Even though they've only been open 3 weeks, you know it's coming. With a great vibe to go along with a great view, once word gets out Rocket is sure to become the next place-to-be-seen in the PDX food arena. Keeping the coming crowds in mind, w and I made our way to this fourth floor aerie to see what the building buzz is about. Stepping off the elevator, especially on a sunny early evening, the light filled dining room is very welcoming. Great design & décor, very mid-century modern-ish. You can see straight through to their fabulous outdoor deck which has to be the best viewing spot for drinking and eating in the city.
The scene out on the deck
We tucked right in to a prosecco for w and a Tanqueray martini for me while perusing the menu. Chef Leather Storrs, whose Noble Rot started the whole wine bar craze here and brought small plate dining to the forefront of our local dining scene, has put together an imaginative, seasonal menu. We started with a butter lettuce salad with fennel and an olive tapenade, dressed lightly with an orange and cauliflower dressing, which was very good...crisp, light, a nice balance to the whole mix. We also had to try the crisp dumplings with mixed mushrooms, kind of like fried gnocchi on top of a mushroom sauté. This was good, fun to eat, but we thought a bit pricey at $15. I mean, how much do little balls of dough run, even when you factor in the mushrooms?
Our butter lettuce salad with the dumpling/mushrooms on the right
I had brought a bottle of wine from the home archives, a perfectly delicious 1998 Terrabianca "Scassino" Chianti Classico, so we had the waiter pop the cork. I also of course had to see what other wines were on offer. The list has some interesting choices, but I've gotta say the markups are bit high. It's hard to find any bargains here. The cheapest bottles of red are two at $35 per. With the plethora of great, complex wines out there at more than reasonable wholesale prices, it would be so easy to throw a couple of under $30 reds and whites on the list. You can offer value to your customers, and still make your markup. I never understand why most places don't get that equation: less expensive wine list=sell more wine.
My braised pork shoulder, with the onion rings sneaking around up top
Okay, so we're moving on to our entrées, and I kind of like the order one main and pick two sides from their list thing they have going. It's a great idea, and they have some interesting options. w had the seared duck breast with a rhubarb sauce and sides of garlic spinach & onion rings (lightly battered, not oily, kind of a cool side). I had the braised pork shoulder with sides of mashed potatoes & caramelized cauliflower. Both were good, our only complaints being the duck breast a bit overcooked and the skin should have been crisper (that is why one sears it, after all), and on my cauliflower side the fish sauce they were caramelized with overpowered any taste of the vegetable. But like I said it was good, nothing that really grabbed us or got that "wow" reaction. It just didn't seem like anything you couldn't get at any number of other restaurants, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but with Leather's rep, the buzz surrounding the project, and the scene & view, we were expecting/hoping for more. We finished with a pistachio tart with strawberries. The crust was perfect, a light hint of pistachio in the custard, fresh strawberries artfully scattered about. This was most satisfying.
The pistachio/strawberry tart
So we decided that for us, our bottom line is this is a beautiful, but comfortably casual restaurant, that seems like a great place for drinks at the bar or out on the deck, munching a burger I haven't tried, but sure looked good at the table next to us. Rocket seems worth further exploration, we just hope the food at some point satisfies like the view.
The Rocket menu. Click on image to enlarge.