Thursday, March 27, 2014

Portland Dining Month Wrapping Up

Dang! With just five nights left, it looks like I'm not going to be making it through my picks of restaurants to hit during Portland's annual Dining Month—in fact, I've only made it to two on the whole darn list so far.

But with an opportunity to sample three courses of some of PDX's finest grub—there are 90 places to choose from—for just $29, it almost makes it into the "I don't feel like cooking tonight" category, which, if I had my druthers, would be every other night around our house. To me, it's a chance to try out places that fit the "special occasion" description, a trial run for a later date night, anniversary or place to take out of town friends.

My first hit was Kelly Myer's Xico, which we'd visited earlier but wanted to return to, if only because I was seduced by the salmon in mole verde (top photo) on offer. Which points up the fact that though these menus are designed around the featured price, the offerings are obviously barely clearing break-even status. Added to that was the opportunity to get one of the restaurant's signature margaritas, which totally hit the spot.

Beverages aren't included in the price, of course, which no doubt gives the restaurants a chance to make up some of the revenue, but I've never felt pressured by up-selling on the part of staff or given the nose-in-the-air treatment because I'm ordering the "cheap" option. Remember that March can be a pretty slow time of the year for dining out, so most restaurateurs and wait staff are happy to see so many smiling faces at their tables.

The second trip was to Paley's Place on Northwest 21st, the anchor of Vitaly and Kimberly Paley's now three-restaurant empire (he also owns downtown's Imperial and Penny Diner). Dave and I were seated at a cozy table in the dining room behind the bar (above right) and were brought amuse bouches of shot glasses of cucumber gazpacho with our drink order. Again, there was no sniffing on display when I ordered the Dining Month menu, and no move was made to grab back the amuse as not included—same with the complimentary basket of bread and butter.

Portions at both places were generous, as well, with Paley's main course of grilled albacore (left) perfectly seared on a bed of frikeh salad with a drizzle of caper aioli. One caveat to be noted is that the offerings are set in stone, so check the menus listed on the website to make sure it will accomodate any of your party's dietary restrictions. For instance, while I can (and do) eat almost everything, Dave's lactose issue makes it virtually impossible to enjoy all three courses, so he orders from the regular menu. (Though you can always check with the restaurant when you call to make your reservation.)

So if you can't make it one of the next five nights, put it on your calendar for next year. I have a feeling this event is gonna be here to stay.


pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

We had a stellar family dinner at Biwa (the 5 course omakase). We also went to Yakuza, but opted to not do the Dining Month menu because there were so many other things we wanted to try. It cost about the same, but the variety was perfect. And the Yakuza burger was the best burger I've ever had.

Kathleen Bauer said...

I love what Gabe is doing at Biwa. And I agree that choosing wisely on a menu, as you did at Yakuza, can get you real value for not much money. Now I've gotta try that burger!