Portland Monthly's Karen Brooks is the latest critic to file on the uber-buzzy Italian restaurant Ava Gene's, and her takeaway is decidedly more positive than the Oregonian's recent B-grade review. Per Brooks, "The menu is not Portland's safe, letter-perfect, clothesline Italy. It's Duane's world, nostalgic and edgy, and channeled through the focused, cunning imagination of 37-year-old chef Joshua McFadden." (Of Ava Gene's mastermind, Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson: "He is the Dude, the essence of awesomeness.")
McFadden's menu solicits a flurry of masculine metaphors: tripe is "hellacious and treacherously addictive," "primal" orecchiette shells "bear-hug" fellow ingredients, and brussels sprouts are "baptized in fiery fish sauce." Elsewhere, lamb ragu clings to sagna riccia noodles "like qi to the acupuncture needle." Although the "kitchen shows inconsistencies typical of a just-opened eatery," Brooks ultimately heaps praise on Ava Gene's ambition: "A night at Ava Gene's leaves no doubt that Sorenson plays for keeps." [PoMo]
Inspired by "a recent online poll of underrated restaurants," the Mercury's Chris Onstad visits the two-and-a-half-year-old June to see which polarized camp — the love it or it hate it — he fell into. The answer is both: "Within a night's meal, dishes at June can go from show-stoppingly good, to respectably gourmet, to maddening."
Dishes like French onion soup, beef belly-stuffed apple, and steelhead fall into the show-stopping column; items like a "shockingly salty" bucatini and "frustratingly dull" rib-eye lean toward the other end of the scale. And as far as that "maddening" item: "Burgers go on buns, not sliced bread... this potential home run was a self-destructing bunt into the dugout." Ultimately: "June's courage and ambition is admirable, but to be the best of their kind they have to perform the artist's most difficult trick, which is to examine their deeply personal creations with a fresh, objective eye." [Mercury]
WWeek takes a trip to Montavilla to visit the new neighborhood restaurant Redwood, finding that though not quite a destination spot, "it's a good addition to the neighborhood, and worth a try before catching a movie across the street." Highlights: seared trout served with a "refreshing poblano vinaigrette" and "smoky" pan-fried Brussels sprouts. [WW]
Image of Ava Gene's courtesy Jen S. via Citysearch