I was listening to the controversies surrounding clarklewis over a round of cocktails. The owners were the stars of Portland’s food scene until they divorced which resulted in two of their restaurants closing. Some thought clarklewis was too loud and too dark when it first opened, but there are still the fanatics who remain loyal and still frequent the restaurant’s supper events even with all the new choices cropping up in the area. It remains one of Sam and Jenny’s favorites, so they booked a table for the six of us our first night in Portland. I first reacted to the space because it used to be an old warehouse along Water Avenue. It reminded me of the small galleries that moved out of Manhattan and rented open spaces for less money in DUMBO, Brooklyn. I’ve always liked that unfinished industrial look. As soon as we were seated, I turned to look around me and I immediately liked the buzz. It wasn’t too loud and it sounded like everyone else was having a good time. The menu consisted of very simple choices. There were familiar salads and pasta dishes that already sounded good on paper. We decided to get several half orders of them to share with the entire table, but by the time they were served, there was hardly any sharing going around. We all wanted to claim our own.
The duck and parmesan salad was excellent. You can’t go wrong with fresh produce and good cheese peppered with small pieces of roasted duck. The endives were slathered with brown sugar which made them sweet, but at the same time very nutty. The fennel salad with the navel oranges and olives was by far my favorite. The bowl of clams was deliciously hearty. I was using the sausage-flavored broth as dip for the bread. If we didn’t run out of bread on the table, I would have been set for the night. The lamb chops were to die for. I had the same dish the previous night at Celilo, but my craving wasn’t fulfilled until we cleaned our plates. I found the broccoli an uninspiring accompaniment, however, but fortunately, Dave’s tagliatelle and Carmie’s beef stew in pasta filled us all up. A bottle of Italian wine was a good compliment to everything we ordered and our choices of desserts were the perfect end to a long, satisfying meal with friends.
clarklewis is at 1001 SE Water Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Call 503/235.2294 for reservations. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Eating in Hood River, Oregon: Celilo