Monday, March 31, 2008

City Grill (Downtown)

I was all settled in for a rare quiet night at home, which was to involve:

a) making my favorite "Jen's Rare Quiet Night at Home" pasta dish--freshly cut linguini from Pastaworks, olive oil and lots of it, a liberal sprinkling of crushed red chili pepper flakes, chopped fresh garlic, a few handfuls of wilted arugula, and fresh mozzarella or roasted chicken,
b) reading my new book "The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint," which I bought at Powell's because the first line was "If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head," and
c) strategizing how to peaceably remove the intrusive and nosy ants from my medicine cabinet, possibly by flicking them with a chopstick into a biodegradable paper cup and then setting it out on the fire escape and suggesting they visit my neighbor Jackie, who is an artist and probably has way more interesting toothpaste than me. Pest intervention isn't my forte, really, so these ants have been a problem.

Instead, I was jolted from my carefully laid plans by a desperate call from my sis, who needed companionship at the Portland City Grill's illustrious 30th floor happy hour. At first I protested, for the last time I happened upon the City Grill's happy hour, a drunk Amish lady (formerly Amish, I'd think) from New Orleans (I am NOT joking, either) bought my friends and I so many drinks I didn't quite make it to dinner with my sis, which as you can imagine, had severe consequences, namely that she ran over my head with her bright blue Miata. Just kidding! Also, the Drunk ex-Amish Lady ate our last crispy prawn unbidden and dribbled its sticky sweet 'n sour sauce in my hair, but we were on our fourth comped Cosmo so nobody was complaining. The memory of this evening lingers like the aftertaste of a shot of ouzo, and I wasn't altogether eager to disrupt my peaceful, quiet evening to return to a place where anything can happen, even drunk Amish ladies buying you drinks and sloppily pirating your prawns.

But I am easily persuaded, so a half hour later I found myself downtown, briskly navigating a path through the wet evening towards the pink beacon that is the Bancorp Tower. Upstairs my sis was smirking triumphantly, having finagled us a perch in an East-facing window seat, which had an incredible view--a double rainbow glowed in the murky skies and everything glistened from the rain that had doused me as I ran the last few blocks. A pox on this Faux-Spring! I shed my sopping coat and ordered a glass of Caposaldo Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy ($6.50) and my sis ordered a glass of the Sterling Vintner’s Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, CA ($7.75) and we set about examining the extensive and delightfully cheap happy hour menu while the piano player played "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John.

Now let me tell you the three reasons I genuinely like the Portland City Grill:
1. Even though the views could arguably permit them (however immorally) to charge upwards of $12 a glass for any sort of alcohol like some other cities' preeminent watering-holes-with-an-incomparable-view, they still have a very healthy selection of wines by the glass for $6-$7. This makes me happy.
2. Their happy hour menu might not be haute cuisine, but it's an admirable value and the dishes are well executed AND it's all night on Sundays. And the servers are all really nice even though they have to wear those stuffy outfits.
3. The piano player, if you ask politely, will play Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" twice in one night for you. (Me & sis get a little misty over that one, due to being big Almost Famous fans)

We ordered, and we ordered a lot, so I will categorize it to make reading easier for you.
Happy Hour Appetizers That Cost A Paltry $2!!!
*Papaya, Cucumber, & Avocado Stack--Papaya, cucumber, and avocado drizzled with a sweet papaya vinaigrette and served with lotus root chips: very healthy, papaya is full of antioxidants to combat the effects of your Cosmo/wine/tequila shot, and who isn't curious as to what exactly a lotus root chip is?
*Basket of Shoestring Fries: not bad, skinny as a hipster's pant legs and lightly seasoned with a nice crisp to them.
Happy Hour Appetizers That Cost Only 3 Measly Dollars!!
*Teriyaki Chicken Rice Paper Spring Rolls--napa cabbage, carrot, cucumber, red pepper, mango, and Thai dipping sauce: tasty enough although the chicken is sort of crumbly and gets caught in weird alcoves in my mouth I never knew existed.
*Kung Pao Chicken--red & yellow bell peppers, sweet onions, peanuts, sticky rice, spicy Kung Pao sauce: this dish looks kind of ooky but is actually really good, with a nice spicy kick to it.
*California Sushi Roll--crab, avocado, cucumber, pickled ginger, and wasabi: too much rice for my taste, I felt like I was trying to chew and then ingest a massive gob of half-dried rubber cement.
Happy Hour Appetizers That Cost $4, Which is Pushing It But Okay!
*Dungeness Crab & Bay Shrimp Bruschetta, served on grilled ciabatta with balsamic marinated roma tomatoes, mozzarella & Parmesan cheese, and pesto mornay sauce: a very tasty take on bruschetta, with satisfying chunks of crab and shrimp.
*Crispy Tempura Prawns & Mizuna Salad--Thai sweet & sour sauce, pineapple curry, and hot soy mustar because the drunk ex-Amish lady had eaten most of mine the last time I was here and I wanted a rematch, this time none of the sauce ended up in my hair, thankfully.
*Shrimp Chop-Chop Salad--romaine and iceberg lettuce with kalamata olives, provolone, blue cheese, roma tomatoes, basil, cucumber, and balsamic vinaigrette: reading the description I didn't feel overly excited about this exhaustive collection of ingredients, but it's really very good.
Happy Hour Appetizers That Cost a Whopping $5 So They Better Be Really Fricking Good
*Dungeness Crab Cake--beurre blanc sauce and Key lime reduction: This dish comes with two good-sized fresh-tasting crab cakes, and they disappear very quickly from the plate so I'd say go ahead and splurge and order them.
*Furikake Crusted Ahi--crispy nori chips, firecracker aioli, and scallion oil: I love ahi, but I'll be honest, I ordered this because it featured firecracker aioli and I think more dishes should have the word 'firecracker' in the description...anyway the tuna was cooked perfectly and had a nice firecrackery kick. Firecracker! It just might be my favorite word today!

My sis also ordered an entree--the Wild Alaskan King Salmon with Ginger blackberry beurre blanc, garlic mashed potatoes ($28). The salmon was cooked well and the sauce was interesting, but this dish was simply not good enough to ignore the fact that it cost just slightly less than the rest of our food bill combined. I told my sis as much.

Before concluding, I should probably mention that Portland City Grill also sports a lovely dining room adjoining the bar, but the way I see it, why would you pay 6,000 times more to eat in the dining room when you can get the same 5-star view and 2-star food in the bar, except for 6,000 times less? Besides, during my last visit when I peeked into the dining room on my way to the bathroom (where incidentally, I ran into the tipsy ex-Amish lady enthusiastically applying lipstick to her teeth and chin) it looked like mostly young fawning couples who didn't know better and older couples dressed carefully in their dowdiest Sunday best. Sorry if you proposed/celebrated your promotion/toasted your 40th birthday or 50-year anniversary/prefaced Prom here in the Portland City Grill Dining Room, I don't mean to demean your unforgettable experience.

Just one more tip about Portland City Grill Happy Hour--I suggest arriving as close to the 4:30 pm Happy Hour Bell (imaginary, mind you, but I hear it) as possible, or you will find yourself exchanging filthy and challenging glares with a tough-looking bunch of retirees visiting town from Hoboken as both your parties breathe meancingly down the necks of some hapless group who looks like they might be inclined to pay their bill and vacate their window booth in the next half hour, maybe, a situation which stresses everyone out, except me, because I let my sis do this part while I sit at the bar and chat up any single, gorgeous & disgustingly rich Deloitte executives who own their own island complete with private Michelin-star chef. Okay yes, these are rare, but the Portland City Grill happy hour is an enjoyable enough value-with-a-view that you can make an attempt to find one several times a week if you so desire.

Portland City Grill * * 111 SW 5th Ave (Bancorp Bldg, 30th floor) * (503) 450-0030 * Happy Hour graciously served everyday--4:30 pm ~ 6:30 pm Monday through Saturday + 10:00 pm ~ Midnight Monday through Thursday
and 4:00 pm to close Sunday * yes, piano player will play Tiny Dancer by Elton John for you, maybe even twice, yes do happy hour instead of dinner--faaaar cheaper and you get the same boggling view

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