burger-o-rama, district, new restaurant, o-rama, restaurant week, trying new restaurants

Burger-O-Rama pt2: Fine Dining

I’ve been looking at the lights of District for over 4 months now. Literally a stones throw from our apartment, the Missus and I have found ourselves saying over and over again, “We really need to check it out.” But, as days became weeks and then turned into months, we found ourselves still saying but never going. So, when the ‘Fine Dining’ was the next theme of our reviews, and I saw that District was available, I chose it to finally force our stomachs into going– especially after hearing a friend call their burger one of the best in the area.

I will say that my one regret is that we didn’t go at night, instead opting for a lunch visit late last week. The space, which was extremely quiet at lunch time, has a larger interior than the outside lets on and I could easily imagine the space packed with happy, buzzy diners. I wanted to see it at it’s full stride because it felt like we were seeing it a bit out of context. It’s not that the service lacked(in fact our waiter was very sweet and engaging and obviously loved working there) or that the food was sub-par(nothing could be further from the truth, in fact)–it was just the space itself seemed awkward not full of people. Of course, this desire to see it at it’s full potential just motivates me more to get us over there for dinner sooner than later. The quality of the food also already has me wanting to go back.

Falling at the beginning of Restaurant Week, we had their lunch menu available to us–which included a full offering of their apps and a few sandwiches–as well as a special 3 course (app, entree and dessert) offering for only $15. I will say that I was a bit miffed that my burger cost($12.00) nearly as much as the Missus’ choice for the special menu, but that was soon dissolved when her choice of in house made charcuterie arrived and she cared enough to share it with me.

A perfect quinelle of duck rillette, paired with caperberries, cornichons, mustard and crostini. From the first bite, we were believers. The rillette, one of many offerings of in house made charcuterie, was one of the best we’ve had in Portland–and we’ve had some damn fine rillettes in this town, from the former Evangeline to Bar Lola. It was creamy, flecked with whole grain mustard and cornichons and had the perfect amount of gaminess from the duck. I wanted to walk upstairs to the kitchen and give a giant hug to the chef who made it and ask him for a mason jar of it for the road.

But, you’re here for the burger, right? Now, I will admit that this is probably the first and only time I’ve ordered a hamburger at an upscale restaurant. I don’t equate the two at all in my head. Upscale dining gives you dishes you can’t make at home while it tends to be the greasy spoons that give you the burger you rave about for the rest of your life. However, it can easily be said that District makes a hell of a burger.

House cured bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato confit and the ever popular brioche bun combined with a huge 1 1/2 inch thick patty cooked to a beautiful–just slightly over rare–medium temperature and a whopping side of fries. I assume, because so much of what District offers on it’s menu is house made and local, that the beef was ground on site and traveled less than 100 miles to get to their door. Beautifully marbled meat made for an interesting time of trying to out pace the juices that ran down my chin. Though, I must admit, it was a bit odd to be wiping it away with a crisp linen napkin instead of a throw away paper one. But, it was worth the effort as the burger was beautifully seasoned and satisfying.

The ‘buttered bun’ was a fine vessel for the dense patty, airy crumb and slightly toasted. The bacon, thick cut,slightly smoky and crisp seemed to melt into the fat of the burger and made for the perfect meld of beef and pork. The cheese, a cheddar, was something I actually never order on a burger, was alright though it didn’t seem plentiful enough, or sharp enough, to really stand up to density of the whole thing. But, we know my affinity for cheese and sometimes it needs to be pretty definitive to stand out. The only thing that was kind of ‘meh’ about the whole thing was the tomato confit–which I’m still not sure that was the dressing on the burger– that was below the bibb lettuce leaf beneath the patty. It gave a slight acidic note the whole burger but, for the most part, was lost beneath the richness. After a week of barely eating,the whole meal proved to be too indulgent and half the plate came home that evening to also be my dinner.

Now, was it the best burger in Portland, as a friend mentioned? Sadly, it was not–but I didn’t really expect it to be. I expect them to rock my face off with bone marrow salads, braised beef and Schnitzel–not a burger. In fact, I would say that the pulled pork sandwich that the Missus had as part of her RW menu was a slight step above the burger as far as all around enjoyable. But, because the burger was as good as it was, and because that little taste of the duck rillette sent us over the edge with joy, we’re more likely to pop around the corner for a bite to eat–and you should too. It’s obvious, by the care, flavor balance and presentation, that there’s a hell of a lot of talent in that upstairs kitchen and I can’t wait to see what else they can do.

District on Urbanspoon

Want to read about some other burgers, visit the O-Rama gang and their reviews here, here, here, here, here and here.

can't eat anymore, Evangeline, finale, love of lists, restaurant week

33 dishes, 5 restaurants, 3 days, 2 people–Day 3 pt. 2–Finale

March 6,2010-late reservation
–Solo w/Kate and Roomie of Kate(Amy)
3 Courses for $30.10–Unofficial RW participant

First Impression: A reading from a MySpace blog entry from 2008:

What a better way to celebrate a birthday then eating all of the aforementioned? Ok, I’m sure there are better… but, I couldn’t think of one this year. I’m in love with a restaurant. No, that’s not really doing it justice. I’m in uberlust with a restaurant. I can’t stop thinking about the food…. seriously, it’s frightening. We went to Evangeline on our birthday(last tuesday)…and I still can’t get it out of my head.

This was my first impression of Evangeline and it still holds…only now I’m a little less of a fucking dork about it. Every time the Mrs. and I are able to make it in, I turn into a fat kid at Friendly’s. I am Augustus Gloop when I walk into this restaurant. Thankfully for me, the full menu wasn’t offered or I probably would have passed out at the table from a full blown coma… I have no restraint there. And, truthfully I’m ok with that.

Cervelles de Veau
:Crispy calf’s brain fritter • Cabbage • capers • Brown Butter • Bacon

Steak Frites: Roasted Culotte Steak • Creamed Spinach • Glazed pearl onions • Frites and Mayo

*Cheese: Jasper Hill Farms Caspian w/Sultanas, Local Honey

Dessert:Valrhona Chocolate Semifreddo • Pistachio Praline

My good FIF(friend-in-food) Kate did a wonderful summation of the steak in her review, so I will point you in her direction for any interest in that. I will disagree with her on the dessert as I loved the drier texture of the semi-freddo and the lightness it carried. The pistachios added a bit of nutiness and, truly, how can you go wrong with any dessert that starts out with the word “Valrhona Chocolate”?

Now, where my true desire, and highlight of the meal laid, was in the small dish of crispy calves brains. This, and the bone marrow, have been constants for me here and not once have I been disappointed. In fact, I would say that this time around was the best yet. The complexity of flavors(smoky, salty) married with the array of textures(crispy, buttery) are not easy to come by, as I recently learned while reading a recipe breakdown of the dish. A new found appreciation was found after reading that.

Breakdown: Ambiance: There are few restaurants in Portland more beautiful than Evangeline. Like Bar Lola, there is just something about the place that makes me feel comfortable the second I walk in the door. I absolutely love the wood used throughout the entire space, the mirrors that adorn the left side wall and the slightly open view of the kitchen. It is also one of the few white linen places where I’ve heard the Grateful Dead playing lightly in the background (the other was Bresca and “Stagger Lee” just the night before).

Service: Always impeccable and professional. While you could see the staff was getting antsy as we lingered at our table, they never directly made us feel rushed.

Food: Consistent as always without a single misstep in the courses. Again, I would have liked to have seen more than the RW menu offered but, perhaps it was for the best. The food fog weighed on my head (and, my god, my poor heart) by the time the last forkful was taken.

*This wasn’t a piece of Caspian… this was a whole Caspian, like it was a challenge… and I blinked.


So, the days are done. A spread out, three day over stimulation of a multitude of senses which, for the great majority of the time, were exceedingly wonderful and, for the best of moments, just exactly perfect. Truthfully, by the end of this I was ready to be done.
One thing that I noticed is that 3 of the restaurants didn’t officially participate in RW; 1 we didn’t even utilize the RW menu and the last had a different menu than what was listed on the RW website. So, what’s the moral of the story kids? Don’t use RW as an excuse to get out there, just go out and eat.

Top 5 Dishes:

5) Caramelized Banana Napoleon–Bresca
4) Beef Panaeng–BODA
3) Heritage Pork Belly–Bar Lola
2) Cervelles de Veau–Evangeline
1) Uni Pasta–Bresca

Evangeline on Urbanspoon
555, restaurant week, trying new restaurants

33 dishes, 5 restaurants, 3 days, 2 people–Day Two pt. 2

March 5,2010–late reservation

Five Fifty-Five: Our 1st trip to this much lauded Portland restaurant.
3 courses for $40.10

First Impression: Very loud, very chaotic and very crowded. Space seemed about 3x bigger than restaurants we’re use to dining at. Menu on the door, save for the entree and soup app. choice, was very different from the one listed on the RW website. Items listed below lack the most detail of all the reviews because I didn’t write down the information from the menu and, again, am working from fuzzy memory.
This review will be a bit different because the experience was different then the ones previous and the ones ahead.

1st Course
The Mrs.: Citrus Salad
fresh goat cheese, seasonal citrus, pistachios, baby greens, champagne-pomegranate vinaigrette
Me: Veal Carpaccio: Mache, vinaigrette, pickled shallot

The Mrs: Steak, brioche and great hill blue bread pudding, Brussel Sprouts
seared pepper-crusted local diver scallops… aromatic fennel-potato puree, glazed pearl onions, organic baby carrot-vanilla emulsion

Almond Financier
Dark Chocolate Tart

I’ve really tried to figure out what went wrong during this meal. It started on an off foot, with reservation issues and just never got better. So, to simplify things, I’m going to start and end the review with the ‘Breakdown.’

Ambiance: The layout of 555 is beautiful. Dark, rich woods and we were lucky enough to be seated at the upper tier, lending us a great view of the open kitchen and the odd placement of the women’s room right outside of the open kitchen. Very odd indeed. We were happy when we were seated far from the house-style bass music that was thumping in the lounge. We were deep in a line of people that seemed to have been waiting a bit for their tables and we found ourselves awkwardly getting pushed closer and closer to tables in the lounge as people came in and out.

Service: As I mentioned, it’s definitely a larger setting and crowd than we’re use to, so the frantic energy that seemed to be emanating from the waitstaff made us feel kind of edgey. Yet, while it seemed like the waitstaff was a bit in the weeds, I did see a flawless setting of apps and entrees to a table of 14+ next to us. Kudos to their waitress and the rest of the staff as it was executed like a ballet. Our waiter was fine, but definitely seemed more pleasant when he would take a moment to relax at our table side. We felt bad for him and can’t really blame him for a forgotten glass of wine.

Food: So, this is why we were here, right? From coworkers and friends I had heard mixed things about their experiences with the food here: Under seasoned, overcooked, decadent and creative. I didn’t know what to expect, but whatever expectations I lightly held I can easily say that they were not equaled. Our biggest problem was over seasoned, which plagued both the apps and the entrees. The desserts were odd, mine weirdly textured and hers “off” in flavor.

In the end our experience left us highly unimpressed.


Five Fifty-Five on Urbanspoon