Special & Splurgey

The rich and famous aren’t the only ones with champagne wishes and caviar dreams–you’ve got some too, damn it. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion, impressing a big client, or just spoiling yourself for no better reason than it’s Wednesday, drum up a little gastronomical bling by flashing your cash at one of these pillars of the Portland fine dining scene.

Ava Gene’s

avagenesextsquareGaze into the mirrors suspended over this Division Street stunner’s open kitchen and see your future…meal, that is (along with a LOT of lightbulbs). The latest project from Stumptown sage Duane Sorenson, this upscale hotspot is dazzling discerning diners with chef Joshua McFadden’s sophisticated take on rustic New York-style Italian, like warm chicken livers with raisins and marsala, Delicata squash fritto, housemade ravioli, and pork osso bucco. Finish with a vanilla bean panna cotta in pine cone syrup, then sip one of the bar’s exquisite grappas as you plot your next visit. Prix fixe seekers–opt for the five-course chef’s tasting menu.


beastintsquareBeast is a unique Portland dining experience that’s fitting for all sort of special occasions, like birthdays, supper clubs, parental visits, the purchase of your first Range Rover, and so on. It’s family-style supping at its best–the dining room is comprised of two communal tables that seat you close enough to your neighbor to accidentally drink their glass of Crémant d’Alsace, and executive chef Naomi Pomeroy and crew plate duck leg confit and lamb loin chops mere inches from your forehead, as they turn out a six-course meal that’s lovingly prepared, beautifully presented, and always has a happy ending, like a cheese plate curated by Cheese Bar’s Steve Jones and sour cherry and brown butter cobbler.



From pomelo to pennywort to pandanus noodles, secretish Langbaan—hidden behind a bookshelf in the back of Restaurant Row’s popular PaaDee—serves up course after course of unusual, authentic Thai palate pleasers for a very reasonable price ($45 for the basic tasting menu, $65 for the expanded version), under the motto, “Taste right, not just taste good.” And they don’t even laugh at you when you stand outside the secret door after dinner and repeatedly open and shut it like overexcited school kids, which is nice.

Le Pigeon

lepigeonfrontwindowIt’s fitting to celebrate your special occasion in one of Portland’s most celebrated restaurants, East Burnside’s intimate and popular contemporary French bistro Le Pigeon, but keep in mind you’ll be sharing your celebration and possibly a bite of your Beef Bourguignon with your communal tablemates. If you’re a “the more the merrier” type, you’ll have the time of your life. Although, come to think of it, if you really want to have the time of your life, opt for the seven-course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings (five course available as well).


oxmarrowbonesChef and husband/wife team Greg and Gabrielle Denton’s widely worshipped Argentine-inspired Northeast Portland hotspot is many things to many people—a highly evolved steakhouse, a surprising source of superb plant-based dishes and allergy-friendly desserts, a purveyor of exceptional cocktails, aaand, originator of some of the best, richest, most memorable chowder you will ever eat. (And I eat a LOT of chowder.) Despite the restaurant’s beefy image, vegans and vegetarians needn’t steer clear—”from the garden” options are as compelling as the fleshy ones, and as for dessert, Gabi’s prowess with sugar and spice are legendary, and her cheese pairings and hazelnut brown butter torte with honey-chamomile ice cream have a near-fanatical following.

Paley’s Place

paleyssquareSet in a beautiful, elegantly appointed old Victorian on the quiet end of NW 21st Avenue, highly esteemed Paley’s Place embodies special and splurgey, from the gracious welcome you’ll get from Kimberley Paley to the luxurious dishes you’ll order from chef Vitaly Paley’s kitchen–Escargot à la Bordelaise, Dungeness crab and corn risotto, and 40-day dry-aged Highland Oak ribeye. Toast your special occasion, or just life in general, with a bottle of Burgundy from Paley’s excellent wine list, or a celebratory snifter of Clear Creek Pear Brandy.


roesquareMinimalist décor and infallibly gracious service complement chef Trent Pierce’s innovative eye candy—dishes like the confit butterfish in parsnip puree and black marlin sashimi with white soy ponzu and shaved matsutakes are part artwork, part delicious homage to the seas’ bounty.

St. Jack

stjackfishermansstewIf two heads are better than one, then two restaurants must be better than one, and if the two restaurants are attached and one of them is actually a bakery, that must be better than a private Living Room Theater showing of Amélie, a bottle of Cristal Rosé, and a bucket of bacon fat croutons. Enter St. Jack, Portland’s very own bistro-bakery dream team, part darling Clinton Street corner bistro, part patisserie, the latter which opens daily at 8am to supply the neighborhood with pastry chef Alissa Rozos’ divine housemade éclairs, flaky croissants, and feather-light mini-madeleines. The bistro menu reflects chef Aaron Barnett’s affection for rustic French cuisine (think tureens of puff pastry-capped escargot, oyster and scallop-studded fisherman’s stew, and whole roasted trout over creamy French lentils), while Rozos’ dessert menu reflects…well, my dreams, actually (think chocolate crème brûlée with beignets and strawberries and créme chiboust with pistachio financier). If you find it hard to choose, just remember—two dinner entrees are always better than one, and two desserts are better than the aforementioned Amelie and bacon fat croutons screening.