Monday, February 15, 2010

Bar Crudo

Bar Crudo

Once upon a time Bar Crudo was nestled in a tiny nook on San Francisco's Bush Street. Getting a seat at the small bar felt like winning the lottery; much less landing an actual table. Because we often stay near Union Square when visiting the city the north of Union Square location made it a favorite spot for Happy Hour or a post-dinner snack. Over the years we've enjoyed several bubbly-induced nights at the restaurant's tiny counter, pounding oysters on the half shell and damning ourselves for not coming up with the raw bar concept first.

Since it has historically taken some effort to actually get a seat at Bar Crudo, I was rather surprised during our November visit to the city when, mere days out from Saturday night, I was able to book a table for Happy Hour via Open Table. Mystified, I continued to revisit the confirmation message on my BlackBerry to make sure I'd read the information correctly. Finally, it hit me what was indeed out of place: the restaurant was listed as being on Divisadero Street. Hence I came out from beneath the rock under which I'd been living to learn Bar Crudo had relocated to the Western Addition. As we realized that Saturday evening, the new location has all the charm and loft space as the old one, with a much more open and spacious main level. And with glowing candles in crannies along the wall and a mural of mermaids (the Bar Crudo logo) that is a cool version of the old T&A mudflaps, there is a certain sexiness to the new digs: perfect for dining on raw oysters.

Small Platter - Bar Crudo 2
Small Seafood Platter: 6 oysters, 3 shrimp, 3 mussels, 3 clams. 1/2 crab - $40

I wish every Saturday night began with a platter like this one. On this particular visit we shared this between two of us though we have been known to make it work for four people. Parties with bigger groups -- and wallets -- can get double the pleasure for double the price: the large platter has twice the portions and will run you $80.

Bar Crudo Raw Plate
Raw Fish: 4 pieces for $12

Arctic Char with horseradish cream, wasabi tobiko and dill
Hokkaido Scallops with celery root and roasted apple puree, truffle salt
Tombo Tuna with pear, hazelnut and pomegranate reduction
Butterfish with olive, orange vinaigrette, black garlic, shiso

A bit difficult to share if your intention is to try everything, but beautifully constructed pairings nonetheless.

Bar Crudo Seafood Chowder
Seafood Chowder - Fish, mussels, shrimp, squid, potatoes, applewood smoked bacon - $7

After trying this soup it is fair to say that I left my heart in San Francisco. Typically I am not a fan of overly spicy food (J would say that I find Dorito's spicy) but even he agreed this chowder had some kick to it -- and even I liked it! Maybe it was cayenne? The tang danced in perfect sync with the smokiness from the bacon and kept the chowder from tasting overly creamy. We shared the small cup, which was a decent portion for two given that this was our pre-dinner, but the zesty flavor had us scraping the bottom with our spoon and wanting to order a second.

- K

Bar Crudo
655 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Le Pigeon

Le Pigeon

It's ironic that one of the few things I can correctly pronounce after seven years of French, le peejon, is irrelevant when it comes to this popular PDX communal dining spot. Yes, as wry as the nerd glasses and handlebar mustaches hipsters have taken to sporting, the pronunciation of luh pidjin is as American as hot dogs and baseball.

I started this post last month and got sidetracked, which is what happens when I blog with a glass of wine in hand. But Christmas morning I awoke to an email from our dear friends Kara and Ryan, former PDX residents now living in China. They'd managed to escape to Thailand--and the liberation of uncensored internet access--for a little holiday and had come upon our posting about Simpatica Dining Hall, a spot they initially introduced us to. They were not about to mince their words: "Cheaters, Cheaters, Cheaters" the subject line read. How could we possibly dine at Simpatica without them?

Let me say for the record, Simpatica sans Kara and Ryan was nowhere near as lovely as it is with our two incredible friends, whom we miss greatly. And so in the hope that reading about another of their favorite spots, Le Pigeon, will encourage Kara and Ryan to join us for a PDX dining reunion in 2010, I am going to finally finish this post. Kids, pack your bags...

Ricotta Gnocchi - $13

We were one bottle of sparkling wine in by the time we ordered, so somehow my fixation on the words "ricotta" and "gnocchi" strayed me from seeing the subsequent "goat." Nonetheless, I powered through this one, impressed with the creaminess the ricotta contributed to the gnocchi.

Beef Cheek Bourguignon - $21

Braised to the color of night and glazed with a rich broth J's hearty French favorite was sweet and tender.

Brussels Sprout Strudel - $19

Le Pigeon's dinner menu changes weekly, and is definitely meat heavy, but vegetarians can always find an option. This strudel, set atop mushrooms and a rather thin butternut squash puree, was packed with brussels sprouts but a bit on the light side for me.

Apricot Cornbread with Bacon and Maple Ice Cream - $7

If you can have just one course at Le Pigeon, I recommend heading right for the dessert menu, scrawled on a chalkboard above the communal dining table. The smokey, savory cornbread with little nibs of apricot baked in is a standard, along with foie gras profiteroles that cause extremists to run into the restaurant drenched in fake blood and screaming obscenities. A seasonal carrot cake was also on the menu board this particular evening, but we went right for the cornbread as it reminds us of Kara and Ryan, who first convinced me that bacon does have a place on a dessert menu.

- K

Le Pigeon
738 E Burnside Street
Portland, OR 97232

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Simpatica Dining Hall

Simpatica Dining Hall

Oh, Portland. Sweet, wonderful, complicated Portland. What it lacks in jobs it makes up for in restaurants doing really interesting things. Take Simpatica Dining Hall: billed as a "dining hall, supper club and food resource" this catering business moonlights as a cozy, Lower Burnside basement restaurant offering one seating of dinner service both Friday and Saturday evenings, and a comfort-food themed Sunday brunch. A mere $35 will get you four dinner courses, with the menu changing every week based on what's available through the Farmer's Market and local farmers and purveyors. But let the words "dining hall" serve as your guide: you may need to share the dish of Marcona almonds with complete strangers.

Razor Clams
Crispy Fried Razor Clams with Roasted Cauliflower, Venus Grapes and Capers

I loved getting things started with a hearty plate of seafood while J was enamored with the velvety roasted grapes.

Your Kitchen Garden Mizuna with Grapefruit Hearts and Roasted Spaetzle, Young Parsnips and Carrots
Your Kitchen Garden Mizuna with Grapefruit Hearts and Roasted Beets

Light, refreshing and the perfect palate cleanser in preparation for...

Braised Piedmontese Shortribs with Creamed Horseradish
Braised Piedmontese Beef Shortribs with Creamed Horseradish, Spaetzle, Young Parsnips and Carrots

Given my complex relationship with meat I am certainly not a connoisseur of shortribs. In fact, it is quite possible this course served as my shortribs deflowering. But the dumplings had me so giddy I found myself digging in, and the meat responded by literally sliding off the bone in silky strips...and right into my mouth.

Warm Beignets with Apple Confit and Caramel Sauce
Warm Beignets with Apple Confit and Caramel Sauce

The beignets arrived at our table still hot. While the coating of confectioner's sugar was a bit heavy (think choking on the cocoa powder atop a piece of Tiramisu) the caramel sauce provided relief in the way of some much-needed moisture.

The weekend dinner menu is posted every Wednesday and when you arrive at the restaurant the kitchen staff will take you on the journey of how they arrived at the evening's selections--and where everything was sourced from. Reservations can be submitted online or by contacting the restaurant directly. Don't forget to check out the recession-friendly wine list, with nothing over $39.


Simpatica Dining Hall
828 SE Ash Street
Portland, OR 97214

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