There's a difference between a full "review" of a restaurant and a lot of what I report. Most of my commentary of my all too frequent eating adventures are more in the "slice of life" category. Kind of a review of one evening. I have to say in my experience I think one evening at a restaurant can tell you a lot about what future visits might hold for you. Last night we made our first visit to the new Noble Rocket...oops, I meant Noble Rot that inhabits the old Rocket space on East Burnside. My first impression, whether it was Rocket or Rot, is that I really love this space. The unique view view of the west hills, unfortunately marred by the giant billboard on top of the Hippo Hardware building across the street (and no blame to Rot for that. Last night's giant Egg McMuffin right in our face was quite comically surreal), and the light that pours into the space gives it a sleek, elegant feel. The spacious booths are comfy, and the bar is a great spot to sit and take in the view...although an inconsistent place to drink.
We were going with our friends J&K, and I called ahead to find out if they took reservations. As expected the answer was no unless we were a party of six, which I have no problem with. The girl who answered informed me I could come in and get on the list and the wait probably wouldn't be too long. I in turn asked if I could call and get my name on the list, which is a system that seems to work really well for Three Doors Down. I mean if someone calls with their name and no shows, how hard is it to go to the next name on the list (from the restaurants perspective, they want you there and drinking while you wait for your table). I was curtly told no, you have to sign up in person, and when I said no problem, I'd be there, I got a somewhat condescending "yippee" in response. Gee, thanks for your professionalism.
w and I got there early, put our names down and sat at the bar to wait. I ordered the Dark and Stormy off the cocktail list, a Tiki classic. w, who was laying off the hooch this night asked for a non-alcoholic...and I hate to use this term..."mocktail" (btw- she had an amazing one at Beaker and Flask...of course). My D&S, which is basically rum & ginger beer, was, and I can't believe I'm complaining about this, way to rummy, the balance was way off, the booze obliterating the ginger beer. w's strawberry daquiri-like drink was way too sweet, so much so she took about 2 sips and left it. A drink in dire need of citrus. Our friends arrived and we were promptly led to a booth along the windows. They had just navigated the B&T crowd that prowls the 1st Thursday art scene in the "Pearl" like black-clad, hip-urban wannabes and were in desperate need of refreshment. Sadly our server, who spent the entire evening seemingly uninterested in her job and should have had "whatever" printed on the front of her shirt, was in no hurry to gather our order. When she did show up after ten minutes they ordered margaritas, and I had a Hendrick's gimlet (one of my bar competency tests). This time all the drinks were excellent, the margs letting the smoky tequila seep through, and the gimlet just a notch below mine and the Café Castagna version. We snacked on two of their signature apps, an onion tart (right) and the onion rings. The tart was too mushy, the flavors mish-mashing together, which was too bad as the crust was perfect. The onion rings on the other hand, were the best I've had in town, lightly battered, beautifully golden, with some bite left in the onion itself.
Our entrées off the limited menu (and that's not a rap; I actually like a menu that doesn't need to be everything to everyone) were next, and they showed the same inconsistency as our drinks and apps. K had the rib eye (left), which was easily the best thing on the table. Tender, perfectly medium-rare and topped with a rich shallot butter. The fries were credible if unremarkable, but the arugula salad was too stemmy, as if the prep person was in a hurry to get through his admittedly mind-numbing task. J had the pasta special (below right), which had ham, carrots, and radishes in a light lemon-cream sauce. This dish just missed, the individual ingredients fresh and flavorful (or they could have been), but over-whelmed by the too lemony sauce. For her plate w ordered the ham and cheddar panino with a mango marmalade and that was actually quite good with a generous side salad for $9. Then we came to my plate of food, which of course I had high hopes for: "Grilled pork shoulder, rice & lentil croquettes; green bean, rhubarb & red mustard salad" (below pic). Sounded so good, and the salad part was. But I didn't order it for the salad, I was in it for some pig, and that fell so far short. It was sliced pork shoulder, tender but overcooked (as were the too-crusty croquettes), with an insipid pan sauce that shredded the page out of the book that said "food should never be boring". This was the Guy Lombardo of entrées. Another of my pet peeves when I eat out is that when a server sees my empty plate, please come and pick it up. Nothing is worse than having an empty, dirty plate sitting in front of me. Our server made eye contact with me when I had finished, looked down at our table, and walked right by. Again, at least show some interest and professionalism, if it's not too much trouble.
Which just drove home my whole impression of our evening, and what I came away with was a feeling of a place that is still struggling to find itself and some consistency. The food prices are in the high-moderate range (BTW- the wine list does offer numerous values and is one of the more well-priced, interesting lists I've seen lately), and as with every restaurant consistency, in both service (and I don't mean consistently bad service) and food is paramount. Especially when a place is working with a limited number of menu items, there is no excuse for anything to be less than excellent. I was surprised, because I had heard from several people that after a rocky start things were turning around. With so many good options out there in our local dining scene, places that always seem to nail it time after time, dish after dish, inconsistency isn't to rewarded.
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After this experience we all headed down the street to Beaker and Flask to rehash and regroup, and once again Kevin, Tim, and the VERY professional and nice servers were spot on. This is exactly the kind of place I'll be rewarding again and again!