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Need a phenomenal dining experience in Portland for 20 clients.

larspeart Jun 14, 2008 02:30 PM

Greetings, foodies! I am doing an annual 'Big Deal' dinner for about 20 clients in the Portland area in about a month, and I am unfamiliar with the better dining establishments in town there. Where can I take them for an utterly surreal experience, and that can handle a group of this size? If it has a 'Pacific Northwest' flair, great. If not, just as good. I am just lookin to provide them with my usual annual amazing taste journey.

So, what are some good ones? : -)


  1. d
    duck833 Jun 14, 2008 03:09 PM

    You did not give a budget so I figure anything goes.

    Newest and over the top foodie place in Portland is Lucier, right on the water.

    I am not sure Sel Gris could handle a party of 20 but you might check. That would be my #2 pick, they opened last October.

    Wildwood has a private room in the back that I have been in and I believe it can handle 20 folks with no problem, great food also.

    1. k
      Kim D Jun 14, 2008 03:16 PM

      I immediately think of Carlyle. The chef's table in the kitchen holds 20 guests, and it's a truely memorable experience. My firm has held two dinners there, and both were extremely successful. I can't reccommend it enough. Kim


      1 Reply
      1. re: Kim D
        JillO Jun 15, 2008 09:05 AM

        Exactly what I was going to suggest. I have had 2 dinners at the table in the kitchen and they have been delicious and memorable experiences.

        They also have a private garden with a beautiful koi pond. Not sure how many they can handle back there, though.

      2. a
        adrpdx Jun 15, 2008 09:33 PM

        I think Lucier is the perfect fit for what you describe. I had 7 for business there last week and it was perfect. They have a private dining area that will take your crowd, but I would call sooner rather than later. The food is incredible, seasonal and regional (with a little french angle), the setting is amazing Portland and they have the space and staff to handle a group your size without stretching.

        1. l
          larspeart Jun 16, 2008 08:02 AM

          These are great suggestions. Higgin's was one that the concierge had recommended also.

          Any others I may be missing? I'd hate to miss a real gem!


          1. s
            sambamaster Jun 16, 2008 12:03 PM

            Gawd, all these are so predictable. Why not jump out of the envelope, and really give it a bit of a shove. Blow their minds with some surprises...
            Pok Pok, I think, has a dining area on the second floor of their place which can be reserved, bought, for the evening...I'll wager with a group of 20, you get get them to engineer an amazing meal that would be at least somewhat off-menu that would truly be different...buckets of Singha or Beer Lao to lube the ambience. A far chummier atmosphere, not stiff, more fun!
            Or Alba Osteria...they could set aside a dinning room and do an amazing off-menu meal that would serve your clients the only truly authentic Italian in Portland (and I'll go out in the alley to defend that statement---they actually replicate the flavors and theories I've experience in Italy). It is an overlooked gem. From wonderful apps, the amazingly artful pastas, and yummy, interesting main courses...and the only all Piedmont-based wine list in town.... Another unique experience.

            Or engineer a distinctive Chinese banquet at Mandarin House where the chef was apparently trained in Sichuan. You could sit with the owner and devise a totally amazing menu featuring dishes few if any of your clients have ever had before, if you order from the Chinese-only menu, you can experience "Chinese food for Chinese taste", not the usual American-skewed stuff found in most places. I guarantee this would be a hit, but would really take some planning with the owner and chef.

            This board seems to be stuck on the same 10-20 places and mostly overlooks the slightly left of center places where there actually might be a better, or certainly equal experience (though I learned of Mandarin House here, but no one has really posted much detail about their menu). I'm sort of surprised in this much-lauded food city, there seems to be so little sense of adventure, at least as reflected herein. I'll soon be reporting on some places I'm exploring and which don't appear here.

            edit: Or how about the Brazil Grill for a meat-heavy thing. Now I have not been there, but have been to many other "rodizios" which is what this style of eating is called...the waiters parade around with sword-like skewers of maybe 20 types of freshly grilled meats and serve each patron what they want...usually ranges from bacon wrapped chicken hearts and fresh sausages to great cuts of beef and pork, sometimes lamb. There is always, these days, an abundant salad bar, often with sushi added to please this inexplicable modern whim. (well, as it turns out, Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, so maybe, just maybe). Anyway, it can be a theatrical experience, one most have not had.

            You asked for mind blowing.

            5 Replies
            1. re: sambamaster
              Kim D Jun 16, 2008 01:13 PM


              Kudos on breaking from the pack!

              Pok Pok is an interesting suggestion, but when serving a set menu to 20 clients, Thai street food (regardless of how good it is) is, imo, a risky choice.

              I like the food at Alba, but I've always been non-plussed by the atmosphere.

              Mandarin House sounds really interesting. I haven't been there. Anytime I hear of decent Chinese in PDX I jump on it. A "Chinese Banquet" could be a fun way to go.

              I have been to Brazil Grill, and quite frankly,I don't feel it is on par with Rodizios elsewhere. Service is good, and the skewer selections are traditional, however, I thought the accompanying salad bar was really pedestrian; mayonnaise-heavy, canned vegetables, etc.

              1. re: Kim D
                sambamaster Jun 16, 2008 01:50 PM

                Wow, was afraid of facing a firing squad.
                I think the variety at Pok Pok is wide enough to please a crowd..plenty of wing analogs and grilled birds for the tame...
                Alba is not the best, most swanky ambience, but damn! the food and wine make up for it. In my opinion, but I'm always going for flavor and substance, not the frill. just me...
                Mandarin H is exceptional, for PDX at least, when sticking with the untranslated menu. I'll be there tomorrow to help the guy translate it, so soon, that should not be an obstacle. By the way, I ain't no hired gun for this place, I am pushing this translation because I want to order off that silly page and it's easier to do it this way than to study Chinese for a few years. Selfish motivation, you see....
                The Brazil suggestion was risky since I've not been. Actually, in Brazil, mayonnaise heavy salads, like an ensalada russa...and canned or maybe frozen vegetables in that, might not be so uncommon. But the salad bar at the rodizio is a fairly recent development. It used to be only about the meat and there was no stinkin' salad bar.
                I'll bet there are many other slightly different options around here. Sometimes different is better, and shows more thought and creativity. in my opinion. Having done event planning, I have some experience in this.

                1. re: sambamaster
                  Nettie Jun 16, 2008 02:31 PM

                  I totally agree with you on the same places coming up again and again on this board, but....

                  I just ate a dinner in the upstairs room of Pok Pok which was fabulous, but I can think of two major drawbacks: the shape of the room, which would divide 20 people into halves; and the messiness of the food--you just can't eat the chicken wings without picking them up and gnawing on them and getting the sauce all over your fingers and face. Of course it totally depends on the nature of the clients and business--some might feel really comfortable in that type of environment.

                  I have been to Brazil Grill, and meh. There were a lot of kids there on prom dates, which was kind of fun, but the food was pretty unremarkable and expensive to boot.

                  1. re: sambamaster
                    Mallory Jun 16, 2008 05:05 PM

                    The thing with Carlyle however is that with an event such as this the menu will be crafted to show "thought and creativity" and will certainly wow the guests because what "larpeart" desires will be articulated and executed with grace. The owner is the grand daddy of event planning and is always concerned that the guests expectations are met, and then some. So with this party of 20, it really is a no brainer on where to go, the choice is simple. It has to be Carlyle. By the way I'm not a hired gun for Carlyle, I've just had numerous dealings with events there and have been beyond impressed.

                    1. re: Mallory
                      larspeart Jun 17, 2008 01:23 PM

                      The point has been made here well, I believe. While I am all for adventure and such, I also have to be assured that it will be perfectly executed, and has a marked sense of style and elegance. Were it just me and a date (or me and 3-4 of my closest), I'd want something a bit more off-beat. I've contacted 4 places so far. Carlyle did seem to be 'on the ball' so to speak with what it was I am looking to do, but I haven't decided for sure yet. Wow factor is important with these, as the next day, they will run across 120 of THEIR colleagues... and (hopefully) brag. A chef's tasting, in the kitchen no less, lends itself to that.

                      Still, the Pok Pok place sounded good as well. These are all GREAT suggestions, and VERY much appreciated.


              2. b
                braisedbelly Jun 16, 2008 01:28 PM

                Have you checked out Park Kitchen's private dining room? We went to a friend's reception there a couple of weeks ago and had a wonderful experience.


                1. s
                  sophiamaria Jun 16, 2008 02:33 PM

                  Once I had a really great meal in the wine cellar at the Benson Hotel (about 14 people). I'm not sure if it can accomodate 20 people but I'll never forget that dining experience. Great wine, candle lit wine cellar, classical music not to mention great conversation (out of the group I knew one person). We had a few options to choose from off the menu and the food and atmosphere made for a memorable meal.

                  When I heard about the Carlysle Chef's table I was reminded of this.

                  Beast could be cool too, as it is family style and an adventurous meal.

                  1. m
                    Mallory Jun 16, 2008 04:51 PM

                    I really think you should look into Carlyle, talk with the GM there. Very helpful and accomodating. It will be a memorable event, no doubt.

                    1. SauceSupreme Jun 17, 2008 11:26 AM

                      In order, I would pick: Ten-01, Wildwood, Park Kitchen.

                      If you've really got the ducats to spare, you can check out Lucier.

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