FX Excursions

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Dining Deals

by Patricia Vanikiotis

Apr 6, 2019

March marked the 10th anniversary of Portland Dining Month, in which more than 100 dining establishments throughout the Portland, Oregon, metro area participate. Not only does it allow diners to sample a three-course menu for just $33 at a wide range of restaurants, but it also raises funds for the Oregon Food Bank through donations made for every reservation made through OpenTable. My husband and I always try to make our way to Portland a couple of times that month to take advantage of the great deal and try the fare at some of the city’s most popular and up-and-coming eateries.

Last month we visited one newer restaurant and one of our old favorites. First stop was at The Waiting Room, housed in a charming old Victorian house in hip and happening Northwest Portland. The area was buzzing on that Saturday night, but we lucked out on finding inexpensive parking nearby. Our party of seven was seated on the second floor in view of the bar, which turns out an assortment of unique cocktails along with Champagne and absinthe. The Waiting Room Portland We started with a few tasty concoctions, and when my niece found the one she ordered really was not to her liking, in spite of the enthusiastic recommendation from our server (all at our table agreed it tasted like Liquid Smoke was a key ingredient), the house gladly replaced it with a different drink, gratis. Classy!

The Waiting Room notes it offers “Louisiana-style food” along with Southern comfort, charm and hospitality while sourcing from local farmers and ranchers. After our recent trip to New Orleans, we were eager to compare its dishes. The three-course menu offered two to four options per course; some chose the cornmeal hushpuppies or the andouille and boudin to start, while I opted for the baked oysters with crab fat and caviar, nicely presented and very tasty. The Waiting Room Portland

Main course options all featured those southern flavors: cornmeal-dusted catfish, the house’s fried chicken (with black truffle potato purée and caviar gravy!) The Waiting Room Portland and smoked pork on a bed of crawfish dirty rice, collard greens and a honey reduction sauce. The Waiting Room Portland For dessert we enjoyed a rich chocolate crémeux topped with candied pecans The Waiting Room Portland and a bourbon and peach downey charmingly served in its own little cast iron skillet. The Waiting Room Portland

Overall we found the service friendly if a bit slow, the cocktails quite unique and the food tasty if not shout-from-the-rooftops spectacular.

Our second visit was to clarklewis in Portland’s Central Eastside industrial district, featuring an open kitchen with a wood-fired oven in a stylish and cleanly decorated former warehouse space. On this brisk evening its street-facing garage doors were closed, but on a warm night they open to a loading dock-style outdoor space. clarklewis is a long-established and popular restaurant where we’ve dined before and anticipated a great meal.

Its Dining Month menu offered a carrot bisque clarklewis Portland or a market greens salad  clarklewis Portland to start, and we shared tastes from an order of each. The soup had wonderful flavors, with leeks, fennel and apple playing a part, while the salad benefitted from a sprinkling of walnut granola, smoked feta and a light apple kombucha vinaigrette. Second course options included wood-fired chicken, but Harry opted for the risotto (mushrooms, roasted garlic, rainbow chard and, of course, Parm) clarklewis Portland  while I chose the pan-seared scallops.  clarklewis Portland   Served with a rather elegant hash of acorn squash, kohlrabi and hummus with a hazelnut sauce, it was fabulous. We finished the meal off with a layered chocolate serving of decadence, each layer offering a different texture and taste, clarklewis Portland   and we also enjoyed a serving of a salted butterscotch budino clarklewis Portland, creamy and light.

These meals once again reminded me of all the delightful dining options Portland has to offer. It makes me want to relocate — at least during the month of March, each year — just to take advantage of this reasonably priced way to sample from some truly great restaurants. Maybe it’s just as well, though, if I still want to be able to fit into my clothes!

— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor

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