Photo of Ecliptic Brewing courtesy Avila/EPDX
Before his hotly anticipated brewery opened, Ecliptic Brewing's John Harris apparently made his ambitions known: that he wanted its brewpub to land on "Best of" restaurant lists around town, like the Oregonian's Diner and Willamette Week's Restaurant Guide. Both publications took note of the challenge, and both are now taking Ecliptic to task, specifically mentioning that goal in their reviews' opening lines. They also come away with very similar opinions:
The Oregonian places that challenge right in its headline ("Is Ecliptic's brewpub one of Portland's best 100 restaurants?"), and Michael Russell seems to think not, granting the spot a "C+" grade. The positives: a "solid" cioppino, fish and chips, and a kale salad "better than versions I've had at far higher-priced restaurants." Russell also has high praise for Ecliptic's "fantastic" burger, described as a "salty, nutty, umami-packed" sandwich, if priced at the upper limits of brewpub burgers ($13 with fries).
But it's the ambitious "seasonal" section of the menu that seems to drag Ecliptic's grade downward: a fried black cod arrives as a "shingle" atop soggy Brussels sprouts, while roast duck dish, already unusual in the brewpub setting, suffers from "erratic" plating. Ultimately, Russell praises Ecliptic's ambition, but advises that brewpub classics are what taste the best: "There's a great burger and some tasty fish and chips to set us up for another round of Harris' refreshing beer." [OregonLive]
WWeek, meanwhile, comes away with the same overall feeling: "Ecliptic's executive chef, Michael Molitor... has a fresh take on brewpub staples, but his more adventurous offerings fail to launch." WW's Martin Cizmar also specifically names the duck and black cod dishes as duds, though he'd also add the fish-and-chips Russell praised to the mix: "three hunks of cod were coated in a thick layer of unpleasantly dry, salty batter." The positives, again, are the brewpubby offerings, like the sweet-and-spicy drumsticks "expertly confited and sparked with a caramelly sauce"; and a banh mi-ish chicken sandwich that arrives "kissed with char."
Cizmar ends with the argument that Harris' beers, "approachable and balanced," were worth the hype and serve as excellent pairing partners. "They deserve a menu to match them." [WW]
· All Weeks in Review [Eater PDX]