816 N Russell St, 284-5518

Two weeks ago, I had my first meal at Mint, the latest upscale dining spot in North Portland. That night the waiter bent over backwards and into pretzels to please us; but then came the second visit. The service was abysmal; about half-way through dessert (after we were twice promised coffee) I was considering setting off a small bomb just to get our server's attention. We waited for her to bring menus, drinks, dessert, a bill; but for the entire evening, she remained listless and disinterested. We left feeling two inches tall.

That's the way Mint runs: hot and cold. Admittedly, with drinks at $7 and a solid reputation inherited from Saucebox, expectations can run high. And at times, Mint lives up to--if not, surpasses--that creed.

The first time we ate at Mint, my date's beef tenderloin, served with tender red potatoes and gently steamed asparagus, was stunning in its delicate balance of flavor and spices. But my halibut dish (which since seems to have been dropped from the menu) was underwhelming in both size and flavor. Some fiery peppers were thrown on top to mask the sheer neutrality of taste, but failed. However, while sitting outside sipping a nuanced Guava Cosmo on one of the summer's first warm evenings, I had one of those dining moments when the stars align. But then the Avocado Daiquiri--which was more bland than expected--sent those stars packing.

Dessert was the same: The Chocolate Rum Flan had an assertiveness that crescendoed from a soothing richness to the pleasantly biting taste of rum, and the Pineapple and Orange Flan cleverly layered complimentary sweet and tart citrus flavors. Yet the Pear and Manchego Empanaditas--three index-finger sized turnovers--had painfully dry crust.

Of course, food is never guaranteed, especially with a new restaurant that, thankfully, is experimenting and cross-breeding Mexican, French, and Spanish dishes. Hopefully, Mint will work out their kinks and settle into the upper echelons of Portland dining--a great summer place; a place to take your date when you want to get laid. In the meantime, if you notice an oh-so-bored waitress, move to another table.