nostalgic, grandma's-parlour feel from the previous location without feeling old. I liked it.
Menu seems a bit typical for fine dining in Portland: simple combinations with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. Lots of Italian influences. Here's the menu. There are some differences from what's online currently:
chick pea and roasted tomato soup, $6
arugula salad with celery root and salami, $7
radicchio with pear butter vinaigrette, candied pecans and brie, $7
shaved fennel, grapefruit and lucques olive salad, $7
crostini with pumpkin butter, prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano, $8
housemade salt cod brandade with grilled bread, $8
spaghetti with spicy broccoli, pinenuts, currants and toasted bread crumbs, $14
crespelle; crepes filled with butternut squash, ricotta and greens, topped with cardoncello mushrooms and celery root, $15
coriander crusted swordfish with charmoula, fingerling potatoes and cauliflower, $19
buttermilk fried quail served with ragout of farro, cippolini onions, roasted fennel and bacon, $20
carlton farms pork shoulder cooked in milk with lemon and sage; served with rainbow carrots, fennel, and chervil, $18
grilled strawberry mountain ribeye with patatas bravas, aioli and garden lettuces, $24
1/3lb ground painted hills chuck with chili mayo, grilled onions and lettuce on a seeded brioche bun, $8
add cheddar cheese, $8.5
add nueske’s bacon and cheddar, $9.5
or with grilled onions, buttermilk bleu cheese and dijon mustard, $9.5
all come with your choice of hand cut fries or salad
goat cheese cheesecake with red wine poached pears, $7
fresh ginger cake with candied kumquats and whipped cream, $7
chocolate panna cotta with amarena cherries, $7
Certainly a respectable menu. Maybe not as interesting as a Le Pigeon or Park Kitchen, but still enticing.
My wife ordered the crostini and the quail. I ordered the fennel salad and the pork shoulder. We enjoyed everything.
The crostini had an excellent balance of flavors, something I thought was lacking at the previous location under the previous chef. You have the three layers of sweetness from the pumpkin butter, ham, and cheese, plus saltiness. Then there was just enough thick balsamic to add another layer of sweetness, plus a balance of tanginess. Very nice. My wife loved it. It had a side of mixed greens in a light dressing.
The shaved fennel sald was also very well balanced. Lots of fennel, crisp and aromatic. Lucques olives are my wife's favorite. They're so buttery with a mild brine. They made a good counterpoint to the astringent and juicy grapefruit segments. The dressing was rich with little vinegar, I think, allowing the grapefruit to be the balance. Modest amount of greens were mild and stayed out of the way, just adding a little volume to the dish.
The buttermilk fried quail was terrific. One of the best plates of fried chicken I've had in town, even if it wasn't chicken. Two whole quail with a thin, crisp batter, well-browned but not burnt. Very juicy inside, even in the breast. Really great. They were sitting on top of a mixture of farro (spelt), cippolini onions, fennel, and little bits of crisp bacon. I think there were sauteed greens as well. It was like a wet pilaf. It had a meaty, deep flavor, some saltiness, some smokiness from the bacon, and a lot of flavor from the onions. The fennel, being roasted, took on a savory component reminiscent of a sturdier vegetable like celery root. It went well with the quail having a very comforting nature and flavor, but was nothing you'd see on any soul food menu.
The pork shoulder was also good. It was cooked perfectly, fork tender, but not mushy. In comparison to the quail, its flavor was a little blah, but it was what it was. However, the side of carrots, fennel, and chervil was really good. While it also had fennel, the side had a totally different character from the other dish (and from the salad). It was sweeter from the glazed carrots, the fennel had more crunch and added a lot of aroma. They brightened the dish. I think there was some citrus, perhaps lemon as was used with the pork, that also brightened and .
We were both pretty full and have about 1000 bars of chocolate right now, so we skipped dessert.
I really enjoyed what we had. Everything was perfectly executed. Everything was perfectly balanced. While overall the dishes didn't blow me away (they were just shy of that next level of dishes), they were damn good and only the steak is over $20. So they're competing with places like Cafe Castagna and Lauro, not Hurley's, Olea, or Carlyle. I'd say my meal was a similar quality, maybe even better, than my meal at 23 Hoyt, but at a much better price point.