Dining Adventure – Tasting East

9 Flavor Chicken – photo by Tasting East


Ms. A and I had our most recent dining adventure at Tasting East, or TE, as the sign outside says. It’s located in the Paramount Hotel in the space Dragonfish used to be in – the restaurant on one side of the lobby and the bar on the other.

The drink menu was interesting – we were torn between the Rising Sun Mojito, which had raspberry vodka, a few crushed berries, sake, and mint, and the Feng Shui Me, which has sujo (Korean spirit), basil, cucumber, and elderflower liqueur. The Rising Sun won out – it was refreshing and not too sweet.

The restaurant focuses on small plates for sharing, similar to a tapas bar. The food is Asian influenced, including Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai and ranges from street cart specialties to “haute cuisine.”

Our server was helpful, attentive, and knowledgeable. We started with two protein plates and a bowl of rice. The 9 Spice Chicken was really good – we ordered it mild and it had just the right amount of “bite” for us. There are bowls full of chili oil on the table so you can add as much spice as you want. We also ordered the Stir Fry Ginger Vegetable with beef; I thought it was pretty bland and I didn’t taste much ginger. We weren’t quite sated so we ordered the Shanghai Egg Fried Rice with pork, which was tasty.

The decor is modern with really neat paper lanterns made by a local gallery, HiiH Gallery. It was a little noisy but not unbearably so. We’ll definitely go back!

909 SW Park Ave.
Portland, Oregon
(503) 243-5991

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Dining Adventure – Urban Farmer

While plotting our next dining adventure, Ms. A. suggested Urban Farmer, one of two restaurants at the Nine’s Hotel. She’d hosted a dinner for friends there a couple of years ago and really liked it. It’s a steakhouse with an emphasis on Pacific Northwest cuisine. Last year we ate at their other restaurant, Departure, and though the food was decent, the experience overall wasn’t spectacular. I don’t recall what I ate but I do recall the place was noisy and the tables were uncomfortably close together.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived at Urban Farmer was that it was much roomier, and much quieter than Departure. I admit, I’m unhip, but I want to be able to chat with my friends when I go out to eat. The cocktail menu caught our eye, a fun list of interesting concoctions with witty names like the Rude Barbie and the Man Crush. We both ordered the Feast of Love, a combination of Clear Creek cranberry liqueur and prosecco with a lemon twist. We both agreed it was a delightful libation – not too sweet but very flavorful. It was pretty, too.

Drink

Since Urban Farmer is a steakhouse, I decided I should order red meat of some sort. The menu had a wonderful selection of steaks, but I chose the prime beef tartare. It was elegantly served in a little glass bowl on a plate with homemade chicharones (fried pig skin), fennel, parmesan cheese, and garlic toast. I’d never had steak tartare before but I am now a convert. The flavor was a succulent combination of raw meat, salt, and a light touch of leek or shallot. The chicarones were tasty, too – crunchy, salty, porky goodness.

Ms. A. ordered the Dungeness crab salad, which was a scoop of crab with heart of palm and carrot decorating the plate. She liked it because it was mostly crab and wasn’t bound together with lots of mayonnaise or other fillers.

For our second course, we both ordered starches – Ms. A. had the macaroni and cheese and I had the twice baked potatoes. They were both really flavorful and very hearty.

Baked macaroni and cheese
Mac n cheese

Twice baked fingerling potato tart

The dessert menu looked interesting but we were both full and happy, and settled on cups of coffee. It was one of our best dining adventures yet- delicious and interesting food, great service, and a pleasant atmosphere we could actually talk in.

Urban Farmer
525 SW Morrison
Portland

St. Jack Dining Adventure

For our latest dining adventure, A. and I decided to go to St. Jack restaurant for dinner. I’d been there before for lunch and was really looking forward to dinner. We both agree this was the best meal we’ve had together since we started our dining adventures more than a year ago.

Fisherman's stew

Gratin de macaroni

The decor is simple but I love the lighting, which is a mixture of low electric lights and candles. But they’re not just ordinary candles; they’re mountains of white wax made from the drippings of melted candles. I’m not describing this very well but the effect of the lighting was very flattering, both to the food and to les femmes d’un certain âge. 

I started with a glass of sparkling wine and A. started with a white wine. The server’s suggestions were spot on. My bubbly was not too sweet, but more of an aperitif.

The menu was a delight to read – simple Lyonnaise dishes, not too many choices, and good descriptions of each. One of the specials of the day was beef heart, which our waiter assured us was tender and delicious; I was tempted to be adventurous, but ended up ordering from the menu.

For our appetizers, I chose frog leg’s persillade, and A. chose the salade Lyonnaise frisée, one of her favorites. It had plenty of bacon lardons, and bacon fat croutons, balanced with curly endive. She really liked it.

I had only eaten frog’s legs once before, as a child. I don’t recall much about them except I was tricked into eating them. (Dad!!) This might be my new favorite food. They were dipped in flour and gently sauteed, and served en persillade, a parsley lemon sauce. They were served over potatoes, or rather, a potato puree. (I’m sure there’s a name for it but it’s eluding me at the moment.) I could have ordered a second helping for my entree – they were that delicious. The meat was succulent and juicy with just the right amount of tartness from the persillade. The potatoes balanced the lemony parsley sauce perfectly. Scrumptious.

For our entrees, A. ordered the fisherman’s stew and I ordered the gratin de macaroni Gruyère, cheddar, Rogue blue, and bacon. We both ordered a house red wine but I don’t remember what it was – I was too focused on the food. The wine was very good, and our entrees were delicious. My macaroni was incredibly rich and flavorful and perfect for a cool autumn day. 

The servers were friendly, efficient, unobtrusive, and knowledgeable. The vibe is informal, not fancy. This would be called a “bouchon” in Lyon, where they serve traditional, hearty food. Now I just need to try out their happy hour and some of their interesting drinks. How one resist “The Guillotine?”

St. Jack, 2039 SE Clinton, Portland, 503-360-1281

Grüner Dining Adventure

This month’s dining adventure was at Grüner, in downtown Portland. Restaurateur and chef Christopher Israel created the menu with the idea of melding European alpine food with Pacific Northwest flavor. I don’t really understand the concept – inspired by the alpine regions on the Danube, maybe? Their website has a longer explanation about their inspiration. Maybe the librarian in me is too quick to want to catalog everything.

I met my dining companion at 5pm last week for dinner. Oddly, when she called for reservations, they told her they only had tables available at 5pm or 8pm. But the restaurant was never even half full while we were dining. What’s up with the reservation systems here in Portland? But I digress.

We really enjoyed our meal, the service was very good, and the atmosphere was warm and inviting. The decor is gray with warm brown tones and wood, which was very pleasant on a sunny day. We wondered how it’d feel on a typical grey Portland day.

My friend arrived first, and she’d already ordered a glass of pinot gris. The afternoon was sunny and pleasant, which lead me to think about ordering a rosé. Our server told me the only rosé type of wine they had was a Château d’Arlay Corail, a dry French wine that is sometimes coral (corail, in French) colored. She brought me a little taste of the wine first, which was a great idea because not everyone would have liked it. It’s very light and dry. The color was very unusual – it looked like a pale brown sherry. It smelled like ripe plums, and was dry and a little bit acidic, with a medium finish. It’s a blend of 3 red varieties (Pinot Noir, Trousseau, Poulsard) and 2 white varieties (Chardonnay, Savagnin). I enjoyed a glass of it but probably wouldn’t buy a bottle of it.

We had fun perusing the menu and pondering all the possibilities. A wonderful bread basket was brought out – they had a seedy grain bread and amazing pretzel bread with coarse salt sprinkled all over. We requested a second piece of pretzel bread because it was so good!

For dinner, we ended up ordering some small plates so we could try a variety of things. The polenta croquettes stuffed with blue cheese were delicious. They were fried perfectly and served nice and hot so the cheese was melted and the crust was still crispy. The filling tasted like gorgonzola. My dining companion had the canapés of house smoked salmon mousse, which she liked.

For our next course,  we ordered the nettle and ricotta dumplings with black trumpet mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. They were incredibly light and tasty; they looked like gnocchi but were so much lighter. I still can’t decide if the dumplings were the best part of the meal or if the polenta croquettes were. The kitchen did a great job with both.  We also ordered the rabbit and foie gras terrine wrapped in house-cured bacon with pickled fiddlehead ferns as a garnish. The terrine was pretty good but lacked something (onion? a splash of wine or Calvados?). Perhaps I’d expected more foie gras and less rabbit. The pickled fiddleheads were a nice change from cornichons, and were much tastier than my do-it-yourself sauteed fiddlehead project last year.

We had dessert, of course. I ordered the dark chocolate-apricot torte, which was served atop crème anglaise, and my friend had the poppy seed biscuit, with strawberries and lemon curd. They were both delicious. The chocolate torte was light and flavorful. The poppy seed biscuit tasted more like a scone than a biscuit.

We eyed the sausage plates as they went by. I will definitely go back, order some pretzel bread and a beer, and try some other dishes from the menu.