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#1 sacman

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 11:01 PM

Otto
1852 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
503-517-7770
Web site
Menu

Why aren't more of you going to Otto? sacdad was in town tonight with his wife, me and mine and he and his went to Otto. Me and my wife had been last week, so we knew the food was good. We also didn't want to hit any place downtown, because we were feeling particularly crowd-phobic.

Lucky us. It was great. And inexpensive; the whole menu is part of Dining Month Portland.

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They started us with an amuse of warm herbed gougeres. They were not made entirely of soft flour, having a more rustic bent.

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But they were herby and cheesy and fresh. Great way to start the meal.

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Here's a "perennial cooler," which is a nonalcoholic drink made with fresh lemon and rosemary honey mixed with ginger beer. Very refreshing.

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My dad started with the sausage and potato blintz with fresh horseradish. I had this last week, and it's excellent. The crepe sits in a pool of demiglace, and is stuffed with flavorful sausage. It's a smallish dish, just about the right size for an appetizer. Were it larger, it'd probably be a little too heavy.

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This is their salad-as-appetizer offering: baby spinach, treviso, sorrel, hazelnuts, gruyere, and a verjus vinaigrette. Big thumbs-up from those who ordered it. Very fresh, and the dressing was well-balanced.

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I ordered the gravlax, and was presented with this beautiful plate. The fish is cured in-house, and presented atop a buckwheat blini with sour cream, dill, whole-grain mustard, capers, and pickled onion. Also on the plate is a miniature salad with a small pool of vinaigrette. This was also delicious. The fish had a nice, clean taste - not terribly salty.

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There was also some citrus rind draped across the top of the cream.

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The bread is from Little T.

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This is the grilled prawn dish, served with vegetables, sesame, jasmine rice, and saffron coconut milk. I didn't try it, but it got raves from the person who ordered it. The shrimp were very large and meaty.

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We also ordered the tamarind-braised oxtails. I had this last week, too. The dish is rich and meaty, and is served with lentils, Swiss chard, and mushrooms. Total comfort food. It's fork tender, as you'd expect. The tamarind didn't overwhelm the dish. A definite winner.

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For the heck of it, I decided to order the lobster roll. It's served a la carte on a warm brioche roll. It's filled with big chunks of lobster in a mayonnaise-based sauce. Very good.

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My wife ordered the lamb shank. It was also superbly tender, and was accompanied with a braised cabbage that was spiked with san marzano tomatoes. The lamb was excellent, no doubt. Surprisingly, though, the vegetables are more memorable to me. They were slightly soured, and very rich - almost decadently so. A great dish with loads of flavor. Loads, I tell you.

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I forget what this was actually called on the dessert menu, but it was basically a cream puff stuffed with strawberries on a rhubarb puree. Pretty good, if not astounding. Tasted like it looks, and it looks pretty good.

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For the gluten-free crowd, there's a poached pear dessert on the menu. It was served with fresh raspberries, candied lemon peel, creme anglaise, and a whiskey caramel sauce. It got an enthusiastic response from my wife.

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The best dessert of the night, though, was a chocolate mousse cake. It was presented with fresh strawberries, a scoop of sherbet, whipped cream, and more of that yummy whiskey caramel sauce.

Service was very good again. How could it not have been? We arrived at 7 pm and were the only customers. Three other tables came and went while we ate. When we left at 8:45 or so, we were again the only customers. Why?

The quality of the food is very, very good. It's also very consistent. It's also (at this moment, at least) very inexpensive. They should be packed, right? Maybe not right. I do have some thoughts on that.

There does seem to be a lack of focus on the menu. There are loads of European items on the menu: gravlax, pate, blintzes, duck confit, gougeres. Why, then, is there the Thai-influenced grilled prawn dish? And how about the tamarind-braised oxtails? Also a SE Asian-tinged dish. It's not really fusion, because there are lots of straightforward, non-fusioney dishes on the menu. And where did the idea for a brioche lobster roll come from? Don't get me wrong; this was all appealing and delicious food, but I could see how it might be called confusing by some.

In fact, my stepmother asked me several times before we arrived to describe Otto to her. And I had a hard time doing it. I asked the server a little later how she'd answer that question. Her answer was sorta kinda like mine: "Well, it's seasonal modern American cuisine with some twists," or something like that. Maybe that's accurate, but who says to their spouse, "Hey, you want to go out for some seasonal modern American cuisine with some twists?" Is this making any sense? And also: the name itself conjures up the idea of something similar to Gruner.

Let's also not forget that the chef is brand-new to Portland. There's no recognizable name associated with the restaurant. The chef/owner is Francis Stanton, who moved from Michigan to Oregon specifically to open Otto.

But anyway, we had a fabulous meal. Want a comparison? Think of it as sort of a slightly downscale Metrovino, with a more limited menu. The wine list is also a little limited, but there's a full bar.

Total, including tip, a bottle of wine, and one nonalcoholic drink, was $165. For four people. Such a steal. And they didn't add the auto-grat this time, so I guess we've joined that club at long last.

-sacman
- I am an employee of a Portland-based firm that has business relationships with several local food-related businesses.

#2 Catastrophysicist

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 03:07 PM

I must have walked past on a walk with my daughter right when you were sitting down. I thought to myself, it looks nice in there, I can't believe it's so empty. Now, I really can't believe it. Looks pretty good to me. . .

#3 queenbee

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 03:16 PM

Nice write up dude! And the photos turned out so much better than the first time we went. I am so glad we took our guests to Otto. They loved it. My mother-in-law posted a nice write up on TripAdvisor about it.

I was very happy to see a gluten-free dessert on their menu. Last week when we went there were two desserts--neither were gluten-free. The chef ended up doing something just for me, which was unexpected, but very much appreciated.

And that perennial cooler? Really fantastic! They can make it alcoholic, but it's billed on the menu as a non-alcoholic drink (I think).

#4 ASquared

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 05:24 PM

Total, including tip, a bottle of wine, and one nonalcoholic drink, was $165. For four people. Such a steal. And they didn't add the auto-grat this time, so I guess we've joined that club at long last.-sacman


The menu says that they add 20% gratuity for those ordering the Portland Dining Month deal.

#5 Egads

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 08:30 PM

Hey, great pics and writeup, Sacman. You've done them a big favor with this post, I think. I think you're right that the lack of focus is sort of a buzzkill for this place...and to me, without knowing anything about the food, seeing the menu tells me it's the mark of a chef who is trying to do too much to please too many people. "Want Asian food? Ok, we've got the prawns! Latin American? Try the oxtail! French? Try the..." etc. But the way you describe the dishes makes me think maybe the chef just likes a bunch of different stuff and wants to cook it. Which is cool with me. Looks like a decent spot--thanks for this post.

#6 sacman

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 08:58 PM

Total, including tip, a bottle of wine, and one nonalcoholic drink, was $165. For four people. Such a steal. And they didn't add the auto-grat this time, so I guess we've joined that club at long last.-sacman


The menu says that they add 20% gratuity for those ordering the Portland Dining Month deal.


Right. They did add it to last week's bill, but not this week's. Last week, they also didn't add it to MSG's bill either.

-sacman
- I am an employee of a Portland-based firm that has business relationships with several local food-related businesses.

#7 Amanda

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 07:46 AM

This place sounds really, really good to me and the photos have me sold. Lobster rolls in PDX? Yowza! Even if it's not focused, the things you ordered have me drooling. I'd go for that Thai curry shrimp. No problem.

Best regards,

Amanda

#8 Angelhair

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 11:01 AM

This place sounds really, really good to me and the photos have me sold. Lobster rolls in PDX? Yowza! Even if it's not focused, the things you ordered have me drooling. I'd go for that Thai curry shrimp. No problem.

Best regards,

Amanda


Go before the month is out. The dining meal deal is great there! It's your choice of any app, entree and dessert.

#9 Amanda

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 07:22 AM

Jill-O and I went here last week and it is everything everyone says and more. I really loved it. We had the salad, the sausage blintz, the Neptune roll, and the tamarind oxtails that are shown in Sacman's photos above. We also had the shrimp fritters. The quinoa tabbouleh that comes with is really delicious and refereshing. We also had a couple desserts, one of which had ice cream and brownie points. The other was the poached pear. That was a surprising revalation. I wasn't expecting that to be as good as it was based on the description, but it was awesome.

I can say nothing but great things about everything we ate here. What a magnificent meal. The blintz was crazy good beyond my wildest dreams. I can't even say what my favorite dish was because they were all so wonderful. They've done a nice job with the space. I'm coming back again for sure. I was extremely happy with our meal!

Best regards,

Amanda

#10 Jill-O

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 12:08 PM

Yeah, that was a very good meal (especially the company! ;o). There was no ice cream in our desserts and the plating was different for the poached pears. I really liked the Neptune roll, and that sausage blintz and the quinoa tabouleh with the shrimp fritters was delicious. I would definitely return. Good service too, and we did not get charged and automatic gratuity fee, though we ordered an extra dish and some glasses of wine...
Never give up! Never surrender!

#11 Plump_and_Juicy

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 01:25 PM


This place sounds really, really good to me and the photos have me sold. Lobster rolls in PDX? Yowza! Even if it's not focused, the things you ordered have me drooling. I'd go for that Thai curry shrimp. No problem.

Best regards,

Amanda


Go before the month is out. The dining meal deal is great there! It's your choice of any app, entree and dessert.


Mr. P&J and I are going Wednesday evening. Y'all got me excited.

#12 sacman

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 07:39 PM

Hey, so are we! We'll be there at 6...maybe see you there!

-sacman
- I am an employee of a Portland-based firm that has business relationships with several local food-related businesses.

#13 Plump_and_Juicy

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 03:16 PM

I think we'll be there at 6:30 or so. We're leaving from Multnomah Village at 6.

#14 sacman

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 08:00 PM

Well, we went tonight again and it was awesome. Was happy to see they had about a half-dozen tables full.

New stuff we had: pork cheeks with cabbage ragout, and the pate plate. The pate plate - wow, it had four different kinds of pates, plus four different types of pickle presentations.

There's but one day left of Dining Month...get in while the gettin's good.

-sacman
- I am an employee of a Portland-based firm that has business relationships with several local food-related businesses.

#15 Amanda

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 08:29 AM

We may be headed to Otto this evening. I just can't get their food off my mind and I'm craving that non-alcoholic cooler drink they have there. I'm not sure what the love of my life will think of it, but I know I can drag him there at least once and get away with it. I'm hoping he'll love it as much as I do.

Best regards,

Amanda

#16 nagrom

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 08:58 AM

Went last night for the first time. I'd heard good stuff here and from a friend and we were not disappointed. Great food, yes the pate plate was delicious. I had the escolar which was cooked perfectly and went great with the corn salad that it came with. All in all a great new addition to the neighborhood, even without the Portland Dining Month deals. I hope they do well as they've got great food at reasonable prices and a friendly staff. The wine list had a couple of gems on it, like the Pecorino (Italian white wine) in addition to some more recognizable wines. I hope to try the Neptune Roll (lobster, crab, shrimp sando) next time!

#17 Plump_and_Juicy

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 03:32 PM

Nagron, were you part of the group sitting near the front window? Mr P&J and I were sitting next to you if so, and Sacman and his group were at the bar. My thoughts on Otto:

One of the best meals I've had, with one exception. I loved my blintz - the pasta was perfectly cooked so my fork floated through it on its way to the meat filling. And the demiglace was fabulous. I loved the bite of the fresh horseradish. Mr P&J had the shrimp fritters which were great but I didn't care for the dipping sauce that came with it. We both got the escobar, and that's where I would quibble. The corn/green bean salad tasted very fresh and the two fritters on the plate were delicious. With each second they were in my mouth, the taste changed. I thought I tasted celery seed at first, and then a wave of Indian spices followed and kept on rolling more flavors. I think - I really have no idea what was in them, but they were perhaps my favorites of the meal. I usually eat white fish with very little flavor - like trout - so the escobar was too strong and fishy for my taste. I should have had the lamb shank or the short ribs. Next time I will.

We shared both desserts - the strawberry shortcake and the poached pear. I think the pear won. It was perfectly poached, with crystallized ginger, berries and candied nuts. The sauces were perfect - they highlighted the fruit very nicely. The strawberry shortcake had a beautiful strawberry component. The biscuits were hard, which I'm sure they were intended to be but they soaked up the strawberries beautifully.

What can I say about the service? Our waitress was attentive and very helpful. She kept our water poured and ice cold. I wish every waiter or waitress was as good as she was.

We will go back. It was a superb meal. Thanks Sacman for turning us on to this place.

#18 ninevolt

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 08:24 PM

Joining the Otto chorus. Just polished off the escolar (which I thought was perfect) and I will be back for the gravlax and hopefully another serving of the poached pears. Fantastic service. There were about 5 tables when we arrived and that is not even close to enough, this place should be packed.

#19 Jill-O

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 08:29 PM

Seriously, I am worried that even with the great deal this month, the place has not been even half full by most reports. It deserves to survive, there is someone in the kitchen who cares and is making good food at a reasonable price, and the service is good too.

C'mon people, don't let this one go...
Never give up! Never surrender!

#20 Amanda

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 06:59 AM

I certainly have no intention of letting it go. I blew another bundle there last night. I took John. We had the spinach salad and the incredible sausage blintz (why do I keep wanting to call it blini?) Very happy with that.

For mains we got the boneless spare rib and the coconut shrimp curry. There was nothing spare about the spare rib. It was like a big chunk of fork-tender pot roast. I had a small bit, but John was in love with this dish and pretty much scarfed it down himself. The shrimp dish was great! The shrimp seemed pretty massive, three seriously jumbo shrimp. It had small pea pods, green beans maybe, and asparagus over rice. Perhaps a tad of scallion as well.

Desserts were great. We got the brownie dish (Jill is right - there is no ice cream). The brownie points were rich and delicious accompanied by fresh raspberry and orange and what was probably a drizzle of raspberry sauce underneath. The big winner was the strawberry shortcake. I think the menu said something about rhubarb, but there was no indication of it whatsover in the dish (which filled me with glee). This was just as good as my mom's strawberry shortcake and hers is the best there is.

Otto is my new best friend. The server is wonderful. I really like her. She's totally attentive and on top of it all. The chefs, Francis and Kim are very friendly, as well as having excellent talent in the kitchen. To me this restraurant is a dream come true. When we came in there was only one couple there, but by the time we left there were plenty of spots filled. More than half full, I'd say, but not full.

I wouldn't be surprised if, in time, Otto gets to be one of those places like Screen Door or Laurelhurst Market with a line and a waitlist. It's only been open for a couple months so I think people just haven't really discovered it yet. John was dubious, at first. Going in he didn't think there would be decent beef there and the lack of any tap beer is usually enough to make him never want to return to a place, as a general rule. However, we had wine with dinner and he was very pleased.

We've been to a few new places over the past couple months and they have been good, but Otto trumps them all. It's a great step up. People always talked about the cursed locations in this city, i.e., Calendula, Belly, Zefiro, etc., but this space has attracted great food since I moved back to PDX in the mid 90's. Ken's Place, Sel Gris, Fin and I hope it continues to be golden for Otto. It's a rising star for sure!

Best regards,

Amanda