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#1 athorak

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 10:24 PM

I couldn't find an existing thread for this...

Smallwares just opened in the Beaumont neighborhood on NE Fremont in the space that used to be Doc Georges Jazz Kitchen

http://www.smallwarespdx.com/
4605 NE Fremont St.
971-229-0995

My wife and I stopped by for an early dinner tonight. Everything is in a small/shared plate format. We had:
  • kale, apple, peanut brittle, sesame vinaigrette.
  • fried squash, candied bacon, fish sauce, mint
  • somen noodles, chili paste, sesame, fried egg, hijiki
  • oxtail curry, scotch bonnet, plantain chips, coconut

Everything was really quite good, although the kale and apple salad was probably the highlight of the meal for both of us. It was just excellent. We also really, really liked the squash dish. This is our neighborhood and for some reason it seems to attract pretty mediocre food, so we are very excited to have this place open up. It will be a regular stop for us if the food continues to be as good as what we had tonight.

Service was friendly and efficient, but there were not a lot of other groups there. $52 before tip for the above dishes, a side of rice and one beer. We left with some leftovers and were pretty stuffed.

It looks like they are also working on a bar behind the main restaurant space that has signage up as "barwares". Still under construction, but seemed pretty far along.

#2 iheartfromage

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 09:47 AM

Brief review...

We were among the many people who were checking out Smallwares for the first time last night. All in all, a good experience and we'll return. We started with three small plates -- oysters, scallops and salmon -- followed by a bowl of somen noodles and the hangar steak for my husband, along with two glasses and sake and one cocktail. Everything was tasty and service quite good considering the short time they've been open...but I'll admit to a bit of sticker shock when the bill came.

None of the prices on the menu struck us as out of whack when we were ordering, but the small plates (at least the ones we chose last night) really are quite small...and things added up quickly. We left feeling rather giddy that there's an interesting new spot in our 'hood that we'd happily return to, but a bit bummed that we ended up having a $100 meal that didn't feel like a $100 meal.

All of this said, this part of NE desperately needed this new addition and they're off to a great start, so I hope they stick around. We'll do our part to contribute to their longevity..we may just make slightly different ordering choices in the future.

#3 Jill-O

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 12:21 PM

Went to smallwares on 3/13, finally have a minute to put up some of the photos.

Place is nice enough, lots of window/light.

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This was the menu that night:

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We started with the scallop sashimi:

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This was really delicious. Maybe even my fave of the night. Creamy, rich, delicate slices of scallop with a tangy miso sauce and the crunch of the crispies with a little fresh green hit of sprouts...very, very nice.

The Kale Salad was good too. Large serving, crisp/tart/sweet apples with a nutty brittle and sesame accent:

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The tempura squash was another delicious dish. Very light batter, crisp, with the tang/funk of fish sauce and freshness of mint and sweet/salty/crunchy little bits of candied bacon:

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The tempura is served atop the sauce, so you can mix it up, but it mostly stays crispy. It's so good, that it went fast...so it never got soggy anyway. ;o)

This is the kombu-cured salmon with labne, apple, and meyer lemon:

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IMO, it was the least exciting and delicious dish of the night. I didn't really taste anything on the salmon, it was like a flavorless gravlax. The tiny dollops of labne were lost inside the salmon, and the shallot/onion and apple kind of overpowered everything. I didn't taste any meyer lemon, and though the texture of the "dirt" (not really sure what it was, I have since forgotten, if I ever knew) was interesting, this dish just didn't do it for me. To be fair, texturally, this dish shined - firm cured fatty fish, crisp and juicy apple and onion, crunchy and dry "dirt, creamy labne...but otherwise, meh.

We got a freebie of the mapo dofu, which I just tasted. The custard was creamy and the pork topping was appropriately tangy and salty - it was nice for what it was, but it isn't really my thing. If it is your thing, you should order it, because it is a very good version:

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Last dish was the oxtail curry:

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They were in a nice coconut milk curry sauce with crispy plantain chips and came with a side of a spicy habanero sauce...the side of rice was $1 extra. It was the most expensive dish on the menu at $16 and not that small a plate. I thought it was absolutely delicious, rich and succulent meat (yes, I did pick up the bones and suck them dry, what of it? ;o) in a great sauce, and that habanero sauce on the side was great - hot, but great in that wonderful fruity/hot way habaneros have.

This was way too much food for 2 people, but we got caught up in ordering new things that sounded good...so our $70+ bill (with a soda and 2 cocktails) is higher than most would incur for 2, unless you drink more. The food alone was $65-70.

I like Smallwares. I have a hard time not comparing it to Wafu, which I like better, but they are not the same. It is pricy for the neighborhood, and I hope they can make a go of it there, because they are doing some very interesting stuff and I definitely want to go back. They have some nice cocktails, and some sake and wine and beer choices. The bar menu is set up by flavor profile: funky, fruity, fizzy, etc. And it appears that they are going to open a proper bar space next door. Bathroom is not connected to the restaurant indoors, you have to go outside and then back in to use a common bathroom that is shared with the building, but it might be conected when the bar space is open...not sure. Bar is going to be called "barwares."

So there ya go. I'd be interested to hear what others have thought of it.

And yes, these pics were taken with my new Canon SX230. I did not re-touch them or process them in any way.
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#4 Quo Vadis

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 12:34 PM

While I have a long policy of not disparaging other restaurants- and this isn't even a disparaging of the restaurant so I hope no one will be offended.... I could really go the rest of my life without seeing "dirt" as a menu description. Then again, my menu is full of random exclamations and profanity so who am I to talk..? But still.... dirt?
Methinks I am like a man, who having struck on many shoals, and having narrowly escap'd shipwreck in passing a small frith, has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe under these disadvantageous circumstances-Hume

#5 FoodKid

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 12:39 PM

While I have a long policy of not disparaging other restaurants- and this isn't even a disparaging of the restaurant so I hope no one will be offended.... I could really go the rest of my life without seeing "dirt" as a menu description. Then again, my menu is full of random exclamations and profanity so who am I to talk..? But still.... dirt?

Maybe they're trying to copy Noma?

#6 Quo Vadis

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 12:48 PM


While I have a long policy of not disparaging other restaurants- and this isn't even a disparaging of the restaurant so I hope no one will be offended.... I could really go the rest of my life without seeing "dirt" as a menu description. Then again, my menu is full of random exclamations and profanity so who am I to talk..? But still.... dirt?

Maybe they're trying to copy Noma?


I first started seeing "dirt" on menus as far back as I think... 1999.
At the time I was tickled because it reminded me of Raising Arizona.
"and when there was no meat, we ate fowl and when there was no fowl, we ate crawdad and when there was no crawdad to be found, we ate dirt."

but now... I dunno
Methinks I am like a man, who having struck on many shoals, and having narrowly escap'd shipwreck in passing a small frith, has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe under these disadvantageous circumstances-Hume

#7 Jill-O

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 12:53 PM

Thing is, it wasn't even described that way on the menu, the dish just came adorned with it...and I know the server said it was "dirt" and said what it was, but I just don't remember...

But yeah, it would be fine if no one ever served me anything called "dirt" again.
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#8 Quo Vadis

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:24 PM

But yeah, it would be fine if no one ever served me anything called "dirt" again.


You say that now.. but just wait til there's no more crawdad :w00t:
Methinks I am like a man, who having struck on many shoals, and having narrowly escap'd shipwreck in passing a small frith, has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe under these disadvantageous circumstances-Hume

#9 jmatt

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 11:06 PM

Have to admit, I like the whole "inauthentic Asian" thing.

#10 sacman

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 11:14 PM

I'm with QV. It's like that diner on the east coast advertising a "garbage plate." And there's a steakhouse in Vegas that sells a "garbage salad." F-ing gross.

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#11 jmatt

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 05:32 PM

I'm with QV. It's like that diner on the east coast advertising a "garbage plate." And there's a steakhouse in Vegas that sells a "garbage salad." F-ing gross.

-sacman


The garbage plate is a Rochester, NY thing. It's a hellacious mash of food, but very, very good late at night, drunk & hungry.

#12 joeleatspdx

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 08:44 PM


I'm with QV. It's like that diner on the east coast advertising a "garbage plate." And there's a steakhouse in Vegas that sells a "garbage salad." F-ing gross.

-sacman


The garbage plate is a Rochester, NY thing. It's a hellacious mash of food, but very, very good late at night, drunk & hungry.


Spent 2 years in Rochester in grad school. Very, very good is not really accurate. Very, very gratifying at night, drunk & hungry is probably better. Daytime and sober, it was pretty nasty.
-- bacon IS a food group.

#13 jmatt

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 07:44 PM



I'm with QV. It's like that diner on the east coast advertising a "garbage plate." And there's a steakhouse in Vegas that sells a "garbage salad." F-ing gross.

-sacman


The garbage plate is a Rochester, NY thing. It's a hellacious mash of food, but very, very good late at night, drunk & hungry.


Spent 2 years in Rochester in grad school. Very, very good is not really accurate. Very, very gratifying at night, drunk & hungry is probably better. Daytime and sober, it was pretty nasty.


Got a point there. Can't say I'd want to eat it sober in the light of day. Only had it a few times while touring with a band through the city, and after the shows when we wanted to eat something unique to the town, (natch, tough enough late at night) that's what we were always taken to eat. First time, I was horrified by the mess on the plate, but when it all melds together, it was strangely satisfying.

#14 Jill-O

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 07:52 AM

Hey, anyone been to Smallwares? ;o)
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#15 Jill-O

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 11:26 AM

Interview from PoMo with Johanna Ware: http://www.portlandm...blogs/eat-beat/

Includes news about barwares:

We are close to opening barwares! Unfortunately I got caught up in this Ponzi scheme chair debacle and never received my chairs from my vendor. So we had to scramble a bit with that and now are waiting for newly ordered chairs. We are hoping to open at the end of April or early May. It will be nice because we have some large communal tables that we will be able to reserve for big parties, and we will be doing food until 2am.


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#16 Jill-O

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:58 AM

Write up by the Merc: http://www.portlandm...ent?oid=5995596

(I am loving Chris Onstad's reviews, btw)

This is a consistent restaurant, born steady, and deserving of multiple visits, either for a relaxing solo meal or polished night out with friends. Stop in and enjoy world-class food, away from the stress of downtown, at one of the city's most promising new gems.


I have only been once, but I want to get back there!
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#17 vrunka

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 01:14 PM

In case you missed it... Smallwares is doing a Kickstarter fundraiser to get the cash to open their bar, Barwares. The link is here:

http://www.kickstart...ortland-project

#18 vrunka

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 11:12 AM

Just had an excellent meal here the other night. It was pretty quiet in there -- it surprises me that this place isn't buzzier (and busier) than it is. It's gotten nothing but good reviews and if my dinner the other night is any indication, they're making really top-notch, creative food.

They get compared to Wafu a lot and I can kinda see it, but I think it's more like the easy-going middle sibling between Tanuki and Aviary.

Just a few of the things we had...
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Dashi poached egg with salmon roe -- perfectly executed, nice layers of flavors.

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Dungeness crab and wakame salad

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fried broccolini in a fish sauce -- this by itself is worth a return visit.

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Mapo tofu egg custard -- another mind-altering winner.

Didn't get a pic of the oxtail stew, but I loved that one, too.

I loved how the dishes and combinations were playful, but not schticky. Everything is decidedly assertive in spicing and flavoring, but not too overwhelming.

I can't comment on the booze side of the menu, but my fellow diners seemed very happy with their cocktails and they did sound really good.

The neighborhood seems like a tough match for Smallwares -- Beaumont's probably a touch stodgy for such unusual offerings. But I hope they can make a go of it. The space is quite nice, especially the bar in the back.

#19 Flynn

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 12:29 PM

Agree with Vrunka on everything above. I think the lack of crowds is definitely a result of being in Beaumont. But they definitely deserve more business. Both the food and cocktails are top notch. I really like that oxtail stew with the scotch bonnet sauce on the side. You can punch that up to bring some serious heat.

They're amazingly open until 2am with a full menu on the Barwares side. I'd get at that action while it still lasts (or gets dialed down to 12am at a minimum).

#20 Prone to Hyperbole

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:07 PM

Flynn, I'm surprised by many positive comments about smallwares, but you especially. I had, without question, one of the worst meals I've had in PDX in ages recently. Joanna (spelling?) did not appear to be there, so perhaps a heavy smoker sous was working? I'm not using hyperbole this time.... ask my much less opinionated dining companions who "get" food very well. I have to say, everything we ate, which was almost the entire menu, was LUDICROUSLY overly salted. Like, to the point of seeming like a practical joke. And salt aside, the compositions were heavy handed. Too many things going on in each dish. Mainly on the raw options. So many flavors that the fluke and other fish we ordered were undetectable other than texture. The cooked greens and other veggies, so salty as to be inedible. The little bahn mi thingies were passable. But the main problem with even them, like everything else on the menu.... pricing! The entire menu, drinks included, when taking portions into consideration, is dreadfully overpriced. It's easy to say that since other restarants that are doing similar concept small dishes using uber high quality fish, veg, and other ingredients are all 25-30% cheaper (wafu, tanuki, yama, etc.). The space is cute. I hear the owner is awesomely nice and friendly (hence my hesitation to write this even 3 weeks later - but your comment got to me Flynn). The outdoor utility bathroom is not okay. The neighborhood is deserving of a local dining spot and hang out, but quite a jaunt for the majority of Portland fine diners.
I just don't get it at all! And I was PSYCHED to try it. I would say I'll give it another try to check out if the salt box had just tipped over into the food that night. But I frankly can't afford it at these sky high prices. Personally, I'd rather spend considerably less at Mirakutei, Hokusei, Wafu, Aviary, and even a few things Gregory is doing at Departure, and other places featuring whimsical food and an emphasis on fish. I do NOT mean anything negative towards the people and hard work that have gone into the place. I wish them VERY well. But I can't see recommending the food in good conscience. Pricing aside. I do hope they make it though, and they don't need little ol' me to do it ;-P The neighborhood may embrace them as a local spot for special more than just special occasions. Especially the bar that is now open! That's a good thing in that hood. Til 2 is nice as well.

Edit: I just realized how to categorize my overall experience and opinions (and they're just that, as I'm obviously in the minority on the subject). It's the same Bobby Flay effect that Beast suffers from. Busy flavors and textures, all in competition rather than harmony, almost always relying heavily on sweet flavors, and always leaning way into the salty realm. Nothing subtle. Elegant appearing presentation? Yes, absolutely! But at Smallwares, as at Beast, I tired quickly of the sugar, salt, and primarily overly busy preparations. Also, like Beast, pricing is so out of whack compared to other places in town on the same level that it is baffling. Genuinely head scratching. For 4 of us to have 5 cocktails and a tiny plate of about 10 items , leaving no more full than when we arrived, we got out the door for just shy of $250 with a 20+% tip.
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