Photo of Levant courtesy Avila/EPDX
In her first negative review in recent memory, Portland Monthly's Karen Brooks sharpens her knives for a take on chef Scott Snyder's year-old Middle Eastern spot Levant, where "five visits and 12 months later, I've found little magic, vision, or consistency." Brooks acknowledges Levant's string of positive reviews published elsewhere, but asserts that in lieu of strong flavors, "Levant has only transported us to a Hilton Hotel dining room on a Middle Eastern night."
Brooks pays lip service to the high points (cocktails, wine, and a "sumptuous heap of lamb") but launches right into the duds, and apparently, there are many. Falafel arrive "hard as helmets," crispy squid "shows up as lifeless forms on the plate." Proteins, meanwhile, lack fire, figuratively and literally: "Levant's brick hearth might as well be the televised Yule log. I've yet to encounter a memorable smoky char or even a crinkled vegetable skin." Ultimately, "this is shallow food posing as something we should take seriously... Levant needs a bottom line: make it taste good." Ouch. [PoMo]
Meanwhile, a much different story emerges across E. Burnside, as the Oregonian heads to the three-month-old Davenport. Michael Russell bestows an "A-" grade upon chef Kevin Gibson's restaurant, where "familiar, comforting dishes often yield unexpected surprises." Many of those comforts live in the "large plate" section of Gibson's menu: Russell raves over the Hungarian goulash, clove-rubbed duck breast, and cabbage rolls "with nutty roasted skins." (Both the cabbage rolls and goulash are deemed "not to be missed.")
Russell stresses that Davenport "isn't perfect," mentioning early service mishaps and a few lackluster dishes. But he's charmed: "On its best nights, and with its best dishes, Davenport delivers a casual, welcoming experience that's easy to love and hard to match." [OregonLive]
WWeek visits the resurrected version of soul-food restaurant Mack & Dub's, and finds that Dub's St. Johns, inside the Ranger Tavern, feels "a little like home." Side dishes fall flat, but the butter-laden main draws provide ample soul-affirmation: "Juicy" fried chicken and waffles provide a "tremendous comfort," with doughy waffles that are "pretty much the same texture as the pats of butter served on top of them." Brisket, best eaten in sandwich form, is "juicy and thick and infused with sweet barbecue." Ultimately: "Dub's is a meat showcase," so order appropriately. [WW]
The Portland Tribune's Anne Marie DiStefano visits Ken Forkish's Trifecta Tavern, arguing that among a menu of drinking snacks, "bread is a sidekick, and oysters are the stars." Recommended dishes include the house salad, "vivid" wood-oven roasted carrots, and the oysters Trifecta, topped with a "light, lemony hollandaise." Less successful are the "very plain" deviled eggs and oyster stew, "which was overwhelmed with huge croutons, and was light on actual oysters." [Tribune]
· All Weeks in Review [Eater PDX]