Four dinners, one lunch in Portland
The first was the best: Levant, especially the sardine stuffed w, quinoa, nicely glazed, and wrapped in grape leaf; the wonderfully generous and flavorful evening's "whole beast" lamb, two cuts served on fresh peas and more; and the amazing three slices of caramelized phyllo holding firm, flavorful labneh--garnished with lightly cooked dried apricots. Also the best wine I tasted, a Trisaetum Willamette Valley Riesling ('11, I think). The other dishes were good, if less memorable.
Second was a v. busy Sat. night at Toro Bravo, where 4 of us ate through about a third of the menu, but about which I have few clear memories, except that items were pretty generous and tasty, with original touches that did not match my previous tapas experiences. I particularly liked the octopus dish and the squid ink pasta as well as the desserts (pretty much all garnished with delicious ice creams). Sorry I can't say more, but I was a guest and don't have the check to jog my food-clogged memory. Also, I can't relate well to food in an extremely noisy and rather dark atmosphere.
Third was a return to Kenny and Zuke's, which I'd enjoyed four years ago but found sad this time: paper thin, dry pastrami on stale rye on a Sun. eve; an equally diet-worthy Reuben with undetectable sauerkraut--each sandwich garnished with a single sliced dill pickle with no offer of more; a passable potato knish; marvelous cole slaw ordered counter to the waiter's recommendation--very tart and seeming to contain, deliberately or accidentally, a few strands of the aforementioned sauerkraut; and a waiter who admitted to both distaste for and little familiarity with this type of food.
Fourth was lunch at a place I'd chosen specifically because it stated it smoked its own wild salmon, which the waiter neglected to inform us till two of us had ordered different preparations containing it that the kitchen was out of it. I guess part of the lesson is not to eat out the day after Mother's Day, but shouldn't pros plan ahead? We made do splitting a grass-fed hamburger so strongly garnished the meat flavor was drowned. Good side of rosemary-garlic potatoes, odd-tasting "fresh fruit" cup, overall pretty disappointing.
Last, chosen by a local, was Nostrana, which I shouldn't really comment much on because I'm no fan of Tuscan cooking. I enjoyed my Cattail Creek Lamb Mixed Grill, served on a delicious puree of butternut squash--like everything here, rich--and garnished with onion scapes. A generous, buttery, rhubarb-strawberry crisp, which had to be ordered midmeal, was excellent and enough for two.
I tasted the crab pizza, but the piece I got had virtually no crab. The dough was fine.
My two other Northwest meals were in Seattle.