Emma Tresemer
H20 204 SW Yamhill
241-8132

I'm going to be frank. H20, one of Portland's newest downtown hotspots, reeks of new money. It's one of those restaurants that seems like it was dreamed up by a dude in his late 40s who's having a mid-life crisis and wants to open a cool, happening place where he can meet hot ladies every night of the week. Not that there's anything wrong with that, because there isn't--I much prefer the dim, relaxing confines of H20 to another Kells or Macaroni Grill, but I'm just telling you the vibe I'm getting.

My clues: mirrors everywhere, fish tanks, velvet curtains, cushy overstuffed furniture, a ceiling-high cascading water fountain, men in button down shirts sitting alone at the bar, a $10-15 cover charge on weekends, a very-'80s wavy line theme in the furniture and silverware, and gorgeous waitresses with their breasts falling out. These waitresses I speak of--or rather one in particular--are probably the most compelling reason to stop by H20. My boyfriend experienced such a profound hypnosis from the gentle bounce of our server's breasts that he brought her up five or six times after we left the restaurant, repeating with befuddlement, "I just think it's weird that she works there, she's just too pretty for Portland."--My insecurities aside, I agree with him--and it reaffirms my suspicions about the person who might have hired her.

Anyway, judgments aside, H20 is a pretty nice place to hang out in, most notably for happy hour (Mon 4-close, Tues-Fri 4-7 pm). They have a huge list of appetizers that run from two to four bucks, and a decent list of affordable sushi options as well. Selections range from chicken wings with celery and ranch, to spinach and parmesan risotto, to baked mussels, to stuffed crepes, to garlic fries, to vegetable tempura. Really, there's something for everyone, although not everything is expertly prepared.

Happy hour winners included the creamy, crab-stuffed California rolls, the lightly dressed but pleasing Asian chicken salad, and the deliciously delicate crab cake served with a tangy Asian slaw. The calamari was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, served with tartar sauce, and overall pretty darn tasty. The chicken wings, however, were small and bland. The oyster shooters seemed like they were prepared earlier, so oyster juice had settled unpleasantly on the top. Of course, nothing was inedible, most items were solidly good, and everything was cheap. And on top of an overall pleasant eating experience, H20 also delivers a luscious, hearty cocktail served with a smile and, yes, a sweet pair of tits.

I can't say I'm nearly as impressed with H20 as I was when the similarly minded club Aura opened, but I like it. They play decent music like Ben Harper, the Beatles, or entirely inoffensive live smooth hits, the lighting is low, and the staff is friendly. Of course, this place is ONLY okay in the early evening--I would not be caught dead at H20 on a Friday or Saturday night. But I think there's little risk of you or I paying H20's $10 weekend cover charge... unless you're having a mid-life crisis. Then this is the right spot.