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#1 Jill-O

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 11:36 AM

Reposted from chowhound:

Well, I finally got to bluehour. Took a celebratory occasion (the finality of my divorce) to make it happen, and I am glad I finally got there.

The atmosphere is industrial with baffled accoustical tiles on the ceiling and walls, cement pillars, simple leather unpadded chairs (which I found suprsisngly comfortable), and long gauzy curtains breaking up the room a bit. The decor is not much on color, just relies on the play of light and dark. The candles on the tables and the curtains make it feel a lot more intimate than one would think it could. We had 6pm reservations (which were confirmed via phone at 11:30 am that morning - the first time I have ever had a reservation confirmed via a phone number I left here in PDX) and it was more pleasant in the restaurant until about 7pm than after 7pm when it was a bit loud and crowded. They have free valet parking, but I found a spot on the street before I turned the corner.

My dining partner and I shared a caesar salad for 2 ($15) and seared foie gras with grilled pineapple and a gingery sauce ($20). The caesar salad was OK - whole leaves dressed with added cheese and pepper on top and croutons. A few weeks ago I had a similar caesar at Ken's place. It was as big or bigger (though it did not bill itself as "for 2") and cheaper than $15. It had much better and more croutons on it and the dressing (which had more anchovy) was superior to the one at bluehour. The bluehour caesar was good, just not as good as the one at Ken's Place.

The seared foie gras was delicious. The richness of the liver, spiciness of the ginger, tart and sweet grilled pineapple - it really worked for me. I loved this dish, it was really yummy.

I had the osso buco with sage polenta ($28 ) and my dining partner had the steak with scalloped potatoes ($38 ). The osso buco was very good - melt in the mouth meat goodness with a nice sauce and very creamy polenta. The steak was also good, it came rare as ordered, and was a large piece, with some wilted greens on the plate more as a garnish than as a side veg. I didn't try the potatoes, but the partner liked them. Both of these dishes were good, but not drop dead fabulous. It doesn't help bluehour's case that I had a great steak a week ago at Basta's that was every bit as good as the one I tasted at bluehour...but at exactly half the price: $19.

There were several dessert offerings that sounded good, we selected the mango sorbet ($8 ) and the mascarpone crepes with carmel and sour cherry sauce ($7). The mango sorbet was not highly/brightly flavored enough at all and the lime cookies didn't have as much lime flavor as I would have liked, either. In Feb. I tried Pix's mango sorbet and it was amazing - like eating frozen mangoes with a sublime texture...this fell way short of that experience. The dessert crepes, however, were delicious. Two delicate crepes (a bit crispy at the edges), each folded with a rich mascarpone cream within and well sauced with a sweet caramel and a tart sour cherry sauce and dried sour cherries dotting the top. It was delicious. We also had two decent cups of espresso, and though it comes with a sugar cube, it doesn't come with lemon peel.

Since we were both driving we each had a glass of champagne at the beginning of the meal and then shared a glass of that great Tori Mor '02 pinot noir. The total price for the two glasses of champagne($14 & $16) and one glass of pinot ($10) was $40...yup, that's right. A bit pricey to say the least, and there weren't a lot of inexpensive (under $40) choices by the bottle.

Service was good with a division of labor among bussing staff and serving staff you tend to find at the higher end places here. Service was, of course, better earlier in the evening than it was later in the evening, but it was good overall.

So the total bill was $160 before tip...making the grand total around $200. That's a lot for 2 by Portland standards, especially when you are sharing a first and second course (though the salad was, technically, for 2) and you're not getting a bottle of wine. In the post I linked to below, where I recounted my first meal at Hurley's, the total for a reasonably equivalent meal was $170 (Bread is $4 at Hurley's and free at bluehour, btw - I do want to be fair here.).
http://www.chowhound...ages/21788.html

If I was making the choice, I'd pick Hurley's over bluehour in a heartbeat. The service at Hurley's (though some folks may not like the formality, I find that I do...especially when I am paying about $100/person) is on a whole other level. The attention to the food (ingredients/prep/plating/taste) is greater at Hurley's. The atmosphere is more to my liking at Hurley's - small, quiet, elegant.

In addition, bluehour is more expensive than places like Park Kitchen or clarklewis or Alba Osteria and I don't know that I would say it is any better. I have to say my last meal at saucebox (Bruce Carey's other restaurant) in October '04 was better in value, in terms of the food, and the overall experience than my meal at bluehour this weekend.

It was a nice meal at bluehour, don't get me wrong. It's just that at that price point, IMO, you can do better in this city. And so, we have reservations at Hurley's this coming Sat. for my birthday. Thanks, Hon!! ;o)

I also proposed that we start looking at other high end places to make a special occasion/splurge list, starting with Genoa and including places like Caprial's and possibly Paley's, Wildwood, maybe even Castagna (only been to the Cafe, which I like a lot), etc. What's your favorite place in town for a splurge meal?

So, what say you, those who have been recently to bluehour and other higher end places around PDX - how do you think it measures up at that level? The meal I had on Sat., though it was good, would make me recommend Hurley's, clarklewis, Park Kitchen, Alba's and maybe others over bluehour. That kind of surprised me, I expected to like it more and be more impressed by the food.

#2 ExtraMSG

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 02:05 PM

Thanks Jill. I posted in response on Chowhound.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#3 Leopoldo

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 04:04 PM

Thanks for the info Jil. I always like to know which of the 'expensive' places are worth the price and wich are not.

BTW I have to laugh at how PHPNuke turns a number 8 followed by a closing parentesis as a smiley that should be 8 ) not 8) !
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#4 vj

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 04:11 PM

I was wondering what that was! Sheesh!

#5 Jill-O

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Posted 15 March 2005 - 09:55 AM

Yeah, I saw that... It makes it look like it's a situation of: "If you have to ask, you can't affford it...and p.s. I am way cooler than you" Not at all what I meant to get across there.

It's kind of amusing but, um...Zuke, can you change that?

#6 ExtraMSG

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Posted 15 March 2005 - 10:14 AM

You mean, can I change it in the programming? It'd be a real time-consuming pain to find it in the hundreds of pages of code. However, if you edit your post, you can put a space between the 8 and ). There's also a checkbox at the bottom of the post to disable smilies.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#7 Jill-O

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Posted 15 March 2005 - 10:32 AM

Okey dokey artichokey! (stupid little emotif*ckers)

Thanks for telling me what to do there...it's fixed. I forget we can edit posts here.

And besides, like I keep telling you folks, I'm a geek, I'm just not a technogeek. My geekiness lies in other realms. ;o)

#8 j_schmeckl

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 12:52 AM

I also proposed that we start looking at other high end places to make a special occasion/splurge list, starting with Genoa and including places like Caprial's and possibly Paley's, Wildwood, maybe even Castagna (only been to the Cafe, which I like a lot), etc. What's your favorite place in town for a splurge meal?

So I haven't been to Bluehour all that recently (2.5 years ago), and I'm going to start sounding like a shill here (but I'm not!), but my wife and I have a saying every time we try someplace in that league that doesn't measure up: "We should have just gone to Paley's..." Bluehour, Fife, Laslow's, Carlyle, Higgins -- to me, all basically fall stylistically into the same category as Paley's but they just don't do it for us the way Paley's does consistently. Caprial's comes close for that style of cuisine, and Hurley's and Alba I would put on par with Paley's for execution and flavor but are obviously in a different category than Paley's. (Actually, don't get me started on Fife. They probably deserve a second chance from us but based on our one visit they struck me as one of the most overrated places in town, IM(ns)HO...). We are also regulars at Park Kitchen for breakfast and have only had dinner there once -- good, but not quite as "special" as Paley's. Two places I haven't been to that would probably be comparable are Wildwood and clarklewis, so I obviously don't know how they compare.

Paley's is definitely our special occasion place and where we take out-of-town guests who know food.

- jeff

#9 ExtraMSG

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 01:33 AM

It's worth noting that Paley's, Wildwood, Bluehour, Higgins, and Caprial's are in the same cost category. Hurley's is a modest step up in pricing. However, Park Kitchen, Fife, Lauro, Laslow's (RIP), and clarklewis are at a lower pricing.

If I were to score them, it might go something like this:

X=execution, C=creativity (including use of local/seasonal), D=decor, S=service

.......................X.....C.....D.....S
Paley's.............9......7.....9.....9
Wildwood.........9......9.....8......8
Bluehour..........8......7.....8......8
Higgins............7......9.....7......8
Caprial's..........8......8.....8......8
Hurley's..........10.....9.....8......9
Park Kitchen.....9......9.....7.....8
clarklewis.........9......8.....6.....7
Lauro...............8......7.....8.....8
Fife..................8......8.....7.....8

Something like that. Now, even though I think Hurley's is probably technically the best restaurant in Portland, I often recommend Park Kitchen, clarklewis, and Wildwood because they are better at highlighting local foods. Plus they're cheaper. I think if you just went on quality of food per dollar, clarklewis and Park Kitchen would be among the best in Portland for sure. One problem I have with Paley's is that they don't highlight local food as well as they could and the dishes always come off certainly no more than the menu description, but often less (as in more boring, thus the 7 on C).

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#10 Jamesongrrl

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 07:56 AM

I second j_schmeckl.
My partner and I were just discussing our recent meals (specifically Bluehour and Higgins) and still decided that Paley's was still our fav.
Admittedly we still need to go to Park Kitchen and Hurley's but out of every place we've been Paley's is number one in our book too. (Castanga is prolly #2 as it is close to our home and has both a bistro and restaruant.)

#11 wordstern

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 09:30 AM

I have had a couple very good meals at bluehour, mostly dinner, and I've had some very passable lunches too. But, I must say, their happy hour is really good. In addition to fun drink specials (cucumber mojito, some fantastic mango drink), the food menu is great. The bluehour burger for about half price ($7, maybe), and the pizza is really good and even better for $5. It's a nice way to enjoy the bluehour experience without the sticker shock.

#12 ExtraMSG

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 12:11 PM

It must be a style thing. While I think the execution at both Castagna and Paley's is good, I always leave bored and uninspired. (That's overstating it, but in the relative world of Portland's higher end dining, that's the case.)

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#13 j_schmeckl

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 11:29 PM

Hmm, based on Nick's scorecard, I guess we'll have to bite the bullet and give Wildwood a try finally. Every time I think to do so, I figure it would be a let down of the type "we should have just gone to Paley's which was RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET!" :lol:

I've obviously never thought Paley's had a problem with creativity, and personally wouldn't rate them as low as Bluehour or Lauro. But I have found a place that actually outshines Paley's wonderful mussels: Carafe!

#14 ExtraMSG

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 11:42 PM

I didn't give much context, though. eg, I gave Fife that rating *only* because I really like their desserts. Otherwise they would be down around 6 or 7 for C. (And I'm sure if I were asked to do it again, the numbers would change.)

btw, you may have tastes closer to Heather, in which case it's worth noting she's not a big fan of Wildwood.

But really, you should at least try Wildwood. If you hated it, Paley's is always across the street, more or less.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#15 Jamesongrrl

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 02:30 PM

Come now Nick- I never said I hated Wildwood.
I just definately prefer Paley's.
Wildwoods food was good, but the atmosphere was noisy and not that interesting and the service was poor.
The food was good but I think the food I've had at Paley's, Castanga and Higgins were better.
So it is not that I 'hate' Wildwood, it is just that other things rank higher.

#16 ExtraMSG

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 06:47 PM

I didn't say you hate Wildwood. I said you weren't a big fan.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#17 Jamesongrrl

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 08:08 AM

Yes- I don't quite spurt the praise of Wildwood like you do. But I would put it on a good food list for Portland.
(Like the kinky food reference I put in just for you.) :twisted:

#18 Jill-O

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Posted 21 March 2005 - 02:03 PM

OK, I won't go into the long list of yummy things I ate at Hurley's on Sat. in the bluehour thread (if you want to know, ask and I'll post it in a new thread), but I wanted to come back and comment on the foie gras at Hurley's in regard to the foie gras at bluehour, since I was comparing bluehour with Hurley's overall. (and yes, Zuke, I DO want to do a foie gras crawl!!!)

The fois gras plate at Hurley's is a special, it is not listed on the menu. It is served with a fresh pear puree, accented by sauces that were spotted around the plate: a clear sweet pear reduction and a yummy Banyuls (red dessert wine - usually goes really well with chocolate) reduction, and propped up on a tasty lightly dressed frisee salad.

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Wow. It was sooooo delicious. It was an absolutely gorgeous plate, too. At $27 for the plate, I can easily say it blew bluehour's $20 foie gras plate completely away. While I enjoyed the bluehour plate, it doesn't seem worth the $20 in retrospect (even though bread was free, and it costs $3 for bread service at Hurley's)...while $27 at Hurley's seems like a bargain in comparison. Tom Hurley treats foie gras with reverence, and the outcome is simply outstanding.

I made sure my server, Joshua, told the kitchen that I appreciated that they offered foie gras, that it was amazingly prepared and totally delicious, and that they should continue to let diners make their own choices about what to eat. I got a huge grin from Joshua and he said he would be sure to tell chef what I said.

FYI - at 6pm we were one of only 3 tables of people in the place, by 7pm there were no tables to be had. It's a small place, but if you ask for an early reservation (before 6pm), chances are you can get one close to the last minute here.

If you haven't been to Hurley's yet...well, you need to save up (I would say that an average dinner is around $100/150 per person here with glasses of wine (maybe not bottles, though) and dessert) and remedy that, don't you? ;o) Seriously, it is the best place in town for upscale dining that concentrates on the food and service in ways no one else does (in this town, anyway).

#19 syrahgirl

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 07:49 PM

We've been to almost all of the places mentioned and I can truly say that I have enjoyed every one of them very much. Park Kitchen was really great and Wildwood was very nice for lunch. My trout special was perfectly prepared and very flavorful.

I really liked Bluehour also when we were there last summer. I think clarklewis is also very good and would love to try dinner there soon. I guess Andina would be my next place to try. :)

#20 ExtraMSG

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 10:07 PM

Welcome syrahgirl.

From word on the street, Gotham Bldg Tavern might have to be your next meal in Portland. But Andina is good, too.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's