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.
Andina is a beautiful restaurant, the expansive dining room as brightly colored as a jungle bird, with rich wood floors, photographs of Peruvian natives, terracotta walls and archways, and industrial elements like exposed ductwork that lend it a touch of Pearl swank–the perfect setting for a splurge spree. Order up a couple of mojitos, a nice bottle of wine from their phenomenal wine list and a bevy of Peruvian small plates like crab salad-stuffed avocado halves and tender bay scallops baked with parmesan and lime butter, and tell the server not to plan on turning your merry cushy window booth over any time soon. Particularly once you get a gander at the dessert menu–the crème brûlée trio, passion fruit mousse-stuffed quinoa cannoli, and chocolate andino in ají-amarillo pineapple sauce are not to be hurried.
Gaze 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.
Bamboo Sushi NW
Visit the Southeast Bamboo mothership’s sustainable sushi superstar sister early to beat the Northwest 23rd Avenue hordes (happy hour is Monday through Friday, 4-6pm, if that helps), and be sure to try the “house on fire” mackerel, a sashimi plate and the Chasing the Dragon roll…if you’re still hungry, there’s always the epic Sumo Burger–a half pound of Snake River Farms’ Wagyu beef with aged Tillamook white cheddar, caramelized onions, onion rings, bacon and a fried egg. And when you’re done with that, plan on double dessert, because even after you’ve had Bamboo’s chocolate egg rolls, you’re still going to want to investigate neighboring Salt & Straw’s ice cream palace. Read full write-up>>
Beast 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.
A perennially hip and swanky Pearl District mainstay, see-and-be-seen hotspot Bluehour is the perfect place to get your sleek on and celebrate a big birthday, anniversary, promotion, the sale of your Internet company, or lottery win. Start with Chivas Regal-kissed Blood & Sand cocktails in the sexy mirror-lined bar, then settle into your patch of white tablecloth-draped dining room real estate, order a bottle of Argyle Brut, and move onto raw oysters with rhubarb–verjus mignonette, beef tartare with salt and vinegar chips, SuDan Farm’s lamb chop with farro, grilled fennel and blackberry sauce, and for dessert, perhaps a decadent chocolate torte with buttered popcorn ice cream, or, just a visit from the ever-so-glamorous cheese trolley.
You never know exactly what to expect from chef Courtney Sproule’s fantastical weekend supper club adventures, which is of course, part of their considerable charm. Perhaps the proceedings will begin with sparkling Vouvray, deep-fried mussels and mingling, until everyone is ushered to whimsically-decorated communal tables, where savory madelines with speck, peaches and brandied cherry tomatoes magically appear, followed by gooseberry sorbet and lamb tartare with currant and dried fennel. Once upon a time, Din Din venues varied with the menu, until Courtney found a permanent home for her moveable feast, a small, exquisite space hidden in the depths of the inner Northeast industrial district, where she also serves a light breakfast and lunch “Fee Fee” menu on weekdays, as well as a decadent Sunday brunch.
This beautiful, intimate gem of a North Portland dining room was made for celebrating, whether you’re commemorating something big or just honoring the bliss of a warm summer evening. The kitchen turns out simple, seasonal, and always-delicious Italian dishes, and since it’s a special occasion, don’t hesitate to order a bottle of something lovely from the superbly-sourced Italian wine list.
Graceful Giorgio’s quietly occupies the tree-lined brick corner of NW 12th and NW Hoyt in the Pearl District, its polished yet homey little dining room and bar offering a peaceful culinary getaway for those feeling special, splurgey, or just desirous of beautifully prepared upscale Italian fare like homemade pappardelle with wild boar ragu or slow-roasted guinea hen with grilled eggplant in a placidly cultured setting.
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.
It’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).
Little Bird Bistro
Late hours, a central location, and trés delicious dishes make this younger sibling of renowned Le Pigeon an inviting downtown destination regardless of the hour (they’re open until midnight) or your craving—stop in for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board or reserve a dark red leather banquette for a leisurely supper. The kitchen is helmed by longtime Le Pigeon sous chef Erik Van Kley, who orchestrates a simple French menu that zeroes in on beloved, expertly-executed bistro classics like steak frites, coq au vin, and marrow bones (and the iconic Le Pigeon burger), while pastry chef Lauren Fortgang spins sweet fantasies like strawberry elderflower floats, apricot givré with a corn financier, and her housemade chocolate plate. Depending on your mood, sit at the gleaming copper bar, see and be seen in the main dining room, or, provided you don’t suffer from acrophobia, opt for my favorite perch—the tiny upstairs table hugging the balcony corner.
Chef 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.
Set 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.
Park Kitchen never fails to impress with its elegantly rustic dining room and uncompromisingly ingredient-driven menus. If you’re feeling particularly splurgey, get the Chef’s Tasting Menu–you’ll leave thinking your next occasion to celebrate can’t come soon enough.
Raven & Rose
Set inside SW Broadway’s gracious historic Ladd Carriage House, this lavishly-remodeled downtown eatery has dual personalities. Downstairs, dolled up couples-about-town delicately slurp oysters on the half shell with their champagne and dig their forks into Park Kitchen alum David Padberg’s steak tartare and “rabbit two ways” in the elegantly appointed dining room, while upstairs, liberated office mates unwind over bartender Dave Shenaut’s craft concoctions in the Rookery Bar, a lofty wood beam-thatched space that’s part shiny cocktail lounge, part flat screen and billiards-endowed man cave.
Bringing a touch of gloss and glamour to the Central Eastside, this pizza and pasta-centric eatery anchors a block of deliciousness, with adjoining sister enterprises including Mi Piace specialty market, Ancient Heritage Dairy’s creamery, and beloved Alma Chocolate’s production space. Kickstart your meal with one of the excellent cocktails, dabble in the bites and antipasti, then dive into the pasta and pizza sections of the menu, which hold such delicacies as mint pappardelle with braised beef shank and leek ash corzetti with clams, pork sausage and black garlic, and a handful of nicely blistered pies, from a classic margherita to the robust beef tongue, bone marrow and peppers. Early bird eaters, flit in for the bar-bound weekday Punch Hour.
With its exquisite 10-course chef’s tasting menus and supper club-meets-speakeasy feel, it’s no wonder that Trent Pierce’s 30-seat jewel box of a seafood restaurant—tucked into the back room of his buzzy upscale fish house Block & Tackle—is booked weeks in advance. Minimalist décor and infallibly gracious service complement the kitchen’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.
If 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.
Set in the inner Southeast’s historic Plow Works Building, so close to the tracks that your Kentucky Cardinal cocktail trembles when the trains go by, this low-ceilinged space beguiles with its wide wood beams, stunning open kitchen, sexy swanky bar, and chef/owner Erik Van Kley’s expertly prepared “Borderless American Cuisine.” Even the most sophisticated dish has a hint of both the homey and exotic, like the hearty grilled marrow bone topped with bánh mì fixings and served with warm housemade dinner rolls. Staunch pescatarians will be thrilled, the menu leans towards the sea, with starters like two sweet scallops on a bed of cucumber and spicy mayo, mains like Oregon albacore topped with nectarine salsa, and desserts that…well, they’re just normal desserts, no fish there. Actually, I take that back, the desserts aren’t normal, they’re fantastic, especially the signature waffle with bruleed banana, smoke-laced crème fraiche, and melt-in-your-mouth pecan praline.
Woodsman’s got a knack for memorable dishes that are both rustic and innovative—like duck drumettes with Sriracha-laced kumquat sauce, a Lacinato kale Caesar with rye croutons, whole roasted trout in “crazy water”, biscuits and sausage gravy with pickled collards, the majestic Woodsman burger, and the formidable bone-in ribeye for two, while at the bar, spirits sorcerer Evan Zimmerman crafts puckery Omaha Sours and 24kt gold-accented Bentley cocktails. Next door, the European-style Woodsman Market sells fresh produce and farm eggs, cheese and charcuterie, exceptional wine and other genteel sundries, as well as hearty housemade sandwiches and a chocolate pudding so exceptional, you will want to buy it by the barrel (you can’t though, sorry for getting your hopes up).