Photo of Ava Gene's courtesy Avila/EPDX
The Mercury's Chris Onstad files his final restaurant review for the paper, and in his words, decides that "this is my last hour in the pulpit, and I'm not going to spend it romanticizing some east county pupusa cart." With his last Mercury dining budget, Onstad heads to the much-lauded Ava Gene's to determine if the food is worthy of the accolades.
According to Onstad, some quality control issues abound: a beef short rib arrived "dry" and "bland" and was ultimately sent back to the kitchen; panzanella accompanying another meaty dish had the texture of "unforkably hard croutons." (Comparing his take to that of incoming Mercury food editor Andrea Damewood, Onstad notes she "enjoyed the meat's delicacy and the way the flavors built.") The positives, per Onstad, lie in the professional service, the well-outfitted room ("You will feel attractive and smart"), and several dishes: lamb spiedino was "primally moving," while starters and salads reveal the restaurant's "award-winning creativity and boundary-exploring artistry." Ultimately: "I was surprised to find so many chinks in the armor here, yet also to be so swept away by the ride." [Mercury]
The Oregonian's Michael Russell brings his new star ratings to SE's sandwich shop Shut Up & Eat, where John Fimmano's mortadella sandwich and other East Coast classics cause proper table manners to "fly out the window." Chicken parm sandwiches are slathered in "ted sauce good enough to be called 'gravy,'" while a mortadella-and-egg sandwich could take on Pine State Biscuits' famed biscuit sandwich fir "over-the-top breakfast sandwich supremacy." Side dishes like fries and pasta salad are only deemed "so-so," though Russell recommends heading into Shut Up's new next-door deli to stock up on provisions. One star. [OregonLive]
WWeek ventures into Kristen Murray's "charming" pastry luncheonette Maurice, finding the two-month-old restaurant to be "more cozy old-Portland twee than new-Portland slick." Reviewer Matthew Korfhage praises Murray's "precise" food, focusing on its simplicity and surprising elements: a simple green salad "smelled of the field," lefse — though it could've used more pickled sole — "airily fresh."
But of course, the focus is on the dessert menu, Murray's forte, and again, the combination of "complex and approachable" emerges. The Meyer lemon pudding cake may be the representative dish: "It was a marvel of texture and balance, yielding gently to the spoon without losing its coherence, overpowering neither with sweetness, tartness nor hints of bitter zest." Korfhage's recommendation: "Come in after 4p.m. and order dessert first. Then fill to satiety with the rotating provincial savories." [WW]
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