Portland Birthday Dinner
For italian food, try Fratelli's in the Pearl District. It's cozy and intimate - perfect for a twosome. (http://www.fratellicucina.com/) Make sure you call ahead for a reservation on the weekend.
Another option to consider is Andina in the Pearl District. They serve Peruvian food (www.andinarestaurant.com/). The service is wonderful and their sangria is great! They have several small plates that are amazing, despite their simplicity - namely, the grilled asparagus and the quinoa coated chicken (can't remember their proper names on the menu!)
Went to 23 Hoyt/Balvo a week ago. Wasn't very impressed by the menu. It was way too noisy as we sat next to a table of 40-somethings on a double date. The atmosphere is not conducive to having a nice quiet dinner.
I second Fenouil, Olea, or Alba as places to take someone for a special dinner. Carlyle is pretty good too.
"California is fusion food"? I'd like to ask what exactly is Pacific Northwestern food. Salmon? Other than that, it doesn't really have much of an identity, IMHO.
NW cuisine has just as much identity as California cuisine. They're two peas in a pod. California cuisine and NW cuisine are primarily fine dining cuisines -- New American cuisines -- that use European techniques with locally grown ingredients. Or they swap in locally grown ingredients to classic dishes. As such, they're fusion in a sense beyond more organically developed American cuisines like Tex-Mex, Italian-American, or Cajun. I don't think California or Oregon or Washington have much of a local cuisine as typically understood.
I have to agree with MSG that Olea & Carlyle are putting out some great contemporary cuisine. Both offer a vision of the mediterranean....with northwest goggles. If I were to choose between the two I would go with Olea. I say this because I feel a certain affinity to the level of service & cuisine. (Laid back, yet highly informed). The Chef has yet to put a plate in front of me that does not dazzle my tastes.
Now,with that said, You can dine anywhere in Portland for $75 per person. It will just depend on your vino selections for the evening.
Isn't California cuisine fusion? ;-)
A lot of the food is Italian and Mediterranean inspired, much like California cuisine, around here, just with a moderately different set of ingredients. Here would be my first three suggestions, all of which I've had very good meals from and all of which vary enough to give you some choices. All three have menus online:
You can search for more info on both pretty easily.
Ten01 has changed their menu and I think it is a bit better. Their desserts are great!.
Serratto is on the corner by Tuscany Grill .. I think they are good, love their pasta with creamy tomato sauce and crab.
Look into 23 Hoyt, on NW 23rd & Hoyt. Was Balvo, menu is good, service is good, owned by bluehour bunch.
I like being treated to dinner at Fenouil on NW 11th for any reason but it is a great spot for celebrations.
I second the Wildwood recommendation. Another good place for Pacific Northwest Cuisine is Higgins, on Broadway downtown. Higgins does a great job with seafood if you like that.
I think the Italian place the previous poster is talking about is probably Serratto. It is pretty good (but not as good as Oliveto - I'm a bay area expat and that was one of my faves too). There is a lot of good food to be had here.
Another possibility is 1001 - at 1001 Couch street in the Pearl. It is new, so not sure how reliable they are but I ate there about a month ago and it was great.
Mmmm, the possibilities. Let go of your California food attachments, for you are in the fabulous Northwest now. The good news is, there's a lot of overlap. For the best in regional cuisine, go to Wildwood. Not sure how big your party is, but they have two separate dining rooms for parties. I'm sure you could do it there for under $110 per person. If you want Italian, there are several in NW Portland but some are too small for a party. One good option is NEXT to Cafe Mingo (excellent but tiny) and Tuscany Grill, actually it's on the corner of 21st and Johnson, it's great but I can't remember the name. enjoy!