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Nov 18, 2012 12:59 PM

One last decision

I am trying to decide among several restaurants for dinner on our last night in Portland. The choices are:

Toro Bravo

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  1. We had dinner at Imperial on Saturday night. This is our first visit to Portland and we were looking forward to the food.

    Sadly, Imperial only delivered on the "Portlandia" experience. Sorry to anyone who's offended, but after the easily parodied "this is our special water" greeting, we moved onto their cocktails.

    A flaming Negroni?
    I skipped that but the drink I ordered was orders of magnitudes too sweet for the ingredients and had a single, giant ice cube making it very difficult to drink. I took a cocktail list with me as the drinks were universally tortured (making this rather interesting in a "you wouldn't believe it" kind of way).

    The food fared no better.

    Although the Parker House rolls were decent, they were too large for what they were and I had to ask for salt to make them palatable.

    The crab and shrimp imperial was probably the best dish we had but the crositini were soggy.

    I had the roast chicken. Presentation was awful. A handful of frisee had been thrown across the plate, half over the chicken and into the aioli. The skin was flabby, chicken dry and tasted overwhelmingly of the wood oven.

    My husband's lamb was better, although he got off on the wrong foot by first eating the exterior lamb belly. He also found the taste (and pervading scent) of the wood unpleasant. It was chewy to a fault.

    When our not-very-good waitress removed the almost full plates she made no comment and didn't ask if we wished to take anything with us..
    Needless to say, we didn't order dessert!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Oakland Barb

      Thanks, Oakland Barb, You gave a thorough critique with lots of detail. We have been visiting Portland from the SF Bay Area about every two years for a while and always look forward to new food experiences. I think it is a great food city. Now I just have to choose from two! I am leaning toward Toro Bravo, but I really dislike the no reservation policy.

      1. re: zinfanatic

        We enjoyed Tasty and Sons last night. You may well have eaten there on previous trips and it's not a "special occasion" restaurant.
        Food was consistently good as were the cocktails. Portions were huge for anything referring to itself as a "small plate" (or even the larger ones). If I lived in the area this would be a restaurant that would be on my regular list.

        1. re: Oakland Barb

          That is on my list for breakfast or lunch!

          1. re: zinfanatic

            I also had an "interesting" dinner at Imperial recently, complete with terrible cocktails. BUT, the stuffed quail was amazing, the chicken-fried rabbit was fantastic and the cherry brownie ice cream sundae was really really good. So there are some good things on the menu (and on the wine list). But I will never have cocktails there again, that's for sure! If they can't do a proper vodka martini or a manhatten, then there is a serious problem with their "mixologist".

            A few days later we went back for lunch and had a really good meal. The service was better (or maybe my expectations are lower for lunch), my husband's reuben was fantastic and my kale salad was very good (but not as good as Oven & Shaker IMO).

            So lunch might be a good option there if you want to go.

            I have herd lots of good things about OX. We haven't been yet (giving it time to settle down) but LOVED Greg and Gabby's cooking when they were at Metrovino.

            I won't go to TB because I hate waiting an hour for a table.

            1. re: ekc

              LOOOOVE OX - everything I have had there has been amazing on 3 visits. But the wait there for a table isn't much shorter than Toro Bravo... They have great cocktails, too. btw.

      2. re: Oakland Barb

        I can't speak to dinner service at Imperial but want to add that we spent a lovely couple of hours at the bar Sunday afternoon. Our foursome tried the New Money, the Imperial Fizz, the Exit Through the Gift Shop and, for good measure, a Hemmingway Daiquiri. They were all executed beautifully by the very personable and knowledgable bartender. The New Money in particular hit it out of the park and the large cube of ice that minimized dilution of the drink added to the experience. Just had bar bites but they were tasty and the burger that was served to the person next to me looked great! It's great to have another Sunday afternoon drinks option downtown and we'll most definitely be back! Sure hope others give this venue a chance and form their own opinions :).

      3. My last night choice was Toro Bravo and it was great! It was our best meal while in Portland.