This quirky logging town in the Pacific Northwest seems to be the darling in the food media world, with several publications putting Portland’s gastronomical scene under the microscope.

One of the latest hot tables in the city is six-month-old Riffle NW, a seafood-focused restaurant opened by former New Yorkers Ken and Jennifer Norris. Their latest venture opened in the city’s hip shopping and dining district known as the Pearl.

I got a chance to check out the restaurant earlier this week with my sister, brother-in-law and two nieces, whom I’m visiting for Thanksgiving. But before we hit the turkey, we checked out some of the seafood offerings of Riffle.

Diver scallops with parsnip puree and rainbow swiss chard ($28)

The space has an industrial, warehouse space with quirky touches of the fishing world such as chair slipcovers made from refurbished sails and lights fashioned from old crab catches and rope.

Riffle has an advanced cocktail program, which my brother-in-law and I tested. (He tried the restaurant’s version of a Pimm’s Cup and I got the Riffle Collins.) We also got a dozen oysters, trying three varieties with the house-made cocktail sauce.

The oysters (I forgot the varieties, we tried three) looked impressive when they came out, but I felt they were sitting in two much of the salty juices, or hog wash.

While my nieces munched on pasta with brown butter, the adults got entrees that reflected a variety of catches from the Pacific. My sister enjoyed her scallops with parsnip puree and rainbow swiss chard ($28) while my brother-in-law dug into his bacon-wrapped monkfish with carrot puree and duck confit ($30).

Cool lights add to the space’s industrial and nautical feel

I went with the area’s more popular fish choice, salmon – specifically Alaskan salmon with sautéed cauliflower and romanesco and marcona almonds ($27).

The dishes came out beautifully presented, in a minimalist fashion focusing attention on the seafood. Everything was nicely cooked (I loved the slight pinkish interior of my salmon filet and the crispy skin on top) with subtle flavors combining well. Our meal felt light and refined, and the service was friendly and accommodating.

Riffle NW fits in comfortably to the Pearl’s hip scene, although probably a bit pricier than other spots. Still, its lightly styled presentation of today’s catch can hook a lot of willing diners.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps



Riffle NW, 333 NW 13th St. (at Flanders), Portland, Ore. PH: 503.894.8978. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. rifflenw.com

Riffle NW on Urbanspoon

Open kitchen where the crew also breaks down a whole fresh catch of the day

Riffle’s tables are fitted with slots where you can pull out the drinks menu.

Cocktails are impressive, like the Pimm’s Cup (left) with cool cucumber garnish and my Riffle Collins made of gin, lime, absinthe, celery and salt.

Dozen oysters served with house-made cocktail sauce that I actually thought needed a bit more kick.

Alaskan Salmon ($27) with sauteed cauliflower and romanesco and a side salad of greens and marcona almonds

Bacon-wrapped monkfish with carrot puree, duck confit and greens ($30)

2 Responses to What’s Fresh in Portland’s Pearl District

  1. Karen Tran says:

    I didn’t know you had family in Portland – so do I! If you are up in Portland for Christmas, we should hit up a few places together 🙂

    • Ben Ben says:

      My sister just moved there from D.C., so looking forward to visit often. Not planning to be there this Christmas but we should coordinate. Would love to explore PDX with you! 🙂