Nostrana, 1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214, (503) 234-2427
Interesting Food, Great Wines, Good Service, Great Space, A Little Loud
A week ahead we couldn’t get a reservation for a table of five earlier than 8p. The place was still fairly busy when we left at 11:30. I have always liked the space, with bar seating facing the open kitchen and prominent wood fire oven; 40′ ceiling; intimate two tops near the windows. But it can be a little noisy when the restaurant is full.
We started with a rich and fruity bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by Castellum Vetus – recommended by our server because it had spent some time on oak. We followed up with her second recommendation – a lighter, fragrant, more oaky Sicilian wine made from a blend of Nerello grapes called Etna Rosso I by Custodi Aetneus.
Someone ordered olives. The small, medium brown pitted ones that came on that plate were memorable – as were the chili flakes when they got down the wrong pipe (that happened to two of us!?) The charcuterie plate was a flavor adventure! The crispy pork trotters was the runaway favorite but the whole thing was a wonderful variety of flavors that kept us all chipping away for an hour. The Insalata Nostrana was a beautiful pile of radicchio; the bitter perfectly balanced with cheesy richness of parmigiano. There were raves all the way round the table on our various pasta dishes. The pasta itself was so delicate and fresh. The sauce on my paglia e fieno was an elegant balance of flavors with just a touch of orange in the cream. There was a complaint that the pizza vongole was too oily. The bread was delicately crispy on the outside, delicately chewy on the inside; fragrant. The Cappuccino, amaretto cheese cake and panna cotta were all spot on.
Nel Centro, 1408 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97201, (503) 484-1099
Great Ambiance, Attentive Service, Good Prices, Okay Happy Hour Food
I stopped here a couple nights ago because it has good reviews and is close to the opera. Surprise! Everyone else going to the opera had the same idea. The restaurant wasn’t open until 5:30 and it was booked straight through to 7. The bar was busy but we slipped into the one open table and tucked into happy hour. We ordered a table full of food and drinks and it only came to $50. Yea!
The wait staff was top notch. Our waitress kept a good eye on our wine glasses and swooped away plates as soon as we set our forks down.
The food was only so-so. The fries came out limp and not very hot. The lentils that accompanied my lamb shank were too sweet to my taste. The goat cheese plate looked/tasted like baby food. But his lamb burger was great – on the rare side, with the toasted top bun delivered open. The calamari was delicate, hot and fresh tasting. Good size serving of salad greens. The wine was pleasing.
The ambiance is attractive with the outdoor gas fires, windows for walls and wood seats. A little loud when fully loaded, but inviting and modern.
I would go back again to try the dinner menu.