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Carafe Bistro


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#1 katez0r

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 10:55 AM

I didn't see a thread about this place, and I want to know everything! food, atmosphere, do i need to make reservations, hows the happy hour etc. Thanks! ;)

#2 PDXWine

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 11:29 AM

Great bistro food. Be sure to get the mussels with pommes frites. Reservations suggested but not necessarily required unless you're trying to do pre-event when there's something across the street at the Keller. Gets crazy then, but clears out nicely after 7:00.

The bar is essentially non-existent. Four or five stools and a couple of tables. Not a place I'd think of in the context of "happy hour" if what you're looking for is someplace lively.

#3 Tiffin

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 11:51 AM

Ditto on the comments by PDXwine. The ambiance harkens back to the bistros of the belle epoch...urbane, yet approachable; fullness to the bar with use of mirrors. Seasonally, we're off-cycle right now, but sitting outside on a summer day with a cold Stella and an order of frites makes for a happy hour. ;)

#4 Cat Lancaster

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 01:16 PM

I have yet to eat here, because the one time I tried it was 9:00 on a Friday, and I was turned away because they don't seat tables after 9:00. I even offered to sit at the bar and was still turned away. So make sure you go early.

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#5 Amanda

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 03:02 PM

PortlandFood.org ate here as a group a couple years ago. They did a special menu for us. I found the food to be outstanding and will definitely go back again someday. I think I'd like to try their happy hour sometime.

Best regards,

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#6 Angelhair

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 04:25 PM

I. LOVE. CARAFE!

The Happy hour is kinda meager, but I think their prices are affordable enough as is. They have a 3 course dinner special which IMO is never a good value because the portions are too tiny. Stick with the menu and specials and you will be fine. Here's what I like to order:

I almost always order the duck confit and foie gras terrine. A little slice of heaven. I often order the duck confit entree too. They usually have a lamb dish on the menu that is good and sometimes Pascal makes cassoulet. I have had the steak frites and the burger and the moules. All very good.

I love the atmosphere of the place, it's just instant relaxation. The service is usually pretty good. The beer and wine selection is interesting.

#7 katez0r

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 09:27 PM

Excellent! I think it's a must-do for the weekend. Thank you everyone! :)

#8 Twitch

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 01:31 PM

I just hit up Carafe for some bistro fish, but they were out of most of the accompanying vegetables except butternut squash. I opted for the croque monsieur instead.

There are two schools of croque monsieurage. I come from the no-sauce school. The sauce school likes theirs with bechamel or mornay. Carafe subscribes to the latter doctrine, and since they know their compositions better than me, I thought I'd give it a go.


Let's work our way from bottom to top on the sandwich. The overall size was appropriate. The bread was a little over buttered, although they had a good balance of contents - perhaps a little meagre on the ham for the potency of mustard they were using (although in France it'd be about the right amount). I would say they were to scarce on the cheese, only the béchamel overcompensated for that.

And it wasn't béchamel. It was mornay. If that. It was a big hunk of melted cheese sitting overmelted, unceremoniously, on top of an otherwise servicable croque monsieur. The overall effect made the sandwich too cheesey and heavy. Béchamel would have been good in this situation - nutmeg and studded onion variety would be awesome. Unfortuantely, they don't seem to know their sauces.

They do, however, know their dijon vinaigrette - it was excellent, not over vinegared, with good acidity and wholesomeness.

Waiter was overworked but otherwise good. Hostess gave me a hard time about wanting to eat lunch solo in an empty dining room "in case they had reservations" and was pretty rude when seating me. Backup bus/server was also rude upon delivering plate.

Points go to authenticity of decor, including the very French-looking woman with her angry short hair and angry make up and angry book that she was reading while existentially scoffing a lamb burger and a pitchet of the table.

Points subtracted for no pression (draft) beer. Carafe's menu is a brasserie menu, not a bistro menu - it would be well served by some shitty Kronenbourg on tap.

So far I'm at a draw for favorite French in town. Fenouil was OK, but I and some other diners got seriously ill off their monkfish, and I haven't sampled their pubbe grubbe. Le Bouchon was better, but with some weird Anglo elements - overbuttered mashed potatoes instead of frites or other starch on alot of dishes; plus a somewhat lacking boeuf bourgignon.

I look forward to trying Le Pigeon sometime.

Cheers,
Twitche

#9 doglover

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 04:44 PM

Carafe is my favorite place and has been for a long time. We eat there almost weekly. I am a huge fan of their Croque Madame. Which is noticably better at dinner time than at lunch. I found the previous poster's comments surprising unless the Croque Monsiuer was ordered during lunch. Everything seems better at dinner (when the prices are higher) - better salad greens, better frittes, better sandwhich.

Best Frittes in town and if you ask for mayo they have it! Try asking for mayo with your frittes at Olea! Their hamburger is one of the best in town too.

Reservations are mandatory on theater nights until about 7-7:30. Getting a table most nights is not a problem - especially if you want a late (for portland) table.

The wine list is first rate -- and the wine prices are amazing. Carafe has a retail wine license -- any wine on the wine list can be brought home. Drinking them in the restaurant adds a very reasonable corkage fee. If you don't want an entire bottle they usually have a great selection of 375's and a very good selection of inexpensive wines served by the 'carafe' at low prices.

The new winter menu has some terrific options beyond the basic < $10 brasserie choices. The current Foie Gras appetizer is absolutely outstanding. The Cassoulet is very good.

My only wish is for Carafe to be reservable on opentable.com

#10 Angelhair

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 05:01 PM

Yes the current foie app was great, last time I was there x-mas eve. It's a grilled piece of foie served with a cooked apple and a raw apple. So simple, so wonderful!

We were the last ones dining there that night. They were closing up early for the holiday. Pascal sat down to dinner with his family, and I could hear his son (?) say no to dessert! Not me, I ordered the molten chocolated cake they serve!

#11 Guest_MostlyRunning_*

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 05:40 PM

Unfortuantely, they don't seem to know their sauces.


Oh boy. I double dog dare you to say that to Pascal's face.

I've never met a man more justifiably proud of his sauces. Sorry you seem to have caught them on an off day.

MR

#12 Twitch

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 05:41 PM


Unfortuantely, they don't seem to know their sauces.


Oh boy. I double dog dare you to say that to Pascal's face.

I've never met a man more justifiably proud of his sauces. Sorry you seem to have caught them on an off day.

MR


Yeah, I know it's bold, but something must have slided. It's not a question of interpretation, its just a simple definition of sauces.

And yes, I was there at lunch.

#13 doglover

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 06:13 PM

I suggest trying Carafe again for dinner. Preferably mid week. With luck Tom will be working and your service will be first rate too. Do try the winter menu Foie Gras. Yum!

#14 PDXWine

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:22 AM

Hostess gave me a hard time about wanting to eat lunch solo in an empty dining room "in case they had reservations" and was pretty rude when seating me.

Never happened to me, and I've never eaten lunch there except by myself. Odd to say the least.

#15 John DePaula

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 09:16 PM

Got to try Chef Pascal's Pork Cheeks with Lentils and Sauce Verte tonight. Wow that was good; really well balanced and delicious! Hope this is on the regular menu!!!
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#16 Angelhair

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 06:34 AM

John--how were the cheeks? Specificly, did they look/taste beefy to you?

#17 John DePaula

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 07:24 AM

John--how were the cheeks? Specificly, did they look/taste beefy to you?

I didn't think they tasted particularly 'beefy.' Rather, they were tender, porky and had a rich savory dark sauce. They were served over lentils, also well spiced, and then topped with a green sauce. The server described the components of the sauce but it was so noisy I didn't hear her; however it was the perfect addition to the dish.
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You cannot legislate compassion into your fellow man (or woman, as the case may be), but we should at least attempt to create a society in which each individual has the opportunity to realize his or her potential. If we meet our citizens' needs for Health Care and Education, everything else will take care of itself. --Me

#18 wavygravy

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 02:53 PM

My wife and I had dinner wih another couple at Carafe a few nights ago. This was a night with something going at the Auditorium; a night where you’d expect the “A” team in the kitchen. We split a mussels in cream appetizer. Mussels were plump, and sweet, but the “in cream” part seemed no more than a bland, milky broth. Still so far, so good.

As entree, I ordered chicken cordon bleu, once a staple in modest French bistros. My wife and one of our friends ordered the braised lamb. The other person in our party ordered a fish dish from the prix fixe menu. When my entrée arrived, the chicken, ham and cheese topping looked like it had been cooked in a blast furnace. It was just as overcooked and tasteless as it looked. My wife and friend fared no better with the braised lamb. My wife pronounced it terrible (my one tasting of it seemed dried out and chewy), and our friend agreed, adding that hers was barely warm when served. The friend who ordered the special had no complaint. The sorbet he ordered and shared with us was intensely flavored, but the texture was icy and lumpy, as though it had been re-frozen. When the waitress asked the obligatory “is everything all right” we just sat in stunned silence.

OK, we should have sent this stuff back, but one also might say the kitchen never should have sent it out. We came in eager to try Carafe. To my surprise, this meal may have been the worst I’ve ever had in a purportedly topnotch restaurant. It reminded me of something turned out by a tourist restaurant that was trying too hard. Oh well, the Big O’s Diner section did warn us things could be inconsistent. Carafe is lucky the New York Times person didn’t show that night.

#19 Angelhair

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 07:38 PM

My wife and I had dinner wih another couple at Carafe a few nights ago. This was a night with something going at the Auditorium; a night where you’d expect the “A” team in the kitchen. We split a mussels in cream appetizer. Mussels were plump, and sweet, but the “in cream” part seemed no more than a bland, milky broth. Still so far, so good.

As entree, I ordered chicken cordon bleu, once a staple in modest French bistros. My wife and one of our friends ordered the braised lamb. The other person in our party ordered a fish dish from the prix fixe menu. When my entrée arrived, the chicken, ham and cheese topping looked like it had been cooked in a blast furnace. It was just as overcooked and tasteless as it looked. My wife and friend fared no better with the braised lamb. My wife pronounced it terrible (my one tasting of it seemed dried out and chewy), and our friend agreed, adding that hers was barely warm when served. The friend who ordered the special had no complaint. The sorbet he ordered and shared with us was intensely flavored, but the texture was icy and lumpy, as though it had been re-frozen. When the waitress asked the obligatory “is everything all right” we just sat in stunned silence.

OK, we should have sent this stuff back, but one also might say the kitchen never should have sent it out. We came in eager to try Carafe. To my surprise, this meal may have been the worst I’ve ever had in a purportedly topnotch restaurant. It reminded me of something turned out by a tourist restaurant that was trying too hard. Oh well, the Big O’s Diner section did warn us things could be inconsistent. Carafe is lucky the New York Times person didn’t show that night.


OK, I am biased, I love the place and have never so much has had a bad anything there. But, I gotta tell you, I try not to go on show nights. If I do go, I go later. This place cranks out how many entrees in the spand of a 1.5 hour period, it can't possibly be perfect every time? Next time, say something! They aim to please there. Some of the best servers in town.

#20 vj

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 05:26 AM

The one time I had bad service at Carafe was on a show night. Food was fine, but the service was awful. I'm with AH on this, a show night is not the time to expect the best performance out of the kitchen, and if something could go wrong, it would then.