Photo of Roman Candle Baking Co. courtesy Avila/EPDX
The Oregonian's Michael Russell visits Roman Candle Baking Co. six months into its tenure, discovering that its highly anticipated pizza bianca is — surprisingly — the "least interesting" thing on the menu. In a grade that rounds out to a "B," Russell bestows the highest praise on Roman Candle's morning offerings, presenting his favorite dishes as a how-to for navigating the space: Step one, "Walk directly to the counter and order the kouign amann, the sinfully good layered pastry." Step two, gaze into the case and "you'll find" everything from "good-to-very-good rustic breads" and mini-sandwiches with "lovely steamed duck egg."
Things get less consistent at night: Pizza bianca, unfortunately, features "unimpeachable" toppings but unsatisfying bread (and the "light brush of tomato sauce... dries out upon reheating"); dinnertime salads are considered "less inspiring." Luckily, evening offerings like arancini and prosciutto and burrata are deemed "excellent," as is the memory of breakfast itself: "A stroll down Division, a perfect macchiato, a quick kouign amann, eaten alone or with a friend: I can think of little better." [OregonLive]
WWeek checks in on Kevin Gibson's restaurant Davenport two months in, where the Evoe alum's "austere" menu provides "elegant showcases for a small number of ingredients." Reviewer Matthew Korfhage emphasizes the balance in Gibson's dishes, even the more ambitious ones: a duo of cuttlefish and kohlrabi "felt like a Mediterranean drinking dish, an elevated cicchetto," agnolotti were "heartbreakingly soft," and goulash "surprisingly pristine... it felt like Austrian comfort amid Hungarian spice." There are few complaints here, just an appreciation of Gibson's simplicity (the chef himself, Korfhage notes, "looks less like a chef than an architect"). Ultimately, that agnolotti provides the metaphor for the "no-fireworks" but satisfying experience: "It's like a tryst with an old flame, all familiar comforts and prickling novelty." [WWeek]
The Mercury's soon-to-depart Chris Onstad is the latest critic to visit — and love — Jose Chesa's tapas spot Ataula, where "Chesa's dishes are loose and unpretentious, and bring the energy of his kitchen out with them." Onstad recommends skipping the paella (which arrives "oily" and "lacks a crusty bottom socarrat") in favor of a parade of tapas: Lamb shoulder meloso stacks "essences of winter and comfort atop one another," a soup of escudella de mongetes is "built on a dream-team broth of chorizo and ham hock." Croquetas, served in a ceramic egg carton, "hints at, but does not fully admit, a silliness that seems to want to peek out from Chesa's menu." Ultimately: "If this is what Chesa can achieve in four months, Ataula could very well be an institution in the making." [Mercury]
· All Previous Weeks in Review [Eater PDX]