Friday, February 8, 2008


For a long time, I've been wanting to try Rocket on SE Burnside, for two reasons mostly. First, a friend whose gastronomical insights I trust ate there and had a good meal, and secondly I wanted to eat a Pocket Rocket cooked by a chef named Leather Storrs. It's quite a name!

So my sis and I met last night at Rocket, and since the rooftop restaurant was probably only at 10 percent capacity, our gracious server, whom we'll call David because that's what the receipt says his name is, allowed us to play musical tables until we found the booth that best showcased the restaurant's stunning view of Downtown Portland. The booths are great--big plush and u-shaped--I pitied the people sitting in the hard space-age looking chairs a few paces away.  

We prefaced dinner with a Chanel Royale ($9)--a light 'n lovely combination of hibiscus flower syrup and prosecco, and a Dark & Stormy ($7) -a pleasantly tangy blend of Goslings rum, Reeds sharp ginger beer and lime. Rocket also offers a list of 50 or so sparkling, white and red wines, three or four by the glass per category, the rest by the bottle. The list featured a healthy selection of local wines as well as French, Italian, and Spanish wines. Prices per glass ranged from $7 - $18 (Domaine Bruno Gobillard, in case you're wondering) and the majority of the bottles were between $30 and $50. 

Rocket's minimalistic menu is divided into three brief sections, Prefix (starters), Matrix (entrees), and RX (upscale carnival food). We'd had a big lunch, so we just chose one thing off the Prefix menu--the potato dumplings--and then ordered several items from the RX section, mostly because like chef Leather Storrs, they had interesting names. (And yes, we often buy wine just for the label too.)

The Pocket Rocket ($7) was our favorite--a soft french roll slashed on top and stuffed with chunks of fried shrimp, moistened by a subtly flavorful slaw. The tiny fried gnocchi-like potato dumplings were tasty, studded with cubes of bacon and sliced green onions and set on a bed of what we think was sour cream and potato puree. The Lamb corndog ($5), while a value to be sure, was massive and overpowering, even to my sister--a fiercely devoted lamb/hunkameat lover. I think I'd enjoy the dish more if it was presented as several mini corn dogs. The Scrapple ($5) is Rocket's take on an old Amish dish created to utilize pork scraps, according to our server David, and consists of crispy bits of pork shoulder mixed with cornmeal and served as two slabs of what resembles French toast, right down to the small pitcher of syrup to be poured over the top. It's an in-your-face sweet 'n savory flavor combination, but it's done well. 

For dessert, we shared the cherry pop tart, which was basically a soft, cobbler-like cherry bar with creme fraiche ice cream ($8) and a syrupy cherry sauce. The dessert was lackluster, the pastry overly sweet and the ice cream lacking the true kick creme fraiche is willing to provide. My sister was forced to unceremoniously spit out the ornamental cherry that accompanied the pop tart when she discovered it was pickled (Thank goodness there was hardly anyone in the restaurant to witness THAT). I think if you are going to call a dessert a pop tart, it should look (if, hopefully, not taste) like one. Where was the pale pink icing, the sprinkles, the unnatural sheen belying the malevolent presence of at least three types of hydrogenated oils? I know, I'm nit-picking, but it was kind of a letdown. We cheered ourselves up by openly ogling thesuper-cute guy washing dishes at the bar. Oh my! (Just kidding, Michelle's darling bf!)
We left Rocket feeling like kids who'd eaten too many hotdogs and bags of caramel corn at the fair--a little queasy and regretful. I think this sensation could probably be remedied by ordering a more conventional starter-entree combination (and yes, Rocket has this, check out for the whole menu) and not a tableful of things that are fried and doused in maple syrup or dripping with sour cream puree. But since we opted for the latter dining strategy, we can't vouch for the rest of the menu. 

Rocket has a wide wraparound outdoor patio that must offer stunning views in summer, so when summer rolls around in approximately seven months, we plan on returning, if only for a Pocket Rocket and some Scrapple after a night at the Doug Fir. (Rocket offers most of the items we ate at a discounted rate on their late-night menu.)


Rocket * * 503.236.1110 * 1111 E. Burnside St. * yes reservations, yes super-cute bar dishwasher * get the Chanel  Royale and a Pocket Rocket and try not to dwell bitterly on the fact that your totally square parents named you something insipid like 'Jen' and not something nifty like 'Leather Storrs' 

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