PINE STREET MARKET—The massive new downtown food hall with eight restaurants inside got a slap down from the critics this week: WWeek arts and culture editor Martin Cizmar says Pine Street Market is overflowing with customers, but what will happen "when the novelty wears off?" Here's an abbreviated list of Cizmar's complaints:
- "Did you know that Sara Lee now makes something called Artesano Bread? Pine Street Market is the Artesano Bread version of a mall food court."
- "There's no place on the block to park your bike, let alone an automobile."
- "The menus at several Pine Street spots are overstuffed," writes Cizmar, singling out John Gorham's Pollo Bravo. But there is some good news: the "excellent fancy hot dogs at the Olympia Provisions kiosk and a fabulous burger at Common Law."
- Cizmar writes that it's hard to justify tipping when you have to "paw through a half-gnawed chicken carcass ($23 with sauces) and cheese flan ($7, size of a cat-food container, consistency of Greek yogurt, flavor of diabetic cheesecake), trying to discern whether dairy and bones are meant for the compost bin."
- According to an insider Cizmar spoke with, "It's tough to change anything at Pine Street given the structure, which requires a consensus of the various busy and powerful restaurateurs who operate under the same roof."
- "Pollo Bravo and Shalom Y'all, earn my harshest criticism," writes Cizmar. Gorham "seems to have taken on too much by opening several fast-casual spots at once." He then unfurls a laundry list of issues.
THE HAIRY LOBSTER—The Hairy Lobster has been on the tip of the local critics' tongues for weeks, and WWeek's esteemed Michael Zusman, the former Oregonian food reviewer, is the first to whip out a set of lobster crackers. First, he breaks into the name ("no one likes to eat hair"), then dives into the "stream of disconnected, disconcerting dishes," which after "multiple visits yielded only bewilderment." The Maine Lobster Cubano's "vanilla-scented cornbread" and "mass of mustard foam" only go together "to the extent both are yellow."
But what about the desserts by Mellisa Root, the pastry chef and co-owner with an illustrious resume? The the lemon chiffon pie is a "lightly lemoned cuboid of cake" with "green dots of cilantro-flavored gel, shards of bitter cilantro-flavored meringue, quenelles of cassis-ginger sorbet plus a bunch more shards, dots, crumbs and even tiny pâte feuilletée butterflies. This bizarre dish made me think of the landscape at Disneyland's It's A Small World ride, and like so much else here, it was more a showpiece than a meal."