Report on PDX weekend with the kids
Just a quik report on our weekend PDX trip with the kids which was excellent :
Always happy with the Embassy Suites on Pine, how can you argue with a place that is next door to Bijou Cafe, Stumptown and down-the-street from Voodoo? Breakfast well covered a few times over.
Friday drove in around lunchtime and met our friends at the Tabor/Schnitzelwich stand downtown. Adults had the pork cutlet schnitzelwiches, excellent sammy, perfectly fried with a great pepper spread that has just enough bite and heat to keep things interesting. Less unusual, but maybe even better, was the kids cheese sandwich, a pan-fried 1/2 inch hunk of breaded meunster, crisp soft and oozing with fresh lettuce and a homemade tarter sauce. Nothing left of that. For dinner we ended up at Silk i.e. PhoVan in the Pearl. While it seems to get more upscale-looking everytime we eat there, the food is very dependable and quite good, particularly the salads (banana leaf anyone?). The kids like the ribs and lemongrass chicken with noodles.
Saturday AM went to check out the farmer's market near PSU, compared to what we have in Eugene, bigger with more meat options but otherwise pretty similar i.e. very, very good - love this time of year with asparagus, shrooms and fiddleheads all yelling SPRING has arrived. The nicely fatty pate samples from Viande rocked, will definitely buy a hunk of it at Market of Choice down here in Eugene. Saturday night was parents night out, kids stayed with a sitter at the hotel and we went to Park Kitchen for the first time. Our friend who has worked in PDX restaurants for years had warned us that food was good, service not so much. I was suprised how small/intimate the space was, expecting something more open. We had a 7:30 reservation and on arrival the "hostess" told us that our table wasn't ready and to have a seat at the bar for a few minutes. Having heard good things about the drinks at PK, wasn't unhappy about that, and had a perfect Maker's Manhattan, stirred not shaken with plenty of vermouth. When we did get our table about 15 minutes later I began to realize that the 'hostess' was also one of the waiters, and that service was collective, with everyone on the waitstaff working all the tables as needed. Unfortunately it needed another 10 minutes for someone to actually come to the table with menus. On the upside they soon brought us a comp order of the chickpea fries - we had told them it was our anniversary - which were addictively good, particularly the squash ketsup that came with them. Between us we had another four small plates and one big one. The first course we shared duck ravioli with sauerkraut and a green garlic soup. The ravioli won this round, the garlic soup was a lovely bright green with an equally bright, almost citrusy flavor, but the combo of rich duck and kraut was even better. Second were two salads, salame with cardoons and sunchokes and a PK take on beet/goat cheese/orange salad. Both were excellent, but we gave the nod to the salame for orginality and flavor. We have a big cardoon growing in our garden and this salad made us want to go home and recreate it, soon. The final plate/main was a roast pork with turnip cake, rhubarb glaze and cauliflower. The turnip cake, which had pork confit in it as well, was almost the best thing of the night, and in general the whole dish worked really well. I put myself through college working various stations at a northern Italian place, and watching the foursome working the kitchen here I was impressed, very in the groove. In particular, I was happy to see the woman working saute do a lot of tasting, even towards the end of the night when things were slowing down and lots of places/people would go on autopilot. In the end, I would describe the service as loose rather than unattentive or bad, all the servers were very friendly, and knowledgeable, but I wouldn't go there with any big time constraints. Overall very happy with the place and the meal and will definitely return.
Sunday AM we had a 9AM reservation for breakfast at Simpatica. I'd like to try the set dinners here, which I'm going to guess is even better than brunch. In short, the food was good to very good (kids waffle was burnt outside, raw inside) with really tasty meat and sausages - no surprise there I guess. I had a very good chorizo hash, and the hash had some unusual things in it, including roasted cauliflower. But it took quite a long time to get our food 45 minutes plus, not a huge deal without kids, pretty problematic with. Here, again an open kitchen, it was pretty clear they weren't in the groove, and that the kitchen isn't really set up to take orders, every time the saute/egg guy wanted to check an order he had to turn away from the stove and strech over to look at the slips on the prep table two steps behind him. When we left around 10:15, the line was pretty much out around the corner and up the steps to the door. Like I said, I think dinner is the way to go here, thoughts? Also has anyone gone to Biwa, the Japanese place sharing the building, looks interesting.
Besides a burgerville run on the way out of town later that day, that's all folks.
Thanks for all advice from my earlier post.
Thanks for reporting back. Biwa is great. A bit inconsistent depending on who is manning the grill, but even when it's off it's quite good. Handmade udon and ramen with very tasty broths, plus great grilled items and housemade kimchi. I've got photos up on Extramsg and PortlandFood.org:
There have been a lot of mixed reports on Simpatica's brunch lately. I haven't been in a couple months, but someone on PortlandFood.org mentioned having to wait 45 minutes to get seated even though they had a reservation and friends who I trust have commented on dishes that were not executed properly. One of the best things about Simpatica was always how perfectly everything was executed. I know they've gotten some new servers that have thrown things off a bit. I'm not sure who is in the kitchen nowadays.
We went to Biwa a few weeks back. The grilled items were all pretty good. Had a nice sake. We were pretty excited about the ramen as they are supposed to be handmade. Broth was tasty but unforutnately noodles were clumped together. It was not cooked al dente as we would have preferred. And there wasn't very much of it either. Liked the industrial looking space. Hope they work out the kinks.
Hmm. I've had the ramen twice and never got any clumpy noodles at all. They make them every day fresh and you can watch them drop them in the pot for each order. I agree they could be more firm. I think the bowls are pretty big -- too much for one person, like the size of a large bowl of pho at many places.
Thanks for the report!
I've only had dinner at Simpatica (because I'm not a breakfast/brunch person), but I've enjoyed those that I've had there. The few times I've gone the service has seemed fine, but that's when they're serving an entire table the same thing at once, which as you point out it's quite different from cooking to order.
I did have a chance to got to Biwa a few weeks ago--there have been a few reports on this board, but it hasn't actually been open very long. I had some kimchee, some things that were grilled on skewers, and a noodle soup with an amazing broth. It was a very satisfying meal, and the chef (I can't remember his name, but I think he left Simpatica recently to start this place) came by before we finished and spent a while talking to us about our impressions.