I've been having, as usual, some pretty kick-ass meals around PDX. Here's a few quick impressions.....
TEN-01: There has never been a restaurant in Portland to rise Phoenix-like from the ashes like Ten-01. I wouldn't have bet a plug nickel on their chances after the scorched earth reviews it received upon opening. I mean, it was brutal. And deserved. Well, my how times change. About a year ago they hired the very talented Jack Yoss to take the helm in the kitchen, and ever since this ship has been moving in the right direction. Very seasonal, farm-to-table food. We went there for a boy's night out recently. Eight guys, all of whom know their way around the kitchen and have eaten more than their share of meals out. The bottom line was we were all uniformly impressed with everything we had, and we ate our way through most of the menu. where there was hardly a weak spot in evidence. It was a few weeks ago, so I'm sure the menu has changed some, but from that meal and the buzz on the street, this has to be on your hit list. It has an elegant, yet comfortable feel. Kelly at the bar is absolutely nails, too, making several satisfying libations from various in-house infusions, and more importantly a rock solid martini! I also respect the kitchen's appreciation of foie gras in several dishes, especially in these food intolerant times when far too many chefs have caved to the demands of food Nazis who don't have a life of their own, so they feel the need to tell us how to live ours. And major props to my man Anthony for hooking us up with an off the menu treat that night in the form of some crazy good raviolis. Fucking awesome.....you rocked it, dude!
BASTA'S: Time was I used to go to Basta's all the time when they first opened. Then I moved out of the neighborhood, other eating opportunities caught the attention of my roving palate, and Basta's kind of slid to the back burner. w and I made a much overdue trip their before the symphony about three weeks ago, and now I'm kicking myself for staying away. The space in the former Tastee Freeze is cozy as ever. Owner/chef Marco Frataroli is really hitting it right now in the kitchen. Everything we had was delicious. The calamari was spot on, my all-time favorite pasta from back in the day, the fettucine al' anatra (duck pasta) was on the menu as a special, and it was exactly as delicious as I remember. w had the cioppino (pictured...via the camera phone!) and it was beautifully presented, really stunning to look at, and very well prepared....fresh, with a bright, flavorful broth. And Basta's all-Italian wine list is also a treat, with loads of choices at way more than reasonable prices, easily one of the best value lists in town!
CASTAGNA CAFE: I've mentioned my love for virtually all things Castagna several times. On a recent trip they had yet another thing to put on my "Foods I Crave" list, a freakishly good appetizer (left) of roasted shrimp, garbanzos, and garlic in olive oil. Another "Oh my f-cking god" moment, and I grabbed some bread and sopped up every last savory drop of sauce. So good. If it's not on their appetizer list when you go, let's badger them to get it back. Crazy stuff!!