Paley's Place here in Portland is one of the rare restaurants in town that regularly gets written up in all the national food rags, everyone raving about Vitaly Paley's ultra seasonal cooking and the dining room ambience inspired by his wife Kimberley. I have to say I hadn't been there for dinner for years...and I'm talking, except for a quick visit to the bar a couple of years ago, 6 or 7 years...despite the raves I heard from everyone. I think it has to do with so many good places to eat on the eastside here in PDX, why cross the river? It's kind of like going to the Upper West Side from Greenwich Village. It's not a long trip, but when all your favorite places are a five minute drive (or walk) from your house, even a short 20 minute drive seems like a lot. So anyway, on date night last Saturday w and I made a long overdue pilgrimage. It actually didn't even take twenty minutes to get there, so really we have NO excuse.
I had reserved a table out on their front porch, which starting out on this warm evening was the perfect place to be (a little later it got cool, so we had them switch on the heaters that are thoughtfully arranged above each table). We each had a cocktail and jumped right into the fray with an order of Dungeness Crab Beignets with local microgreens (you see microgreens everywhere these days. What were they called before? Watercress??) and a green goddess dressing. This was wonderful, the beignets were perfectly puffy and light, just a hint of crab matching up deliciously with the green goddess dressing, which is the retro dressing du jour in restaurant world. We also had the thing I was most excited for, which I had on my brief refreshment visit a couple of years ago, Vitaly's perfect Kobe Beef Tartare, served with a bright yellow farm fresh egg yolk on top....SO good, and my first real carne cruda style treat since our Italian sojourn several months ago.
Bouncy beignets and Paley's version of carne cruda...yummm!!
We were ready for entrees, and another thoughtful thing they do at Paley's is offer all their mains in 1/2 portion sizes, which allows you to sample more choices at a very nominal markup. We had a middle course of a 1/2 plate of Corn and Chanterelle Ravioli with cherry tomatoes and basil. This was a lovely interlude, the sweet corn set off by the earthy mushroom flavor, with a nice bite provided by the sweet/tart cherry tomatoes. Again, seasonal cooking at its best.
After that treat, and just starting in on a slurpy good bottle of 2002 Torii Mor Pinot Noir Reserve (it didn't show much fresh out of the bottle, but after about an hour it was absolutely delicious. Surprisingly we drank slowly enough to get to enjoy it at its best!), our main plates arrived, looking exceedingly fetching. w had ordered their fish special (top pic below), a piece of black cod filet on a bed of lentils with mirepoix and surrounded by steamer clams scattered around the plate. Cooked just right, the fish super fresh and tender, the sauce providing a savory thrill with every bite. I had their Crispy Sweetbreads (bottom pic below), as I have yet to meet the thymus gland that didn't deserve my attention. It was served with grilled peaches and string beans and was superb. Memo to food fearists: do not fear the thymus! This was really good, right up there with the glandular perfection served at Alba Osteria. And again Paley's signature seasonality shining through on practically everything we ate.
Finally, we absolutely did ourselves in with their Summer Berry Trifle and the dessert special which was a super rich peanut butter pie with banana ice cream. Crazy good, totally crushed us like a good dessert should, and left us both knowing that Paley's is slinging some seriously good chow, and my return will be much sooner than later. I'll make it easy for the rest of you: if you live here, put it on your list. If you're visiting, put it on your list!
The spoon, honey...USE THE SPOON!!!!