If you haven’t discovered new restaurants during Portland, Oregon’s March Dining Month, I’ve got some advice for you—get thee to a participating restaurant and soon. You have plenty of great restaurants to choose from. A full 120 restaurants from fine dining establishments to ethnic eateries are participating in offering three-course, pre-fix menus for $29. That’s a total bargain and a great way to add new restaurants to your dining repertoire. But the fun—and the bargains– end March 31.
RFT Editor Anne Weaver and I dined at clarklewis on a recent rainy Tuesday evening. Even at 8:30 pm, this a hip, industrial-looking space on Southeast Water Street in Portland’s historic warehouse district was hopping with foodies taking advantage of the Portland Dining Month menu.
We started our meal with slices of hearty rustic sour dough bread from Grand Central Bakery. The bread had a nice chewy texture and a satisfying sour flavor.
For my first course, I chose the beet salad—slices of beets over a bed of peppery arugula, sprinkled with tangy blue cheese crumbles and crisp hazelnut pieces. It was all lightly dressed with citrusy orange oil and made a perfect start to my meal.
Anne selected the salt cod fritters with espelette aioli and Italian parsley as a starter. “This takes me right back to Barcelona,” she announced with the first bite. The fritters, fried crisp with a light batter, were pillow soft on the inside with just a hint of briny cod flavor.
My choice of lamb ragu with housemade spaghetti proved the perfect, rib-sticking choice for this cold, rainy night. The tomatoey ragu was rich and hearty, studded with tender shreds of slightly salty lamb. The spaghetti noodles came perfectly al dente; the kind of pasta that makes Italian grandmothers proud. And it was a generous portion; a veritable mound of spaghetti. Despite being full, I found myself returning for ‘just one more bite’ of this delectable dish.
Anne opted for the Oregon steelhead menu choice. It came cooked medium rare with crispy, seasoned skin. The flavor was fresh and delicate and was accompanied by a mixture of roasted fingerling potatoes and rainbow chard with a soft lemony buerre blanc. Anne ate every bite, including sopping up all that delicious sauce.
Dessert didn’t disappoint. I selected the chocolate espresso stout cake with vanilla bean anglaise and chocolate ganache, the right robust choice after my flavorful ragu. The three-inch cake was rich and moist with a chewy texture. And the anglaise and ganache sauces were perfect for dragging that cake right through. I didn’t leave a bit of this on my plate.
Anne’s dessert was a star—a uber-silky, tangy buttermilk panna cotta that was pure heaven on the tongue. It was topped with sweet-sour huckleberry compote and bite-sized chunks of candied ginger. Anne thought there was a bit too much ginger, but I found the ginger proved a nice foil for the sweet huckleberries. The tiny sugar scone on the side was dry, but served as a ‘shovel’ for scooping up the last of the compote.
Real Bottom Line: Portland Dining Month lets foodies try out restaurants like clarklewis at a reasonable price. The entrees on the restaurant’s regular menu range from $27-35 (pastas $14-19) and salads $13-14. At $29 for salad/starter, entrée and dessert, you can’t go wrong at clarklewis or any of the participating Portland Dining Month restaurants. And now that I know just how good clarklewis is, I’ll be coming back to soon to try out the many interesting items on their regular menu.—Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor
For more on Portland Dining Month or to make reservations at any of the participating 120 restaurants, go here. www.travelportland.com/dining-month/
1001 SE Water St.