Despite the recurring use of "lively" as an adjective, the Oregonian's David Sarasohn files a "B"-grade review for one of 2012's most hotly anticipated openings: Duane Sorenson's Italian-leaning Ava Gene's. Using the bagna càuda ("hot dip") dish as his metaphor of choice, Sarasohn both praises and laments the restaurant's push-and-pull between surprising dishes (a bucatini with a nut ragu, and warm chicken liver appetizer) and plates that revel in restraint (as evidenced in the barramundi and stewed beef).
"Ava Gene's is imaginative and inviting, with ingredients from two hemispheres and desserts that should make up several courses by themselves. But sometimes dishes can lack the intensity that pulses through everything else."
Consistently impressive, however, is a lamb-leg entree and the desserts, including a "swooningly creamy gelato" and a "textbook" lemon tart. At one point, Sarasohn somewhat bizarrely describes an "ethereally silken panna cotta" as containing a "pine cone syrup [that] can remind you that maple also comes from a tree." Presumably, a compliment. [OregonLive]
Meanwhile, Portland Tribune's Anne Marie DiStefano also files on Ava Gene's, and similarities with Sarasohn's take emerge: props here, too, for the chicken liver appetizer and lamb entree. DiStefano identifies the lively side, however, with dishes eliciting adjectives like "jolt," "sparkle" and "tangy." Ultimately, the flavors balance: "This is a mature rather than a risk-taking restaurant." [Tribune]
The Mercury's Chris Onstad likes the "excellent" house-made kielbasa at SE Hawthorne's Polish restaurant Bar Dobre, so much so that he advocates that it feature "more prominently" on the spot's divided menu. Onstad offers his road-map to navigating the three "Poland," "Portland," and "Pizza" menus: pierogi are "flavorful," the Do'Burger is deemed "polished," and the spot also offers "some of the best hand-cut fries in town." [Mercury]
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Image of Ava Gene's courtesy Jen S. via Citysearch