1700 N Killingsworth
It's common knowledge that the Mercury loves to make fun of the Pearl District. Lord how we loathe those yuppie yupsters with their yuppity-yup mobiles, and any restaurant that starts up in that condo-addled, godforsaken craphole has an uphill field to till with our esteemed food writers. Don't you forget it!
And equally true is our unabashed affection for sweet, sweet North Portland... it fills our hearts with goodness and purity, and we yearn to rave about any new dining hotspot it coughs up—anything that gives people another reason to visit its lovable little streets is a good thing in our books.
So it probably now goes without saying that I was predisposed to love Roux before even setting foot in the door. But bias aside, whether you love the North, hate the North, or love the Pearl (you, we hate), it's hard to deny that the following dishes don't sound extraordinary... Shrimp Creole with tomatoes and herbed rice? Pan-roasted rabbit with cornbread-andouille stuffing and mustard jus? "Croque Monsieur" salad with spinach, smoked ham hock, Gruyere, and Creole mustard vinaigrette!? Boiled soft-shell crab with Napa cabbage slaw and horseradish remoulade!!? CRAWFISH PIE!!!? AHHHH!!!
At the very least, Roux has the most appetizing sounding cuisine I've encountered in recent memory, and my girlfriend and I thought long and hard before finally deciding on the shrimp bisque for a starter, followed by the crawfish pie, and the pan-roasted rabbit for a main course. The bisque was appropriately textured, but flavorfully unmemorable. The crawfish pie was sensational, a buttery pot-pie-style pastry cup packed with gorgeous chunks of crawfish and vegetables in a cream sauce. It was also about the size of my kneecap, but it was so rich it didn't matter; my girlfriend and I each ate but half and were nearly full by the time the rabbit arrived. Always the stoic troopers, however, we plunged ahead anyway and downed the somewhat fatty entree, which came atop a succulent bed of roasted vegetables and a plum sauce that had me licking the plate for every last drop. (Seriously. I licked it. The girlfriend was so not down.)
The rabbit manifested in log form, wrapped snugly around a core of the aforementioned cornbread stuffing. I found this arrangement innovative but not flashy, a good representation of Roux in general, and, I imagine, the South. The space is optimistically huge, with multiple rooms and a lunchtime deli annex (which features decent po' boys, excellent traditional sandwiches, and a divine sweet potato salad)—but the lighting and layout is cozy and intimate, and the staff warm and friendly.
We pondered this as we ate our dessert, a delicate miniature tower of frozen chocolate soufflé with a roof of sugar-crunchy banana slices and a caramel center. Sure, Roux is big, but it's not big for bigness' sake—it understands there's a dearth of quality restaurants in North Portland and, as evidenced by the bustling crowd on a Wednesday evening, it's smartly addressing that dearth at a perfect time. Roux isn't showing off. It's filling a void, and the fact that it's filling it with all the style of any of its yup-tastic downtown competitors is just icing on the crawfish pie.