Fine dining in Portland: The Heathman and Fenouil

Kellie tears into her lamb at Fenouil
After finishing the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride last weekend, our merry band wanted to celebrate. We started out at the Heathman Hotel bar (where we were staying). Clint and I got an early start, befriending Grant, our talented bar tender. I had intended to have just one drink, but the Heathman specializes in classic cocktails and Grant was doing a great job; I put myself in Grant's capable hands and enjoyed several delicious and unique cocktails. The consensus favorite was the classic Old Fashioned whisky cocktail. I then perused their good whisky collection and spotted a rare whisky from a favorite distillery - the Ardbeg Provence. This lovely bottling is a 1974 vintage and goes for $589 for a bottle online. I had to splurge and have a glass for $75 - an affordable extravagance (more on those later). OMFG. It was complex and peaty without being overwhelming; really really stunning. It was especially lovely with the plate of oysters I ordered.

I shared the glass and oysters with Clint and my new friend Karl Zenk, the Chef de Cuisine at the Heathman Restaurant, who was sitting at the bar for a beer before he left for the day. We chatted about food, restaurants, and other stuff for a while. NIce guy.

After everyone joined us for a drink, we headed off to Fenouil in the Pearl. This is a swish French place in the Pearl, a cool gentrified neighborhood in downtown Portland. Michelle had discovered this place recently and highly recommended it. The restaurant was beautiful with big garage doors that opened up the restaurant to the lovely evening air. We sat just inside the doors and really enjoyed breeze. We started out with one of my favorite Champagnes, the Billecart Salmon Brut Rose. One of our party winced when they heard me order a rose, but everyone loved it.

Then, the endless progression of food started. First a round of starters - duck confit (the hands-down favorite), a Kobe steak tartare (also fab), a crab and avocado thing (lovely - but the drinks started setting in here, so I start to get a little hazy on the details) and maybe one other yummy. For our main courses, we had a good selection including more Kobe beef, some lovely lamb, and some nicely grill duck. While these were quite good (not uniformly spectacular though), the real highlights were the sides of frites doused in truffle oil (simply to die for - we ordered more) and a plate of beans (fava or lima?) tossed in some rich butter sauce (these were my favorite dish of the evening). All of this was washed down with a few bottles of decent Chateauneuf du Pape (a good all around food wine, imho).

Honestly, I can't recall what the desserts were at this point (some flan and something chocolately?) but they were good too. (I should blog about this stuff sooner. I'm clearly in no danger of becoming a real food writer like my friend Hillel.) The service was very good to boot; our very French waiter was attentive and helpful without being overbearing.

We did have one funny point in the evening where I asked him what fenouil means. He replied "fennel" in a heavy French accent, which, as it turns out, sounds a lot like a French person saying "fenouil". So I asked him again, "No, what does fenouil mean?" More firmly, he replied, "fennel" in that same heavy accent. This went on a for maddening few rounds before the light clicked on for me, and I finally got what he was saying. Just then, I saw the huge fennel bulb drawing on the menu cover. Doh.

Anyway, back to the Heathman Bar for a drink with Grant and a very nice round of tawny port on the house (stunning pale color, but not sure what it was) and a raid on Bruce and Theresa's minibar in their suite capped off the evening.

The next morning, Clint, Kellie, Chase, and I had a great breakfast at the Heathman Restaurant. We ran into Karl (the Chef de Cuisine there) and said hello. He generously sent out a nice fruit plate for us. I was also introduced to the joys of sriracha (the infamous Rooster Sauce, although the waiter confessed they called it something else amongst themselves. Think of a word that begins with "c" that can mean rooster). I've had Sriracha before, of course, but never on eggs. Spicy and sweet, this was an epiphany, perfect in every way. I may never eat eggs without sriracha again.

After all that, I think I gained about five pounds on the trip despite having ridden 200 miles. A man has to have his priorities.

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yukino Reply

I picked up a bottle of Ardbeg 10 at the duty-free in Hong Kong International Airport (along with the Macallan 18 Fine Oak). Yum! Thanks for the recommendation. :)

Tony Reply

Glad you like it. I still need to try the Macallan 18 FO. I've heard it's great. You'll have to let me know.

yukino Reply

Also, did you hear that Ken's Hong Kong Cafe closed down?

jeffdav Reply

Next time you are in portland, try Hurley's:

It's amazing.

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