Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting porky at Belly Timber Restaurant

I have to admit to walking up to Belly Timber's front door with a fair amount of trepidation, as the very physical idea of it went against one of my cardinal rules. That is dining in restaurants that occupy old Victorian houses. There's something about the basic layout of this style of house...their cramped, chopped up rooms, the lack of free space, that always makes me feel slightly claustrophobic. Also I half expect to see some crazy grandma coming around the corner in her old flannel robe and slippers. Now I know this speaks totally to my weird view of things, but I wanted to give a little background on my mindset. I had read and heard several people saying how much they enjoyed it and its pork-centric menu. It had gotten a big write-up in our local fishwrap The Oregonian. So last Saturday w and I walked down from our house (walking to dinner was a big draw) to check out this newish a house.

I had made reservations, and we went in to the foyer and were promptly seated at a cute table for two. Sadly, our cute table for two was also within two feet of the bathroom door, which all through the meal a steady stream of customers in need used, with the loud shutting of the door seemingly punctuating our conversation at disturbing intervals. Word to the wise: when you make reservations, be sure to ask that you not be seated in the room by the bathroom. Not a good place to be. So in any event we ordered a couple of starter drinks. The bartender at BT is Lance Mayhew who is head of the Oregon Bartenders Guild, so while w sipped her glass of prosecco, I opted for the Hanky Panky Martini, a very satisfying blend of Plymouth gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca. Quite a nice mood setter, I have to say. They also have a Bacon Bourbon Manhattan, which just out of sheer curiosity I almost ordered. I did ask for and got a tiny sip of their bacon infused bourbon which they do in house. It wasn't as bacony as I would have expected, a little bit of bartending smart-aleckyness, and to me proves that just because you can do it doesn't mean you should.

The name Belly Timber is explained on the menu as a Victorian (hence the setting I guess) slang "for food of all sorts". In this case all sorts of food with all sorts of pork. So with that we dove in. For starters we had the baked egg, lentils, and prosciutto which was really delicious, a great combo that I would love someone to make me for breakfast....often! Although before dinner it was a pretty satisfying small bite. We also had the goat cheese fritter with watermelon and mizuna; the shrimp, sweet corn, pork belly and swiss chard with grilled polenta; and the heirloom tomatoes with chick peas, arugula, crème fraiche, and preserved lemon aioli. All three were quite good, with the nod going to the shrimp and corn app ever so slightly over the fritter. The tomato salad was good, but with all the fresh tomatoes we all have to play with right now, nothing to special.

We were ready to move on to entrées and a nice thing they do at BT is offer several of their choices in smaller sizes. w opted for their eggplant, mushroom, and leek terrine with fresh mozzarella, rapini, and lemon. I was torn between the burger after my friend Jill told me she thought it was in her top 5 burgers in town, but in keeping with the pigcentricity of BT, I had the grilled Duroc pork chop. w's terrine was a bit disappointing. Kind of blandly flavored, and the slice of mozz on top was very chewy, like it had been peeled off of a three day old piece of pizza. One of those dishes you have that makes you wonder if anyone had tasted it before service to make sure every component was fresh. My pork chop, served on top of creamed corn and a few tiny pieces of pork slaw, was also good, but just good. The pork, as it is in too many instances, was overdone. And no matter how much I liked the corn, which was more fresh kernels and a little cream, and I liked it a lot, the dryness of the pork just killed the whole plate.

We skipped dessert as nothing off the list jumped out at us. Oh, and the wine list is well-priced, and I always like seeing a restaurant that doesn't gouge their customers. For $35 or less you can end up with a really satisfying bottle of red or white. All in all, Belly Timber was good, and a reasonable value. I'd go back, assuming I could get out of the way of the bathroom line, as the other rooms actually looked cozily inviting. A large bar dominates what would have been the living room, and even with the sometimes too inventive cocktail list, this bar is obviously a space the needs further exploration on my part.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. I had the wrong setting on my camera. Typical amateur photog night!


The Accidental Expat said...

Bruce: Don't slight all Victorian-based restaurants-- Khun Pic's Bahn Thai on SE Belmont is the money. It's not the easiest place to find (no real signage to speak of) and the lone wait staff (the eternally-harried husband of Khun Pic) may be off-putting, but on the right night, the food can be utterly transcendent. Get your Thai on!

Brenda and I are off to Germany Saturday morn, but rest assured your blog has been bookmarked. Come visit us!!

Gregg & Brenda

bb said...

gz....I've heard of it, walked by, and we have yet to go. It's on the list now. thanks, and bon voyage, my friend. hope you find a good place to indulge your cocktail love!