In case you're not among the many foodies and bloggers who follow the comings and goings of Portland's culinary elite with bated breath, here's the abridged back story on Supper: Naomi and Michael Hebberoy dominated the Portland restaurant scene from about 2004-2006, running ripe (a catering company and invite-only supper club), clarklewis, and the Gotham Bldg. Tavern. Last year, though, the shit hit the proverbial: The couple divorced, Gotham closed, and clarklewis changed owners. Despite the chaos, Naomi Hebberoy is still at clarklewis, and she's keeping the ripe tradition alive with Supper, a reservations-only supper club.
Less exclusive than its previous incarnation (anyone can sign up via the website at supperpdx.com), and held inside clarklewis itself, Supper nonetheless aims to capture some of the intimacy and camaraderie of previous ripe suppers: As Supper's website puts it, "We are just molecules, so why not collide?" Diners pay $30 a head for the privilege of colliding with about 60 other socialites and wanna-be foodies, while gorging on a multi-course dinner prepared by Hebberoy (the menu is always a surprise).
The pre-dinner drinks portion of the evening consisted mostly of standing around smiling awkwardly at our well-heeled fellow diners, who were all swilling cocktails and waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Like a bad office Christmas party, the initial vibe was "drink until you feel comfortable." Once we all sat at the long, family-style tables, though, Hebberoy gave a welcoming little intro that helped ease the transition to dinner.
On our visit, we were treated to several courses of Hebberoy's take on Thai food. Each course followed pretty much the same formula: Big bowls of food were delivered to each end of the table, and everyone passed them around and tried to pick out the good chunks of meat without looking piggish.
The first course was also the best; a steak salad featuring thin slices of steak tossed with butter lettuce in a coriander vinaigrette, brightened up with slices of grapefruit. A green curry was saved from obscurity by remarkably tender pieces of chicken, while a dish with kabocha squash failed spectacularly, prompting this conversation between myself and a fellow diner: "The squash is gross." "Ugh, you're right. Well, maybe if you like squash..." "I do like squash." "Me too!"
Dessert, though, was devastating: brownies with ginger ice cream and caramel. Not exactly Thai, but delicious all the same.
Maybe it's because I'd eaten at the Whiskey Soda Lounge a few days prior, home of some of the best Thai food (hell, best food) around, but I was a bit underwhelmed by Hebberoy's efforts. The food wasn't bad, per se, but it was hard to see what all the fuss was about. Put it this way: I probably couldn't do better, but I have any number of friends working on lines and salad stations across the city who could. The menu changes weekly, and I've heard similarly mixed reviews of other Sunday Suppers; but while the food may not be mind blowing, it's by and large pretty good—and really, $30 for a multi-course, all-I-can-eat dinner made with quality ingredients? Well, that alone might be worth a night of making small talk with strangers.