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Alberta St. Oyster Bar & Grill


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#1 mczlaw

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 10:23 PM

Based on one visit (that's representative, right?), I have anointed Alberta St. Oyster Bar & Grill my clear favorite among the crop of recent openings.

Think high end food at low to moderate prices in a casual (hey, it's Portland) setting. High end as in pan-fried veal sweetbreads ($9 starter), diver scallops (the big ones) with lentils and a chicken liver sauce ($8 starter), a beet salad with apple and blue cheese. Food temps were perfect, flavors amazing. I didn't think the chicken liver sauce was going to work with scallops, but it was delicious. I also had a dozen assorted oysters, 2 each of 6 kinds. Pricey, but briney fresh. The standard champagne mignonette was excellent, the black pepper-vanilla version novel, yet still well-suited to the bivalves. An order of fries with spicy remoulade provided a classic fry--crispy, lightly browned exterior with a hot mealy/starchy core, salted noticeably but not excessively--with a sauce that lived up to its billing.

All the courses I tried were from the top half of the menu where the most amazing values reside. Next visit, I will have to try the entrees. (Dessert, donut holes with a cup of coffee pot de creme and foamed cream, was an imaginative, bordering on brilliant, twist on coffee and donuts.)

Other things I like about Alberta St.: Friendly, professional service (yes, I have a new server to be infatuated with, though I'm sure she is part of a "we"); a sensible reservation policy (half the house for walk-ins, half for rezzies--David Machado, are you listening?); furnishings and fixtures, predominantly in red and black, attractive yet simple.

This is a new start for Oritalia organizer, Peter Hochman. Chef Eric Berchard, a Heathman alum, is creatively focused (and seemed like a damn nice person beside). Lisa and Emily, working the floor, seemed to keep everyone happy, with fine timing and easy smiles--obvious pros.

Unlike most of the new places, the owners here have kept everything simple, so they aren't going to need hit the Portland restaurant lottery to stay afloat. Funny thing is that if the food and service hold to form, they may hit it anyway.

--mcz

(Cross-posted to Chowhound)

#2 FoodDude

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 10:35 PM

"...I have anointed Alberta St. Oyster Bar & Grill my clear favorite among the crop of recent openings."

Didn't you just say that about Fenouil? :wink:

I liked Alberta St OBJ too, though like you didn't try any entrees either.

#3 mczlaw

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Posted 21 November 2005 - 08:49 AM

"...I have anointed Alberta St. Oyster Bar & Grill my clear favorite among the crop of recent openings."

Didn't you just say that about Fenouil? :wink:


My appetite is a fickle mistress.

--mcz

#4 keith

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 02:27 PM

After reading this post I thought I would go check it out. My experience was “ok”, but I wasn’t trilled. It showed enough potential that I’m going to check it out again. I’m glad to see someone doing an oyster bar. That is something that Portland really needed.

The place looks nice and simple it has a very clean design and feel. I had dinner at the bar. The service was great. They were very professional and familiar.

They had a nice selection of oysters, I went with a plate of Chef’s Bay Oysters. The Traditional mignonette was great.

Where things went wrong was the Burger. They have a blue cheese burger served on Ciabatta. The meat was dry and way over cooked. If I had to guess the patty came from Sysco. It was served dry on the Ciabatta with some blue cheese crumbled on top. There was a small pile of wilted field greens and a pale tomato on the side and some good fries.

I would love to see that Burger get reworked, better meat, condiments, crisp lettuce, bacon, and a bun rather than a chewy ciabatta roll. Don’t change the fries. In my mind I was expecting a Café Castanga Burger, or a Bima Burger, but got a Bla Burger.

The rest of the entres looked interesting so next time I’ll try those instead.

#5 ExtraMSG

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 05:51 PM

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I hit Alberta St Oyster Bar.

Didn't get good pictures, unfortunately. They have nice presentations, it'd be nice to show them. I like the room, too. Casual, but nice. It definitely has more of a modern bar feel than a restaurant.

The menu is split into three categories: first courses, second courses, and entrees. They have a separate dessert menu. First courses range in price from $4 for house cut fries with spicy remoulade to $9 for seared diver scallops over lentils, chicken liver sauce, aged balsamic, and fried leeks. Second courses are lighter on the tummy and pocketbook, ranging in price from $5 for baby field lettuces with walnut oil vinaigrette and preserved meyer lemon to $8 for dungeness crab salad with spicy black bean puree, avocado, and blood orange reduction. No entrees top $20, starting at $9 for a cascade natural burger with bacon, oregon blue cheese, spicy remoulade on a ciabatta roll and topping at $18 for roasted monkfish with braised oxtails, oyster mushrooms, kumquat glaze, and oxtail jus. Desserts were $6 or $7 for items like apple upside-down cake with candied ginger gelato and doughnut holes with coffee pot de creme and vanilla froth. They also had a selection of cheese at $8.

They also had a chalkboard with market priced oysters by the half dozen, plus daily specials. The oysters are served with choice of mignonette: champagne, mandarin, lemon-horseradish, or vanilla black pepper. I don't remember the pricing, but they had several types of oysters.

We didn't get any raw, but we did start with the fried Willapa Bay oysters with orange-mint yogurt ($7). They were ultra creamy and tender on the inside, the outside crispy and golden. The sauce was a perfect complement with multiple layers of flavor: sour/tangy yogurt, sweet/tangy orange, fragrant mint, and a little spice. The oysters had a mild taste and even I could enjoy them.

We also got the spice rubbed Oregon quail with celery root puree and pomegranate ($8). The bird was very succulent, still medium rare, with a well-seasoned skin. The slightly sweet sauce went well with the game bird flavor. A very good dish.

My wife got the dungeness crab salad that I mentioned before for herself. This had a great presentation with all the components stacked and banana chips sticking out from the top like yellow rays shooting from the sun. The crab was very oceany. Not off-tasting, just strongly flavored of the sea. Too much for me. The dish was also salty and needed more grapefruit sauce, according to my wife. I think with some minor changes she would have loved this dish.

I got a starter special, the braised and glazed veal cheek on a mix of white sweet potato with smoked tongue. The piece of veal cheek was small but delicious, so tender and rich with the glaze bringing out the meat's sweetness. The tongue was in little pieces adding much the same quality that bacon pieces add to most anything. The dish was served with a meaty huckleberry sauce that could have been brighter to balance all the rich, earthy components.

We shared the braised beef short ribs with potato gnocchi, root vegetables, and truffled braising jus ($16). The truffle smell immediately overtook the senses upon its delivery, always a nice way to get the diner excited. The ribs were very tender, but not mushy. The outside had the texture of roasted, not stewed meat, which was welcome. The sauce was meaty and rich with a truffle aftertaste. The gnocchi were very soft and creamy, lightly sauteed to add color and caramelization. The portion was pretty small for $16, but I can't complain about the quality of the dish.

We ended by sharing the chocolate flourless torte with hazelnuts and cinnamon gelato ($7). The ice cream was very good, but there was too little of the sauce. The chocolate torte itself was rather bland and too heavily covered in cocoa. Unfortunately for them, too, I had just been making flourless chocolate cakes that week and even when I was forced to use Ghiradelli semi-sweet enhanced with a little Lindt 85% chocolate I got a more rounded, fuller chocolate flavor. (Cook's Illustrated recipe.) The dessert looked nice, but I want a flourless chocolate cake to have an intense, almost overbearing chocolate flavor.

I wouldn't have any problem returning. The food was good overall and reasonably priced, even if as prices stay the same in Portland, portion sizes seem to be reduced.

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


#6 Sabra

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 02:15 PM

Dumb question . . . address?? open for lunch?

#7 ExtraMSG

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 02:34 PM

http://www.albertaoyster.com/

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


#8 Sabra

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 03:02 PM

Thanks Nick :P

#9 mczlaw

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Posted 01 March 2006 - 02:05 PM

One portion of Ivy Manning's WW review of Alberta St. raises significant questions about her culinary IQ.

I challenge her, or anyone else, to provide a source of authority for the proposition that properly cooked monkfish should have a "melt-in-the-mouth" quality. Far from it, good monkfish should have an al dente texture rather like lobster. Indeed, monkfish is colloquially referred to as "poor man's lobster" for good reason.

Beyond this obvious error, I found the review strangely and gratuitously contrarian ("overzealous squiggles of pomegranate molasses"?) given the near unanimous chorus of accolades Alberta St has received to date. On this point, however, I can simply chalk it up to a subjective assessment with which I strongly disagree.

--mcz

#10 ExtraMSG

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Posted 01 March 2006 - 02:44 PM

I don't know mczlaw. I don't have time to go too much into it, but if you do a google search for "melt in your mouth" and lobster you get a lot of hits:

http://www.google.co.....outh" lobster

The problem isn't so much its accuracy as it is that it's too vague and cliche a term, something very hard to avoid in food writing, I find. (Count how many times I say something is "good" in a report some time.) It's true, at least, that with things like lobster, monkfish, and shrimp the biggest problem is overcooking which overfirms the already stiff flesh. I agree with your assessment of monkfish, but I just don't know what exactly is meant by "melt in your mouth". Apparently others think it's appropriate for the fish and its similars, though. I know I've had butter poached lobster that was pretty damn close to what I think of as "melt in your mouth" though. It's always metaphorical, though, since lobster or monkfish will never truly be such.

My experience with the items that she and I both had was similar to hers. My quail was very rare inside, but I prefer it that way as long it's well cooked outside, which it was. She was right on target with the flourless chocolate cake.

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


#11 hidenseek

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Posted 04 March 2006 - 10:26 PM

Just wanted to thank you all for endorsing this place. My wife and I had a truly great dinner there tonight. We ordered the five course $45 tasting menu. How was it described in the menu? Something about chef's whim... My first clue about what was in store for us was when I ordered the wine. "I'm sorry sir, we're out of that, but would you be okay with this ($20/bottle more) other bottle that I'll gladly substitute at the same price?" (or something like that). Sure!!!

Oysters is my wife's favorite food; that's the main reason I was led to make a reservation here. Thank God she's easy to please; we only got one! First course: one Fanny (sp?) Bay on the half shell; simply presented atop a mound of crushed ice; no vanilla-pepper whatever, just the oyster and you. My wife was happy; so was I.

This food-challenged SW Portland suburbanite doesn't have words to go around the rest of the meal, so I paid close attention as it was decribed to us when brought to the table.

Second course was gnocchi with "golden grape" sauce, topped with generous slivers of black Oregon truffle. I have to admit, I'm not sure I yet understand the deal with truffles, but I knew we were getting our money's worth. Anyway, wife was happy, and so was I.

Third course was breaded and sauteed Oregon razor clam on a "salad" of strawberry, asparagus, and oyster mushrooms, dressed with an oxtail vinaigrette. Who'da thunk? Unbelievable.

Fourth course: beautifully presented plate with two separate offerings. The first - yellow-fin tuna sashimi topped with sections of blood orange with a light sprinkling of salt. Heaven. Second offering: seared Oregon foie gras topped with beet greens. Paradise.

Final course was described as surf & turf. The surf: seared diver scallop. The turf: thinly sliced braised oxtail piled atop the scallop, and both on a bed of celery puree surrounded by a cider glaze.

We both ordered "dessert" as well. I had a plate of four cheeses, toasted hazelnuts, and fruit, and my wife, doughnut holes made of air, and some chocolate mousse, cream thing. But these were both off the menu, so you can all taste for yourselves.

Near the end of the meal, the chef came to our table to ask what we thought. I kinda felt like a judge on Iron Chef. He wasn't constrained to creating the meal around a single ingredient, but I couldn't help but admire creativity I haven't seen anywhere else in Portland. I'm sure it's here. Just too bad those artists have to work off menus.

Thanks again.

#12 Epicurious

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 11:05 PM

My goodness! You did INDEED pay close attention to what was served. I have rarely read such a detailed description of a meal by a diner. Did you take notes??

#13 LaTauladelBonMenjar

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Posted 17 March 2006 - 12:12 AM

The service was flawless, warm and not overbearing.
The noise level was tolerable for a busy night.
The prices were fair for the detailed preparation and creative presentation of the dishes.
The portions were a bit on the small side but we did not leave hungry.
The oysters were nicely presented and pleasing.
The "(duck) bacon and eggs," reminds be of "oysters and pearls" from The French Laundry, but was more of a novelty dish showcasing creativity than it was something I will crave in the future.
The razor clams were chewy, but the hazel nut butter sauce made it worth the extra work.
The Monkfish was firm of flesh and the best I've had since leaving Spain.
The asparagus were yummy, served chilled with a petite savory flan, bits of bacon, shaved Italian cheese and a tangy vinaigrette.
The donut holes were not "just fried," and it would have been so nice to have hot donuts to go with the chilled mocha creme.
The apple upside-down cake was a tad dry, but the candied ginger ice cream was creamy and dense with intense flavor and my mouth is watering just writing about it.
The drinks were generous and the Orange Haze coffee was dessert in itself.
I recommend it for service, atmosphere, fresh oysters done right, creative food combinations with distinct and intense flavors, fair pricing and good drinks.

#14 pearlpear

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Posted 19 March 2006 - 07:46 AM

Last night we were lucky enough to try this place for ourselves. Arriving early, 6:00, we were sat in what was a frighteningly empty house. Our fears were quickly assuaged as the house filled rapidly. The ambience is wonderful with dim lighting issued from deep red pendant lighting and candles. White tablecloths contrasted with the black chairs and stained concrete floors. One would think that with the concrete flooring and openness of the dining area, noise would become problematic but it never was. Overall, the environment was extremely satisfying.

A lovely, kind, and attentive but not overbearing waitress, Emily, served us for the evening. She offered wonderful recommendations and was well versed in the wine list and the oyster selections.

We started with a few oyster selections. The waitress was kind enough to bring all four of their dressings. We found the lemon and champagne to be the best and drew out and mingled the best with the oysters. The mandarin was fine but not special. I found the vanilla pepper to be wonderfully complex on its own but lost its intrigue when blended with the oysters.

After much debate, we decided on the "chef's whim" for dinner. This five course selection featured some dishes from the main menu which were still smashing. The first course was a scallop ceviche with pepper coulis and avocado butter. The scallops were creamy and my wife said they were overly briny but she still enjoyed them. The avocado butter was rich and subtle which left me wanting more.

The second course was the smoked salmon carpachio with beet tar tar and a hefty portion of fried goat cheese with frisee. Needless to say, my wife LOVED this dish. The mild smokiness and salt of the salmon mixed with the richness of the goat cheese was an oral delight. The crunchy golden Panko of the goat cheese reminded me of a wonderful pastry. (This was so very good.)

The third course was a simple spinach salad with blue cheese, dates, and walnuts. It was simple, dressed with slight vinaigrette but still interesting and went wonderfully with our crisp white wine (server’s recommendation). My wife, who does not normally like blue cheese, enjoyed this dish as well.

The fourth course was the standard menu item, if you can call it standard, eggs and bacon. This was a rich and comforting delight. The poached egg over wonderful, where can we find it, duck bacon with Israeli cous cous hit the tongue with a wondrous velvety texture. The duck bacon was unlike any bacon I have tasted with a barely sweet cured flavor that hints of the pork variety but with less offensive salty fattiness. A must have dish.

A sturgeon and oxtail dish, with fois gras sauce and celery root puree finished our dinner. Again, a fairly simple dish in its flavors but it possessed such a comforting quality. Not a hint of unpleasant flavor. The sturgeon was cooked perfectly.

To finish off the meal, at my wife's mandate, we had the doughnut holes with pot du crème. Again, although simple fare, done with such perfection. Light and crispy doughnut holes with a crème of such perfect texture and subtle chocolate and coffee flavoring. We searched the entire mug for some hint of imperfection, a grain of coffee, a curdle, but could only find sweet wonderfully deep flavors and perfect texture.

Having recently had terrific experiences at Paley's, GBT, and Higgins, I must state that ASOB was at least my overall favorite.

To dispel some of the concerns or criticisms recently posted, we could not derive a single negative comment, excepting my wife’s unpleasant experience with a very cold bathroom! (We are grasping for a negative here.)

The service was astoundingly solid. At no time in our 3 HOUR stay did we feel rushed. The food was timely, perfectly presented and explained, and was always at a pleasant temperature. The portions were very satisfying and we left feeling quite satisfied. We were never rushed or felt the pressuring pace of service. The chef came out and greeted us which for ordinary folk was a treat and made us feel very special. Several waiters thanked us on the way out and offered handshakes.

ASOB is a wonderfully inviting, comforting, and perfectly satisfying experience. Despite the recent debate concerning PDX's supposedly lacking food scene, this is a treasure and we will take it. We will definitely be back.

Kudos Chef Eric and staff!!!!

#15 mczlaw

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Posted 19 March 2006 - 08:09 AM

Sounds about like all the meals I have had there, except for the early days when the house stayed nearly empty, at least on week nights.

I am looking forward to trying the new menu on Monday.

--mcz

#16 foodfight

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 02:40 AM

I made the trek out to the oyster bar once again this week, after a long negotiation with the rest of my table I finally convinced them to do the Chefs Whim(all in the party have to participate)+ wine pairing, $50+20. Let me first say this was one of the top meals I've ever had in Portland, top five in my life. Here is how it went:

Watermelon Gazpacho, Dungeness Crab and Avocado-Champagne
Smoked Duck Salad with Summer Berries, Goat Cheese and Greens-?
Beef Tartar, Quail Egg and Corn Fritter-?
Scallops, Cider Braised Cabbage, Pork Belly and Mustard Sauce-?
Seared Rare Tuna, Foie Gras, Oxtails and Citrus-Malbec

Unbelievable!!!

The presentations were beautiful and wine pairings perfect although I dont remember all of them, sorry.
The place was packed and service and food quality was on point. Still, in my eyes one of the best kept secrets in Portland. For my sake lets keep it that way, for theirs, I hope the word spreads.

#17 syrahgirl

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 11:09 AM

Sounds really good, foodfight. We hope try this place soon! :blush:

#18 foodfight

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 10:14 PM

This place has been on my top five list since its inception a little under a year ago. The service is second to none even on its off nights, the food is incredibly creative and very consistant and the wine and cocktails are very good. The fact that the menu is ever evolving is what excites me the most, always fresh and interesting. I have recently had the tasting menu and was blown away at the quality of ingredients I received for the $50 price tag. And I am well aware of its location, NE Alberta is a bit of a trek and its not the NW.

My question is:

Why do some of you slight this restaurant? What you get for the price is better than the majority of its much more expensive competition.

Just a Thought?

#19 ExtraMSG

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 06:35 AM

MERGING

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


#20 Jill-O

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 06:26 PM

I don't slight the restaurant, but I did try it and didn't particularly like my meal. Everythime I read about the menu there's nothing that appeals to me...including the last bunch of dishes you listed in July.

Nothing against it, just nothing that makes me want to go again. I feel the same way about Park Kitchen.

Glad you and others love it, though...
Never give up! Never surrender!