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Alba Osteria and Enoteca


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#1 Jill-O

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 01:55 PM

FYI - I posted this on Chowhound, but thought I;d post it here for you folks too. Go...get thee to Alba's...Leopoldo, ya hear me??! 3-course white truffle dinner anyone??!! ;o)

This place (at 6440 SW Capital Hwy)is a keeper - had a very nice experience there on Sat. Went early to avoid crowds and the need for reservations and we were seated upon arrival somewhere betw. 5:30 and 6pm. It was fairly dark by then, so it didn't seem so early.

Nice menu consisting of about 9 antipasti, 4-5 pastas and a salad as primi, and 6 secondi/entree, and a couple of side dishes (fried potatoes w/sage, brussel sprouts) - I took a copy of it. Dessert menu is separate (and I don't have a copy of it), but I remember about 6-8 choices. Wine list is very nice - many reasonable $20ish-40ish bottles and a nice selection by the glass under $10, and also a few nice splits. Atmosphere is nice - white table cloths, candlelight, Spiegelau wine glasses (I really appreciate that so many places serving decent wines around town use Speigelau or Riedel.), tables not that close together (appreciate that, because this is fairly small place folks) - and service was both friendly and good.

Food? Well, here we go...

My date and I decided to share an antipasti and chose the leek tarta fonduta ($8) - a buttery flaky pastry about 3-4" in diameter and 3" high filled with tender and buttery leeks upon a pool of a delectable cheese-based sauce. Yum, just, yum - it was excellent. Other choices that looked good were the Jerusalem artichokes baked in bagna cauda ($8) and the zuppa of celeriac puree with proscuitto ($6) - but we were very happy with the tart.

For our next course, we decided to share a mixed greens salad ($6) and a pasta (most are $12) - the agnolotti verde - spinach pasta filled with fontina and tossed with butter and herbs. Salad was unremarkable mixed greens, sad but true. The pasta, though, OMG. Agnolotti (in this incarnation, anyway - they are often larger and not as delicate) are tiny, filled fingernail-sized pasta pockets. Their pasta is so incredibly delicate that it defies imagination how they could possibly fill and form these tasty little suckers. But I am glad that they have figured it out (and perfectly too) because they melt in your mouth (and slide down easily because of that cheese and butter, I tell ya). The herbs on top were great. I made sure to share this generous serving, lest I go into cardiac arrest before dessert. (Gotta love the Piedmont region...just keep drinking the good red wine, folks! ;o)

I'm sad to say that I can only report on one entree - the duck ($21) - grilled breast and leg confit (crispy skin, melt in your mouth meat - much better than the breast meat) with a saba glaze. We are both duck freaks and both just had to order it. It was good, but I wish there was more glaze on the plate to add more sweet and tart notes to the really rich duck. A few tasty brussel sprouts (don't usually like 'em much, either) came on the side. As I said, it was good...but it wasn't the best thing we ate that night. Other tasty sounding entrees were the Beef Braised in Nebbiolo ($17) and the Pan Roasted Sweetbreads w/Marsala and Hedgehog Mushrooms ($20).

For dessert my date ordered the chocolate hazelnut semifreddo, which was good but not really my thing. I ordered an apple tart that came with cinnamon gelato, but I asked for a sub of the vanilla bean ice cream instead and was told that I made an even better choice than the chef did by ordering it that way (!). It was delicious - the same tender and buttery pastry that appeared in the leek tart surrounding not too sweet apples with a yummy scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was sooo good, but there was no way I could finish it (this was one rich and heavy meal, to be sure - but we both wanted to try several things so we went for it).

We had a lovely split of a 2001 Barbera ($21), an extra glass of wine ($6), and I had a cup of coffee with dessert. Our total bill was around $100-120 which was a great deal for the quality, quantity, service, atmosphere, etc. Very nice, indeed.

You can get away spending less here very easily. A couple of antipasti, a couple of pastas, and dessert would be more than enough food - as would an entree with only one thing before it and then dessert. Very reasonable that way, especially if you order your wines by the glass. I would definitely suggest that you try one of their pastas here - someone in that kitchen seriously knows what they are doing.

Another thing to keep in mind - if there are vegans in your party - go somewhere else...and consider doing so if there are vegetarians as well. This just isn't the place for that.

FYI - It is possible that the Italian white truffles will arrive next week - and if they do, Alba will offer a 3 course Truffle Menu in addition to their ala carte menu. Mmmmm.

#2 cheinonen

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Posted 18 November 2005 - 01:20 PM

I was looking to go there next Saturday with my GF for our anniversary, and was wondering if I need reservations and thought someone here would know. Also, are there any dishes we absolutely should try? Neither of us really drink at all, so we probably won't have any wine with anything. Thanks.

#3 ExtraMSG

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Posted 18 November 2005 - 01:31 PM

Quick answer: duck, agnolotti, crab. I know Jill or Calabrese will be popping up soon. They've been there many more times than me.

Might as well re-post my Chowhound report:

My wife and I went to dinner at Alba tonight for the first time as an early Valentine's. It's in a nice little part of Hillsdale (but be careful crossing the street), a little row of restaurants in an otherwise sparse neighborhood just south of where Bertha and the Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy meet.  
 
The interior is split into three rooms. The largest dining room, painted in Martha Stewart colors, white trim on a pale green wall. It has a tile floor and sort of random art. The middle room seems a little cozier, with warmer colors. The last room is a bar, I think. We sat in the first room.
 
It's a bit cold and noisy and the chairs are uncomfortable. A cafe feel. But the service and food both surpass the room.
 
The menu contains a good variety of interesting dishes: tuna stuffed sweet pepper rotolos; mizuna with sauteed duck liver, poached egg, pancetta, and balsamic vinaigrette; housemade cotechino sausage with lentils; tajarin with lamb ragu; pan roasted sweetbreads with a mustard sauce and a ficassea of vegetables; etc. We ordered a mountain of dishes.  
 
For antipasti, my wife got the Dungeness crab crostone ($11) and I got the pork and oxtail terrine ($8). The crab was served on top of a nicely crisped thick piece of baguette-sized bread sliced on the bias. The quality of the crab was excellent and mixed with capers, greens, and a light dressing. The pate was served with greens, mustard, and housemade pickled green tomatoes. It was rich and tasty, but the pickled tomatoes made it special and cut nicely through the richness.
 
My wife ordered a primi, the agnolotti verde, spinach pasta filled with fontina ($13), while I ordered the formaggi ($8). The pasta were very good, small little pockets of green noodles filled with the creamy salty cheese. They were topped a harder aged cheese, such as pecorino or parmiggiano. Simple, but my wife loved it. The formaggi came with three small portions of cheese, maybe an ounce of each: a blue, a pungent triple-cream, and a harder cheese accented with truffle oil. They were served with some sort of chutney. All were enjoyable.
 
For our secondi, my wife ordered the duck with balsamic-honey sauce ($22) and I ordered the porchetta stuffed with fennel sausage ($19). Both came with roasted vegetables, potatoes and turnips (I believe). Simple, but nicely done. The turnips were soft, but the potatoes were crispy. My wife's duck came with a leg-thigh piece with crispy skin and a breast sliced into several pieces. The duck was very tender and perfectly cooked. The skin was nicely seasoned. The sauce, while potentially too sweet and sour, wasn't. It was actually quite meaty. The porchetta, in this case only the loin stuffed with sausage, was also nicely seasoned and slightly crusty on the edge. It came as two relatively large medallions. They were perhaps a little overcooked. I prefer pork to have a little pink, especially pork loin, with how lean it is. I don't know how that would have affected the sausage stuffing, however.
 
We actually had them pack up a sizable portion of our previous courses so that we could get dessert. My wife ordered the polenta cake with an almond zabaglione and I ordered the gelato (each $6). The polenta cake was moist and slightly sweet, grainy and somehow light, like good cornbread. The eggy sauce tasted nicely of, most likely, amaretto. Almond shavings were scattered around the plate along with a dash of powdered sugar. Again, rather simple but quite tasty. I ordered all three flavors of gelato: cinnamon, orange, and caramel. All three had excellent flavors, though all three were quite distinct. The texture was a little icy/grainy, but given the flavors it was easy to overlook. The gelato was served with a nice piece of biscotti.
 
I'd say portions are sometimes a bit small for the price, especially considering the simple and somewhat skimpy side dishes for entrees. But the quality executions live up to the interesting menu, which is a flaw in many of Portland's Italian restaurants.  
 
Service was attentive, even if a little hurried at times. But they seemed knowledgable, pleasant, and on top of drinks and clearing plates.
 
A very good meal overall. I wish they'd improve the comfort of the dining room a little more to live up to the rest of the meal, however. But I'd definitely go back.


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


#4 Calabrese

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Posted 18 November 2005 - 05:24 PM

If you go early, don't worry about reservations. If you are going later they could be a good idea, depending on the night.

The pate plate is excellent. Any of the home made pasta. The duck is always great. I've never been disappointed in anything, though desserts are not a strong point. They are good just not great.

The wait staff is very helpful and you can ask what they recommend or you can just order what appeals to you. I doubt you will go wrong.

This is the real Calabrese posting....

#5 cheinonen

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Posted 19 November 2005 - 08:17 PM

Thanks everyone, we'll probably go early so we will just show up then, and if we wait a few minutes it doesn't matter. Might have to order a lot of food to try a few things it sounds like.

#6 Calabrese

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 07:43 AM

Here's a suggestion on ordering for two at Alba....

Split an appetizer, split a pasta dish, get two main courses, split a diessert, drink what you will (the dolcetto is good if they have one listed or a barolo). You will be quite filled up if you do this.

#7 ks95008

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 11:16 AM

These comments about Alba Osteria are making me want to try it next time I'm in Portland. How about a little help with geography, since I'm down arounnd San Jose.

I'm thinking that you head west on B-H Hwy, go through the little commercial strip in Hillsdale (where Nature's or Wild Oats is located),
come to a Y intersection with a traffic light where the road to the left goes up toward the Mittelman Center and there's a little commercial area that has or used to have a fried chicken joint in it (Fryer Tuck's?). At that point, I'm guessing that I'm fairly close to AO.

Would that be about right or am I way off? Thanks.

#8 hidenseek

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Posted 21 November 2005 - 11:52 AM

You've got everything right, ks95008, except you've gone too far. Alba is in the little commercial strip on the left just after the Y, but before going up the hill to Mittelman.

#9 mcattrone

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 07:32 PM

I went to Alba Osteria at the end of July and it was one of the worst dining experiences I've had in Portland. Had the host been our server I believe it would have been a better experience but our waitress made the situation awful.

I'm not going to get into details but I'm twenty-four and was treated with disregard due to my age. My friend and I ordered our dinner and the waitress walked off without asking us if we cared for anything to drink. She walked off to the next table. At that time, I said "excuseme." The waitress turned around and said very rudely, "I'll be right with you, SIR!" In my mind I'm thinking you were just with me and completely blew me off. Meanwhile she's accompanying a table and laughing it up while a patron that is falling out his chair drunk. By far, the worst dining experience I've had in Portland.

I am Genovese and the food was nothing special for Northern Italian Cuisine. The ordinary food combined with rude service insured that I will never be back again. I was going to start a thread the day after I ate but I figured I'd let it come up one of these days, so here we are. Anyhow, thanks for letting me vent.

#10 Flynn

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 05:19 AM

Further proof that even the places that we think are the best in PDX can completely fuck up someone's dining experience.

Sorry to hear about that; I wouldn't go back either. Even though I completely love me some Alba.

As for the village, well...there's not a lot to choose from. I'll eat breakfast/brunch at Down to Earth or Marco's, and get a burger or steak salad and a couple beers at O'Connors. I wouldn't drive across town for any of them, but you can get a good meal at these nabe joints.

#11 mcattrone

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 05:26 AM

Flynn,

I appreciate you understanding where I'm coming from. I know a lot of people on this board are really into Alba. I think Alba has the potential to be a better experience but I must boycott it at this point.

Anyhow, have a good morning!

#12 ExtraMSG

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 08:50 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


#13 ExtraMSG

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 09:00 AM

I believe in second chances, especially when so many others like a place. So while I understand why you wouldn't go back, I'd hope you would anyway. Before I found places like Chowhound to make my experiences known, I would have probably called in the next day to bitch about that server. If the food was executed well, and you don't think much could be done to make it better unless the chef largely changed his approach, though, then they may just not excite you and there might not be anything that could change that. But I'd probably still give it a second chance based on the general acclaim.

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


#14 mcattrone

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 09:08 AM

I understand where you're coming from. As I think about the experience more I can recall imperfections with the food as well. For instance, the simple green salad that they served was filled with wilted discolored lettuce. If I'm paying $7-8 for nothing more than a simple salad of greens and vinaigrette I'd hope that the lettuce would be of fine quality. I also had the lamb choulder chops for my entree and was rather dissapointed in their lack of lflavor.

Lastly, back to the wine. When asking for a recommended bottle our waitress immediately pointed at bottles from $70 and up, a pet peeve of mine. None the less, I have nothing but best wishes for the future dining experiences of this forums members. I hope that you are treated better than I was.

#15 Vapid1

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 11:13 PM

Mcattrone,
Let me first state that I am an employee of Alba, though this following statement does not reflect the ownership, nor is it an official response. Simply stated I am biased. Biased in that I am proud of the food, atmosphere and experience we provide at Alba. I know that it is honestly, faithfully, and lovingly reflective of the cuisine of Piemonte. We have nurtured a strong base of regular, knowledgeable customers by doing things the right way. Providing consistant respectful service and food of the highest quality that stays true to the cuisine and regions. Of course we are not perfect, none of us.
I hate to hear of anyone visiting us and having a less than wonderful time. When these things happen it is important that they're addressed properly, and expeditiously. Were the 'imperfections' in the food pointed out that night, I imagine you wouldn't have paid for it. If the service was unattentive, then the owner, if notified, could have corrected it. Instead you waited. Finally to 'vent' in a public forum. There is little that one can do or say now. At this point I will say, 'I hope you come back and give us another chance'. Of course, judging by your comments, you won't. However; If you do I hope that your experience is much more enjoyable, and we can do right by you. And in the future, at any restaurant, if you have another unfortunate dining experience, please tell someone in the restaurant first.

Regards,
Jeff Emerson

There are three sides to every story. My side, your side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each one differently
-Robert Evans

#16 mcattrone

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 07:44 AM

Thank you for replying to my post. I would have said something at the restaurant but with the way the waitress was treating me at the time I didn't feel a need to make a scene. For the record, I am a very outspoken person. I did however note on the receipt that the service was awful. I was very excited about eating at Alba and embraced the restaurant with open arms. Maybe the food lacked passion because it was at the end of the night, I don't know.

I do know that everyone on this board loves your restaurant and that is why I wanted to go there. I appreciate you wanting me to give it a second shot.
Thanks,

Mark

#17 Flynn

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 06:47 AM

Alba is closed starting today, back Sept 11th.

Good thing I went last night to get their fabulous spaghetti calendula.

#18 ks95008

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 08:10 AM

"Alba is closed starting today, back Sept 11th."

Drat! Time for Plan B.

#19 ExtraMSG

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 08:37 AM

This is starting to piss me off. My foodie friend comes out this weekend and everywhere is closed. I'm going to have to start calling around to find out who's open.

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 ks95008

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 06:01 PM

ExtraMSG said: "This is starting to piss me off."

I thought about what Plan B should be. Castagna, Tabla, Park Kitchen,
Alberta, even Ken's Place. I settled on Park Kitchen. I called for a reservation. The individual who took the reservation has the sound of a gum-popping dimwit. I'm already on edge about going there just because of her, notwithstanding its generally favorable comments here and elsewhere. This was about 5 minutes ago. I'm thinking of cancelling.

Restaurant reviews should include some comment on the polish of the person who answers the phone to take reservations. Another good reason for OpenTable.