Saturday, December 01, 2007

Not So Common Clyde

It's too bad all of you don't live here in Portland, because then you could all experience the intense feelings of satisfaction I've had recently during two stellar dinners at PDX's Clyde Common restaurant. I've been there for various reasons on two consecutive Wednesdays, and both times walked away most impressed with what owner Nate Tilden has accomplished. Food that is interesting, accessible, not precious in any way (save that unwanted slot for PDX's Rocket...the restaurant on many diners death watch). Plus the vibe from the moment you walk in is welcoming, friendly, and not at all stuffy.

The first thing you notice is the long wooden tables for communal seating scattered around the dining room. This is recent Portland trend, brought on by all the "family style" supper places that sprung up around town. Now either you love it or hate it. I kind of like it, because you can either engage the person next to you or not. It's not like your forced to chat anyone up. Plus at CC, as my friend and local restaurateur The Handsome One said after our dinner last Wednesday, having the long tables "is kind of like eating at home." Give Nate all the credit for that comfort zone feeling.

And in case it matters to you, the food has been rocking. Some recent highlights would include for starters some serrano ham croquettes on one visit, and spicy coppa croquettes the next time. You match anything with potatoes and deep fry them and I'm in. The CC versions are awesome. Grab a bowl of their fried chickpeas, too. Perfect with that first cocktail...or two. You might be as enchanted as I was with their poached oysters and crispy pork belly with orange marmalade and mint...yeah, it was as good as it sounds! Both the beet salad and the frisee salad with a warm pancetta vinaigrette were fresh, bright, crisp palate cleansers. And don't you dare miss their "smoke board" which has a small mound of the most wonderful smoked mussels you could ever imagine Wow! Those were fucking crazy. Especially with the little shot glass of smoked porter or a splash of aquavit. A nice Scandinavian twist for our NW palates.

And when you step up to the (main course) plate, they keep it firmly in the strike zone (aren't bad baseball metaphors fun?). What has rocked my food loving world? How about seared squid stuffed with fennel sausage with pimenton, chick peas, and squid ink. Maybe some perfectly toothsome tagliatelle with chanterelles and thyme, or crispy salty grilled whole dorade with winter tabbouleh and pomegranate molasses. Their charred new york strip with potato galette, taleggio, and arugula is a pretty good way to get your beef groove on.

My only quibble with Clyde is their wine list. It's well chosen with some interesting selections, but I would like to see a few more choices in the $25-$35 range. With all the great inexpensive French, Italian, and especially Spanish wines out there there's no reason to have your cheapest bottle of red at $33 and to only have one under-$30 white.

I have to admit to not exploring the dessert menu as well as I should, mainly owing to my overindulgence over the rest of the menu. The bar has it down pat, and you can also opt for a quieter table up on their mezzanine. All in all, whether you live here are are planning a visit, this should be a must stop. It's right up in my top two or three favorite spots to get my Portland grub on right now!


Lizzy said...

I can't wait to try this restaurant. I've heard so many good things. Food sounds phenomenal. Thanks for the review!

bb said...

Lizzy....I think you'll like it. It has it all...casual ambiance, great servers, of course knock out chow. Let me know what you think when you go!