The story: Opened three years ago, Davenport represents the trend of chefs focused on local, seasonal ingredients cooked in casual, homey settings. Chef/Co-owner Kevin Gibson, who once cooked at Castagna and then a pop-up at a sandwich counter, changes the menu to showcase the ingredients of the Pacific Northwest.
Why I went: During my brief Thanksgiving weekend in Portland, I wanted to try a place that screams Portland. The restaurant has made several “Best of Portland” lists, and gets a lot of social buzz. So I made reservations for a Saturday night dinner with my sister (after a day of no-tax shopping).
The vibe: The yellow glow from the candles and lighting warm the contemporary wooden decor of the simple room, split between a bar and the dining room and anchored by the open kitchen headed by Gibson. The scene is calm and almost quiet, with everyone focused on the plates in front of them.
The booze: Co-owner Kurt Heilemann handles the front of the house and manages the bar, which provides an eclectic menu of beer and wine along with five classic cocktails. I ordered a martini ($10) that came not in a martini glass but a simple tumbler.
The menu: The changing menu is made up of about 15 to 16 small plates meant to be shared at the table. It’s not a progressive menu, but one of those where the servers recommend two to three plates per person. So really you can order all over the place, which also reflects how the dishes sometimes come out, all over the place like our potato and leek soup ($12) being followed by the heavy braised pork ($18) with polenta, then followed by the lighter mussels plate. (There’s no effort to course out the food.) The dishes are simple, which appropriately highlights the main ingredients like the roasted mussels ($14), which had plump, fresh mussels served with saffron aioli.
Side note: There’s no real dessert menu, with cheese being the typical offering.
My favorite dish: The simplicity of the plates continued with the lamb cheeks ($16), which were two tender cheeks served with brussel sprouts and tzatziki. The cheeks were incredibly tender and hearty, offset by the light tzatziki.
The last bite: Davenport lives up to its reputation of clean flavors with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The warm environment is welcoming, but the service can sometimes slow the dining experience (pacing of the plates seemed off for us that night with some wait at times between plates). There are no surprises, but the food is comforting and pleasant.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Davenport, 2215 E. Burnside St., Portland. PH: 503.236.8747. Open Tuesday through Saturday, from 5 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.davenportpdx.com
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