Saturday, June 1, 2013

Review: Raven and Rose, Portland OR

Let's start with saying that Portland is my kind of town. Everywhere you look there are food carts, boutique coffee roasters, farmers markets and a plethora of delicious sounding restaurants. The Eater Where to Eat Now guides have become my new bible for travelling in the US (along with Where Chefs Eat) and Raven and Rose had all the signs of being exactly the kind of restaurant I like.

Housed in the historic Ladd Carriage House Raven and Rose has a Poe-esque setting sure to appeal to a goth on a foodie adventure. More importantly though it has a menu heavy on quirky meat offerings and regional wines that sits well with my tastes. 

I have a terrible habit of messing with the course orders of fine dining restaurants, ordering sides as appetizers, mixing plates and sharing family style. The staff at Raven and Rose were happy to accommodate without the slightest complaint. Dishes appeared in the combination and order we requested and they chuckled at our intent on traversing the entire menu. As seems standard in large restaurants in the US we were served by separate greeters, waitresses and sommeliers all of whom kept a steady pace and charming manner. No snooty wine suggestions or forgetful servers to be found just great service from start to finish. 

2001 R. Lopez de Heredia “Vina Tondonia Reserva”, Rioja SPA, Tempranillo  $75USD

Since we were going for mostly rich land animal proteins I went for this Rioja Tempranillo, delicious and the right price. This is definitely a wine that needs a few years though, don't order it if they're offering 2006 or after. This bottle was perfectly aged with a soft smoothness that cut through the rich meat. 

Steak tartare  $14USD

We're avid raw meat fans so steak tartare was a must. This was fantastic, excellent quality meat chopped to have texture but still smooth enough to eat raw. The spice mix however was the real winner with fresh green herbs and just the right punch of chilli. The dressing had a slight acidic quality that paired perfectly with the wine. 

Farmhouse terrine  $9USD

You know how you win me over heart and soul? Terrines and pates. Add in fresh seasonal vegetables pickled in house and a healthy serving of good quality seeded mustard and I'm in love. The great thing about this dish was that the vegetables were crisp and tart, setting off the rich smoothness of the terrine. Given that I eat primarily carb free this gave a much needed texture juxtaposition. 

Farm egg & wild greens $10USD

With all that meat we needed a few greens to cut through the fat. A farmhouse egg soft boiled is also a favourite of ours. Just look at the colour and quality of that egg, I haven't seen an egg like that since we left Japan. In the US produce of this quality is rare, saying a lot about the food culture of the kitchen at Raven and Rose.

Flatiron Steak $25USD

Flatiron steak seems to be a bit of a trend in the US food scene at the moment; getting the most out of a cheaper cut in expensive animals like Wagyu breeds. Accordingly this was the off menu special of the day. The steak is treated well with a slow roast that takes out the toughness that Flatiron can have. The jus was a delicious red wine reduction served with caramelised onion and a soft French blue. Only complaint? Americans can't stop themselves cutting your meat before they serve it to you. If you like a rarer beef as the boy does this prevents a problem as the temperature changes quickly.

Rabbit two ways, buttermilk biscuit, creamed spinach $25USD

You can almost guarantee that if there's a rabbit on the menu I will order it; even as a child I was more interested in eating bunnies than owning them. The haunch and breast of the rabbit were served with the perfect moistness - as difficult to achieve with rabbit as with turkey. I often order creamed spinach as a side - and in fact was about to do so until I realised that it came with my meal. This rendition didn't disappoint, rich, smooth and creamy and perfectly paired with the rabbit. Sadly I had to forgo the biscuit but the boy assures me it was delicious. 

Beetroot salad walnuts, endive, goat cheese $11USD

Another attempt to muck with the menu I ordered the beet salad instead of any of their listed sides. To be honest this was probably the only dish that we ordered that I wasn't wowed by. Goats cheese and beats still seems to be novelty in the US and I guess this pairing was meant to be enough on its own but really... I've had better and the puree at the bottom of the bowl left us confused. 

Butterscotch pudding, whipped cream, toasted streusel   $8USD

Eventually we will get used to US food terminology (that's a Plat principal not an Entree!) but when the boy ordered this pudding we were surprised to get what amounted to a cream pot when we were expecting a bread pudding. Not that he left a single drop in the quaint country style Mason jar. 

Lime parfait, spice biscuit, salted caramel $8USD

You might think this is my dessert but no, no cheese course and no low carb dessert options I ordered only a coffee and cognac. This is actually the boy's *second* dessert. They delivered this by mistake, fixed the mistake immediately and left the plate to a delighted but very full man. 

A nod to the after dinner drinks is also in order here. The coffee was perfectly made, strong European style coffee without the usual end of meal disappointment that so often comes with coffee in the US. They included Flights of drinks as well and while I was swayed by the Cognac flight at $44USD this was steep even though it included a very tempting Camus XO. 

Not that the prices at Raven and Rose are unreasonable, in fact when the bill came I had to snort and signed happily even after a hefty tip to the excellent serving staff. In Australia this meal would have come in a good $250 more expensive.

Summary? Food in the US can be a horrifying ethical horrorfest or a delightful boutique experience; Raven and Rose provided one of the best meals I have had since moving to this country. Good service, good choices, seasonal excellent produce and a charming location next to leafy parks. Add in a set of dish choices that seems custom made to my palette and I will be thinking fondly of this meal for years to come. 

Raven & Rose

1331 SW Broadway, Portland, OR ‎
(503) 222-7673

High end farmhouse comfort food
Worth a stop when travelling the Pacific Northwest

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