111 SW 5th, 30th floor
I settled into the slickly furnished bar area at the recently opened Portland City Grill--on the 30th floor of Big Pink building (formerly Atwater's)--with just enough time to let Mt. Hood fade away and be supplanted by flickering street lights and the neon Wentworth Chevrolet sign. It's quite a view. My weak, ice-chunk-studded martini, however, couldn't measure up.
This was a sign of things to come.
It was Calvin Trillin who suggested that one should avoid "restaurants with a view." Owners of such establishments have no choice but to cut corners to afford the space. A restaurant like, say, Genoa, could spend much more freely on ingredients and labor.
The food at Portland City Grill proves Trillin right. An appetizer of pan-fried Lobster Pot Stickers tasted too heavily of fry oil, and it was difficult to detect actual lobster flavor. The dumplings were drizzled with a sticky-sweet plum sauce, and another appetizer of mussels in curry sauce suffered from pasty, stock curry powder, which overwhelmed the would-be delicious bi-valves.
My beefsteak tomato salad, which came without the promised yellow pear tomatoes, was covered in a slimy, ugly bleu cheese dressing. It was difficult to evaluate the quality of the tomato slices because the dish was served so cold that it numbed my tongue. There was a lone sprig of basil on the plate, which clashed with the bleu cheese.
I chose the roasted duck breast for my main course, and it was tender and well prepared, if a bit too salty. It, too, was served with an overly sweet sauce--here, a berry compote. The problem with this dish, and I suspect that this haunts many of the entrees, is that the side dishes are chosen without much regard for the foods they are pared with. Potatoes au gratin, asparagus spears, and a lone yellow beet were all unwelcome guests on my plate.
Overall, the Portland City Grill is relatively inexpensive, bustling, and, well, the setting is certain to impress. The unenlightened cooking, and the confused, inexperienced service, will probably not.