UP THE CONCRETE STAIRS and through the quiet front door is Riffle NW; a posh, catch-inspired seafood restaurant that rolled open its Pearl District Lucky parties of four or more will get a booth, but the two-tops are pleasant enough. The cocktail menu, designed by notable veteran bartender David Shenaut, lists 12 creations that will vie for top mixology laurels in town. The dinner menu is divided into categories: raw, plates, supper, feature, and sides. One from either of the first two and one from the second two will make a meal—some of the feature items come a la carte and some don't, so adding a side can fill out the table with the insurance of bulk. There are many notable dishes on the raw and plates menus. The Dockside Chowder ($11); a robust but unthickened broth, dense with mussels, clams, red potatoes, and generous flakes of white fish is a soul-warming bowl that doesn't skimp on protein, and is beautifully fragrant with a dusting of finely chopped fresh tarragon. The albacore tuna salad ($12) is a light meal unto itself, lavish with large pieces of fish, chilled green beans, shallots, and a dusting of toasted Panko-type bread crumbs that gives the tangy greens a satisfying texture. If you want to gross out your date or win a bet, order the sea urchin and quail egg shot ($6), which is difficult to look at without thinking of a poor little pregnant quail going to prom and having an unfortunate physical trauma in the lavatory stall. (It is light, gently briny, and refreshing, for all that.) Little growing pains (chairs with bad backs, a boring tuna paillard) and a lacking dessert list are weak spots; however, the kitchen's talent and craftsmanship is undeniable. For an upscale dinner that tabs out around $45 a person (I've included a starter and de rigueur cocktail), Riffle NW is well worth your next night out. -CHRIS ONSTAD

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