Star Crossed 

Cosmic Misalignment at Virgo & Pisces

Even before setting foot inside Virgo & Pisces, which has recently staked out the corner of NW 21st and Glisan, there were warning signs. The restaurant's website, for example, advertises "Northwest cuisine with a Pan-Asian flair." Eep. A few years behind the curve on that one, guys. Or how about "Your horoscope-themed restaurant and bar (What's your sign?)." Well, since you asked, I'm a Scorpio, and the only pick-up line that works on me is "Can I buy you a drink?" If Virgo & Pisces approached me at a bar, I'd excuse myself to the bathroom and never come back.

The bright dining room boasts horoscope- and restaurant-themed art—a scorpion holding salt and pepper shakers! A bull wearing a chef's hat! One wall is painted in bright blue, decorated with fish, while the booths appear to have been purchased at the same restaurant supply shop that outfits Chili's. The overall effect is further confused by some exposed particleboard that's either a deliberate attempt to give the room a rustic feel(?), or an indication that the owners ran out of money before the room was finished.

There's really no other way to put this: The menu is a mess, with a physical layout as confusing as the items it contains. There are salads. There are sandwiches. There are crêpes and small plates, and the entrées are categorized by whether they are "from the earth" or "from the sea." There are scallop "cigars" and truffled fries, a peanut butter and jelly crêpe, and fried rice—it's a scattershot, corporate-sounding menu that might have been designed by a focus group, and the food itself is no better.

An otherwise-fine turkey sandwich was utterly destroyed by a too-sweet fruit chutney, and the accompanying salad, overdressed and vinegary, provided no relief from the onslaught of aggressively uninteresting flavors. A dish of leathery, overcooked rockfish in a cloying "sweet chili" sauce was equally unimproved by sides of indifferent rice and heavily garlicked spinach. Potstickers were on a par with the frozen kind you fry up yourself; and I'm not sure what you do to a butternut squash to give it the paste-like consistency of Virgo & Pisces' soup, but it can't be pretty. A dessert of gingerbread cake and lemongrass ice cream may have sounded good on paper, but on plate it tasted like overkill, hardly helped by a gloppy, overpowering brown butter sauce. While I didn't get a chance to try their brunch—arriving a precious three minutes too late for the weekend cut-off time—a nearby diner's omelet and potatoes looked more appealing than anything that ended up at my table.

Virgo & Pisces' most egregious violations against good taste are confined to the dining room; the adjoining bar, with its dim lighting and McCormick & Schmick's-inspired menu, is blandly serviceable—they'd do better, in fact, to expand the bar and ditch the dining room altogether.

As a Scorpio I am also "compassionate" and I "understand failings" (according to Wikipedia!), so this review would not be complete without noting that on each of my visits the service was attentive, professional, and friendly—even when, on one Sunday afternoon, the bartender was single handedly waiting on the bar, dining room, and outside tables. That situation looked like a server making the best of a poor management decision, unsurprising in a restaurant characterized by as many bad decisions as this one.

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