Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good vs Bad- Bad Meal in Portland

The Bad: Clyde Commons

Clyde Commons is a restaurant I had been wanting to check out ever since I had heard about it more than a year ago. When Siobhan and I walked in to meet some of my Portland friends for dinner, I was immediately loving the design and space. It was a nice open space, huge windows, a great bar and open kitchen, and a large communal table.

All in all, our service was horribly slow, and our server did not seem enthusiastic about anything on the menu. Neither the cocktails, starters, wines, anything. It was disappointing since I enjoy seeing the enthusiasm from servers’ faces and expressions. I have even been known to change my mind based on a servers’ description of a dish. What was almost worse, was that he knew one of the gals in the group.

On top of that, I was horribly disappointed with the dish I ordered. I went with the Braised Pork Shank with carrots and snap peas. Usually a pretty ‘safe’ and good dish. It looked great, but when I cut into it, although the meat came off the bone and apart fairly easily, the meat was dry. And I wasn’t happy with the flavor. I was so disappointed! I’ve had a lot of braised pork in my day (and I think Chef Michelle Mah and my friend Eric’s top the list)…and this was pretty bad. Siobhan could tell my disappointment (not that I was really doing anything to hide it!) When I was finally able to flag down our server, I told him I was really unhappy with my dish (all I had eaten were the snap peas), and told him I’d prefer to have a ½ order (he confirmed he could do that) of the pasta dish Siobhan was eating (not that her’s was incredibly delicious, but it was pretty good. It was a tagliatelle with spring onions and king oyster mushrooms.) The server asked if I disliked it so much, he could take the dish away. I said yes.

In the end, it was a fine meal, and with GREAT company and lots of good wine (that the wine experts had brought themselves!) The spinach, arugula, fava bean and mint salad was a huge hit!

We were in no hurry, so the slow service wasn’t too painful. In talking to Portland locals, the feedback has come back very varied. Some loving the place, saying they go multiple times a week, and others saying they weren’t so impressed. One friend went as far as to say he thought the chefs there cooked without soul and love. Maybe he was onto something? That there is something about a dish you can't exactly put your finger on...but that you can taste—that fifth umami flavor. Maybe it was an off night for the restaurant. Would I give them another chance? Most definitely. If I was only in town for one night and had to choose between returning to Clyde Commons or going somewhere new, would I? Probably not. Unfortunately, the highlights of the meal (food wise) are a little buried.
*Disclosure: It really isn't 'bad', it's just 'not as great'. But calling this column 'Good vs Not As Great' didn't seem right. Should I change the title of the column to be completely fair to the restaurant? It really wasn't bad...

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