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    Hush Hush Cafe: economical middle eastern in heart of the city

    by richiecdisc Written Oct 25, 2009

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    Hush Hush was a great find. We only had a coffee for breakfast and were getting hungry walking around downtown Portland when we stumbled upon this little hole in the wall. The prices were posted outside and it was cheap and middle eastern food is one of our favorite cuisines. It looked very authentic so we gave it a chance. It was a simple place but clean with friendly welcoming owners.

    Favorite Dish: We ordered three plates to split and could have probably gotten away with two. Their Baba Ganoush ($5.50) was excellent. This is roasted eggplant, pureed with tahini, garlic, and lemon. The pita bread it was served with was homemade and served fresh and warm. The Tabbouleh ($4.99) was also very tasty as well. This classic salad of chopped parsley, onion, tomatoes, and cracked wheat had just the right amount of lemon and olive oil. The main course was a huge plate of hummus covered in shawarma made of lamb ($6.99). This was again was great. The service was friendly and quick. With more time in town, we surely would have returned. If you like middle eastern food, this is a great place to eat. If you've never tried and it sounds good, a great one to give it a try.

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    Stumptown: what Starbucks used to be

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 26, 2009

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    Stumptown Coffee is to Portland what Starbucks is to Seattle. This very local coffee shop takes the hip from Starbucks up quite a few notches. Actually, it reminds me a bit of when I first went to Seattle in 1994 and stumbled across the then fairly new enterprise before it went McDonald's. Stumptown is one of Portland's many nick names and derives from the stumps that remained in town when a large swath of forest had to be cleared quickly for rapidly growing Portland in the 1850s. Though once derogatory, locals take pride in the gritty image it purveys. Oh, back to the coffee and maybe more importantly the cafes that serve it. We went to the downtown branch and it was everything a cafe should be: bustling but not overly noisy, nicely decorated but not too nice, comfortable, light interesting music, and most of all unpretentious but cool people working there. It was all red brick like downtown Portland. We enjoyed this place so much we came back every day.

    Favorite Dish: Prices were typical upscale coffee. We generally paid about $8 for two very nice coffees. D really enjoyed that they made a floral design in her cream atop her mocha.. It was a nice touch. So good in fact, we even sacrilegiously went to the branch in Seattle a few weeks later.

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    Widmer Brewing Gasthaus Pub: the hefeweizen king of the Pacific Northwest

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 26, 2009

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    The Widmer brothers were pioneers in the craft brewing revolution that took hold in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1980s. I remember visiting their small operation in 1994 and just loving the grass roots feel to the place. Fast forward to the summer of 2008 and Widmer Brewing is one of the biggest regional breweries in all of craft brewing. Their hefeweizen is the most readily available of the style in the whole northwest. I nearly bypassed a return visit as time in Portland was limited but my wife and I were both in the mood for some Germanic food and Widmer was the place to cure that urge.

    The new facility is quite large and on the outskirts of the city center. It was only a couple of miles from where we were staying but not really an area suitable for walking. The pub was now deemed a Gasthaus showing the family's German roots. It was a much nicer place than I was expecting but despite its nice furnishings, it retains a nice cosy feeling. We sat at the small bar and the bartender immediately made us feel super welcome. It was mid-afternoon so it was not busy and he was happy to give us free small samples of the beer before we made any choices.

    We both had a hefeweizen as we ordered one weisswurt and one bratwurst. Each came out with sauerkraut, homemade potato salad, mustard and a fresh sourdough baguette. The portions were sizable for a very reasonable $6.95 especially considering the sausages are made on the premises and are of very high quality. That said, the weisswurst is not true to form. Though very tasty, it is not a real weisswurst and does not display any of the delicate flavors of this Munich specialty. We lived in Munich and have never found a good one in the US. But if you took it as just a sausage it was great. Everything else on the plate was excellent as well. We had ordered a large pretzel but it never came and it was probably a good thing as the meals were quite large in themselves. We had mostly ordered it as traditionally that is what is served with weisswurst and since this really wasn't one, we didn't really need it.

    This was supposed to be a short stop but it was a lot better than either of us expected and quite an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

    Favorite Dish: Now for the beer. 1)Hefeweizen-4.8%-This is the premier example of the American version of this Bavarian classic. Honey-hued unfiltered color with massive rocky head. Fruity w/ some banana notes but not much clove. This is a cross style that features some Pacific Northwest hops and hops are not present in the Bavarian variety. This makes for a much drier finish but it is very refreshing nonetheless. Ironically, German brewers are now making this type beer which I always thought would be popular. 2)Sommerbrau-4.8%-This Kolsch style brew is golden w/ thin lasting head and a floral hoppy nose. Fruity dry palate with clean dry finish. Very nice example of the style. 3)WO8-Crimsom Wheat-5%-Each year the brewery comes up with a W seasonal and this 08 version was a light amber wheat beer with a creamy head and soft malty palate. 4)Oktoberfest-5.3%-Amber w/malty spicy palate and semi-dry finish. This is a true Marzen, not an easy style to brew and one increasingly hard to find in Germany. 5)Belgian Golden-6.1%-Semi-filtered golden w/ creamy head and yeast filled nose. Spicy peppery palate w/ crisp semi-dry finish. Nice. 6)Alt-5%-Dark amber w/thin head and citrus hop nose. Fruity palate but dries immediately in bitter finish. Nice example of the style. 7)Half Nelson IPA-6%-Made with New Zealand hops, this light golden brew had a soft fruity palate and clean semi-dry finish. 8)Broken Halo-6%-A more citrusy cousin to the Nelson. Less fruity, more sharp & bitter. 9)Resurrection Rye-6.6%-Deep golden with creamy head, soft palate, and citrus aroma. Pine tree in a glass. Hoppy, bitter, dry. 10)Albina District Amber-5.8%-Deep amber malty brew with semi-dry bittersweet finish. 11)Barley-wine-9.5%-Deep amber w/ thin head & butterscotch nose. Great mix of malt and hops. Smooth and long dry complex finish.

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    Horse Brass: sitting on a park bench

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 26, 2009

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    We arrived at Horse Brass around 5:30 in the afternoon. I had to use the rest room immediately and left my wife at the bar to save a couple seats. It wasn't crazy busy but you never know about bar seats. I was not gone long but by the time I returned Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull) was chatting up my bird. Like Aqualung period Ian. Sitting on a park bench...da, da, da....eying up little girls with bad intent. The problem was the girl in question was my wife. Okay, I didn't really overreact. I just came out and stood next to her and asked her what she wanted to drink. He turned out to not only be a lech but the publican of the pub.

    He asked if I was with the object of his obvious desire and when I nodded yes, he said he had offered to buy her a beer and he reckoned he owed me one as well. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we both ordered a couple pints and old Ian headed off, snot running down his nose, and smearing greasy fingers on his shabby clothes.

    Ok, back to the Horse Brass. I had been there in 1994 and just loved the place. At the time, I was a fanatic for an English pub having done a semester abroad in the UK. It hadn't changed a bit since my last visit and maybe not since I had done that semester abroad in 1978! But I had changed. It didn't seem quite as cool but it was definitely an English pub. A grotty one but very English. The beer selection was not a disappointment in the least. Having spent a good part of the early afternoon at Widmers Brewery, however, I had to stick to one genre and in an English put, you have to go with cask-conditioned ale. That was fine as the Horse Brass had five of them from Oregon all being hand pulled. You can't argue with their authenticity there.

    First up was the Dry Hopped Amber from Clinton Street Brewery just up the road which was soft amber well-balanced session beer with a semi-dry clean finish. This one went down like it was free. Oh, it was free. It would have been good even if I paid for it.Next, I went with the Young's Brutal Bitter, Rogue's masterful brew that you cannot even get cask-conditioned at the brewery. It is a regular here at Horse Brass. This English style session ale is well balanced with a great hoppy palate that is not overly bitter.My wife had Mt. Hood Brewing's Hogsback Oatmeal Stout. It was black with a rocky tan head and a dried fruit nose. The palate was a combination of dried fruit and espresso and it finished bittersweet and dry. Gorgeous. It was so good, we started planning a visit to Mt. Hood just to go to the brewery. Ok, I started planning it but Doreen loved the beer too. Hey, it was her free beer.

    Favorite Dish: Next up, I went with the Ninkasi Brewery's (Eugene, OR) Believer Double Red which at 6.9% was an extremely smooth deep garnet brew with a massive citrus hop aroma. A great mix of malt and hops but in the end, the bitter long dry finish wins out. I finished up with another Mt. Hood beer, their Pittock Wee Heavy which at 8.5% was an amped up Scotch ale. Dried fruit and bit citrus nose. Semi-sweet and semi-dry. Nice but in small doses.

    After the free pints, we ordered up a beef & mushroom pie and a scotch egg, two English standbys. They were pretty good, not overly expensive, but not big. We had a big late lunch but with all these strong cask ales to try we figured we better get some sustenance in us. Overall, it was a good experience. It was not what I remembered but that was probably as much to do with me as with the pub. It was quite smoky and can only imagine what it's like when busy. I guess back in 1994 all pubs were smoky but Oregon is one of the last states that still allows it and being a non-smoker. I don't really like it. Anyway, the place and food are just good but you can't argue with the beer selection especially if you are into cask-conditioned ales. To make my point, we later went all the way to Mt. Hood Brewing and they didn't even have their own Oatmeal Stout in cask form. So, we would have completely missed that if not for Horse Brass. They do not have a happy hour but their prices are some of best in town and pints are all Imperial sized (20 ounces). For three pints, two small meals, and tip, it came to $23. Our other two pints were of course free. Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea. If you are into beer, Horse Brass is still not to be missed. Just bring your bird to the loo.

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    Deschutes Brewery & Public House: and you don't even had to go to Bend

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 26, 2009

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    Deschutes is another of Oregon's craft brewing legends that has gone regional. It has its roots in Bend, Oregon and I went all the way out to the Oregon desert just to visit this pub in 1994. It was well worth it. I was happy to see that they had since opened a branch in Portland, actually just before we arrived. This saved us a lot of time and gas (and money!).

    The new pub is right in the Pearl District of town so quite convenient and as you can imagine the pub is trendy. That said, it maintains a certain rustic charm despite its upscale furnishings. The restaurant has an open feel to it with large windows and high ceilings. The beams up above are part of what gives it a mountain lodge kind of feel. There are also buzz saw carved sculptures for good measure. The bar is long and smartly decorated. A window into the brew kettles is set in an ornate picture frame, another homey effect.

    The bartender was quick, attentive and friendly. We had already eaten a good size lunch as we had scoped our their menu on the Internet to find it a bit pricey. So, we got right to work on the beers.

    Favorite Dish: I got a free sample of the Crazy Buffalo-5.8%-made of spelt (a medieval wheat-like grain), it was a smooth amber brew with a slight medicinal minty finish. I opted for a full pint of cask-conditioned Bachelor Bitter which was amber with a thin lasting head and flora hop nose. The great balanced session ale uses Kent hops and has a true soft English palate and flavor profile. Dry hoppy finish but plenty of malt to keep you coming back for more. Doreen was not happy they were out of their cask Black Butte Porter so opted for a nitro Obsidian Stout which was black with a dense tan head and espresso flavor. It finished semi-dry and bittersweet. It was tough for me to not have another cask beer but the D Street Dubbel-7.1%-sounded interesting. It was deep amber with a dense thin head and a nose of dried fruit and yeast. This primarily malty brew had some raisin notes but seemed a bit simple for the style. It was better as it warmed up and with some food. Despite having had eaten lunch, we were tempted by their House Baked Pretzel ($6) which came out with a melted white cheddar dipping sauce which was still piping hot and house made Black Butte Mustard. It was very tasty and suddenly the Dubbel seemed not so bad. We finished up by sharing their Mirror Mirror Barley-wine11.5%-Deep amber w/ thick head that thinned but lingered. The nose was of caramel and dried fruit. The big malty palate again had notes of fig but was well balanced by a good addition of hops. This was far too easy to drink for the strength. We came back the next afternoon and Doreen was happy to find her Black Butte Porter back in cask form. This black beauty had a creamy tan head and rich coffee palate that dried out beautifully in the clean bitter finish. Of course, we had another pretzel and Mirror Mirror. It was hard to resist. We spent about $25 each days for a few beers and the pretzel/cheese combo.

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    Bridgeport Brewery & Bakery: one of the great cask-conditioned outlets in US

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 26, 2009

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    I have so many fond memories about Bridgeport Brewing. I fell in love with the place in 1994 when it was one of the few places in an otherwise industrial area of Portland that has since become a hotbed of condominium growth. Four years later when returning from a long Alaska trip that was in no way to bring me to Portland, I wound up in town when a friend found himself there on business. With no map and no planning, my old Honda Civic found that pub like it was divine intervention. Who needs a GPS when you have a nose for beer?

    So, when coming to town on an extended trip around the western US in 2008, Bridgeport was firmly in my sights. The area had changed but so had a lot of Portland and I guess if I owned one of the condos next to Bridgeport I would say for the better. The brewery had expanded considerably with a large loft style second story with high ceiling and a decided upscale but hip atmosphere. Many reviews on the Internet prior to my latest visit lamented over the loss of a craft brewing icon but we found the place amazing. The atmosphere was electric but not overly busy. We weren't looking for a meat market or to hook up so we enjoyed that it wasn't crazy or loud. There were plenty of people there but it was spacious so it never felt crowded. We managed to get seats on a cool little sofa in the corner that had us thinking we should be enjoying a local Stumptown coffee and not a locally made beer.

    We went for their highly touted Happy Hour from 4-6 which even cynics deemed the best in town. Imperial Pints (20 ounces) of their renowned cask-conditioned ales were a mere $2.75. For people like us from the east coast, we nearly choked on the price. It was like a third of a NYC beer specialty bar. So, you might figure they would hammer you on the food but nope. They have plenty of specials for food during this two very happy hours.We got a pizza both times we went and for $10, it was ample for both of us. This was a full size pie, not an individual serving. It was brick oven, crispy, chewy good.

    Favorite Dish: They also had a great olive plate for a few bucks that came with some house backed bread. The olives were very good quality too, not some cheapie pimento stuffed green can jobs. Okay, we were here for the beer and we made sure to have plenty of that. Bridgeport is noted for their cask-conditioned beers. They generally have all their beers on regular tap and about four of them in cask form as well. It is a much softer, less carbonated style of serving and you should give it an open minded try. It is typical of England and I have loved the stuff since doing a semester abroad there in the 70s. So, be sure to ask for cask if that is what you want.

    When we arrived, we sat at the downstairs bar and the bartender got us a few beers before saying he was shutting down and it was much cooler upstairs. He didn't even charge us for the two beers he'd given us. The Rope Walk Amber-5.6%-was a session beer extroidinaire with a bready malt palate that dried ever so slightly in the bitterish finish. Doreen had the Black Strap Stout-6%-served via nitro-which was black with creamy tan head and a big chocolate coffee bitter palate. It finished semi-dry and bittersweet. Upstairs at our little couch and with a pizza on the way, I opted for the Blue Heron-4.9%-another session beer with a soft hoppy palate and light floral hop nose. It's clean dry finish was moreish. I followed that up wit their IPA-5.5%-a lightly filtered honey hued brew with a strong citrus hop nose. It's citruy grapefruit palate dried out in the be bitter finish. While the brewery is not noted for its wild experimentation, it does craft amazing drinkable session beers in the English style but with a decided northwest twist. If you are looking for big beers, this is not your place. If you want to go somewhere and have a great conversation while drinking a lot of beer and not getting stupid drunk, this is craic central.

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    31 flavors (Baskin-Robbins): There's always room for ice cream!

    by ATXtraveler Written Jun 8, 2004

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    I realize that this is a chain and that you probably have one close to you, making the Portland one not as special, but I definitely wanted to send a reminder out to you that there is always room for ice cream!

    This franchise is owned by the Kim family, and Jaewook was working when I went in there. She was very nice and I would highly recommend this location!

    Favorite Dish: Well, there is now yogurt, sugarfree, and regular ice creams, so pick a new one and try it!

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    Mayas Taqueria: Good option for a quick lunch downtown

    by Jefie Updated Dec 5, 2010

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    As I was walking back from my second trip to Powell's Books, I spotted this colourful Mexican restaurant and decided to stop there for lunch. Mayas Taqueria is a Mexican/Tex-Mex fast food kind of place, with a huge selection of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and so on. I decided to order the burrito al pastor (pork marinated with onions and pineapples) and got to pick which type of beans I wanted, which was kind of nice. My burrito was filled to the brim and came with nacho chips and salsa - it was so filling that even though it was really good, I couldn't finish my plate. The one thing the place was lacking though is a little bit of ambience. Although there was a bit of salsa music playing in the background and a nice seating area on the second floor (and they have a full bar menu), it still felt first and foremost like a fast food place. It was fine for me since I didn't have that much time, but it did take a bit away from the experience.

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    Pastini Pastaria: Pasta a la Portland!

    by Jefie Updated Dec 26, 2010

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    As it's often the case in Portland, Pastini Pastaria is proud to include as many local products as possible in its recipes, which results in fresh, flavourful, and sometimes unusual pasta dishes. To give you an idea, I ordered the butternut squash-gorgonzola ravioli, served with a sage brown butter sauce, toasted hazelnuts and fresh parmesan. Needless to say, I'd never had anything quite like it before, and it was absolutely delicious! And it went really well with the glass of Italian red wine our waiter recommended (their wine list features several local products, but they also import wine from small Italian wineries). It's hard to describe the ambience of the restaurant since we were there in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday so it was kind of quiet, but service was fast and friendly, and the downtown restaurant (there are 3 other locations in Portland) is located in a really nice historic building (Studio Building), featuring high ceilings, tall columns, and beautiful pictures of Italy.

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    Voodoo Doughnut: "The Magic is in the Hole!"

    by Jefie Written Dec 4, 2010

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    As we were walking around the Old Town district on the "Portland Underground" tour, our guide had to explain why there was a line-up at a doughnut shop on a Wednesday afternoon. The truth is, there's always a line-up at Voodoo Doughnut, no matter what time of the day or night it is! Voodoo Doughnut hasn't been around for that long (the first shop opened in 2003) but it quickly gained quite a reputation thanks to its "novelty doughtnuts" - for who wouldn't want to try a bacon and maple syrup doughtnut or the six-in-one Tex-Ass doughnut?! The love affair between Portlanders and these weird doughnuts has kept growing over the years, to the point where Voodoo Doughnuts has now become one of the city's top attractions and a surpringly popular place to get married (for $200 they'll get someone to perform the ceremony and throw in doughnuts and coffee for all your guests!). I hope no one will hate me for saying so but to be honest, these were not the best doughnuts I've ever eaten, far from it. However, nothing beats ordering an "old dirty bastard" at 9:00 in the morning with heavy metal music blasting on the speakers and a guy in a leather jacket working at the counter!

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  • Basta's Trattoria: The most delicious Italian outside of Italy

    by Pinguino Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    It's the most authentic Italian eatery I've found, yet. Complete with delicious wines and seasonal treats. I've never had anything less than impressive here.

    I love that you will find every kind of person here, in every type of clothing.. enjoying wonderful food in great ambience without judgement.

    Favorite Dish: Wild Boar, when it's in season!

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    MAZATLAN: Mexican food.

    by Aquamantos Written Aug 13, 2003

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    You can find this restaurant in Portland, McMinnville and Bend (on the way to Sunriver).
    They're nicely decorated, lot of colors and flowers, like in Mexico. Very neat.
    You'l be attended by bilingual Mexican people, all of them very friendly :o)

    Favorite Dish: What I love from Mexican food is shrimps with cream and of course their famous dessert: "Flan de Leche" hmmm!!!!!.

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    Hall Street Grill: Fine Dining Experience

    by Hopkid Written Jun 3, 2006

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    Hall Street Grill is actually in nearby Beaverton. The restaurant is bright and cheerful and definitely upscale. But the staff are warm and friendly...not pretentious personalities were in evidence during our visit. The menu has a Pacific Northwest theme in many of the dishes featuring fresh locally-produced ingredients. Our server mentioned that the night's special was the Copper River Wild Salmon. He added that the salmon run had been shortened for the season and that there would be few opportunities remaining this year to taste this delicacy. He also warned us that the dish was $39. Neverheless, three in our party of four ordered the salmon which by the way was the best salmon I had ever tasted! Full of flavor not found in farm-raised salmon and cooked to perfection. We also started with the Dungeness crab spring rolls

    We also indulged in some dessert, sharing two dishes amongst the four of us. We chose the creme brulee and the cholocate cake, both of which were top notch. They also have a nice selection of wines and beers (many produced in Oregon).

    Favorite Dish: If they have the Copper River Wild Salmon, don't hesitate to order it! Fireball molten chocolate cake.

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    Pambiche: Viva comida Cubano!

    by Hopkid Updated Jun 12, 2006

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    Located in the bottom floor of a pink and yellow pastel-painted building, Pambiche offers up some of the best Cuban food I've ever had. The small interior is likewise designed with some of the same color scheme as the outside and provides a great atmosphere. There are only 12 or so tables and a bar that can accomodate 4 diners. Sitting at the bar really give you an idea of the organization of the personnel, all of whom speak English and Spanish. I got the impression there were a couple of generations working back there with the older matriarch coming int to see how things were running with the younger generation filling orders and waiting tables.

    The menu is filled (and it is large) with authentic dishes: meats, seafood, salads, you name it. Dishes are colorful and well-spiced. That is to say that they are very tasty rather than spicy (hot). There is also a large dessert menu.

    Seriously...DO NOT MISS THIS RESTAURANT!!!

    Favorite Dish: Lengua en salsa (pork slow-simmered in a tomato-based sauce), seafood empanadas, limonada y guaracho (fresh squeezed sugar cane and lime juice served over ice), Cuban coffee

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    Nel Centro: Good for dinner, probably better for happy hour

    by Jefie Written Dec 4, 2010

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    Since we arrived rather late in the evening in Portland, we decided to keep it simple and stop by the hotel's restaurant for dinner. Nel Centro is located at the Modera Hotel, and its menu features Mediterranean dishes inspired by both Italian and French fine cuisine. The restaurant is just as nice as the hotel, with a lively bar section and a dining room section that's a bit more quiet and romantic. The menu offers some really interesting options, but I guess I was out of luck that night: first, I ordered the herb gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce, but after a few minutes our waiter came back to tell me they were out for the evening. So I decided to try the butternut squash tortelloni with sage butter, but again our waiter came back - deeply embarrassed and apologizing profusely - and told me they were out. In the end I decided to go with an appetizer platter (hazelnut crusted goat cheese, peperonata and tapenade), and although it's not the kind of meal I had in mind, I was still pleased with my choice because everything was really good. I also tried a bit of Sylvain's ravioli nicoise with butter and parmesan and it was good, but for $15 I would have expected something more special, or at least a bigger portion. So all in all, we enjoyed our meal and the atmosphere but we did leave somewhat disappointed, which is why I would recommend this place for happy hour (when it's cheaper) instead of dinner.

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