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Review: clarklewis Restaurant

clarklewis-restaurant-portland.jpg

If there is one way to sum up our experience at clarklewis, then it would have to be about wood.

Outside the restaurant, you are greeted by a wonderfully fragrant smell of burning wood. Once inside the front door, you come to face-to-face with the source of this smell: split logs of different types of wood awaiting to fuel the hearth/rotisserie that will cook your meal. Besides wood, one is immediately taken by the industrial design of this former loading dock and the open-air nature of the place, all of which make for a very comfortable, spacious dining experience.

We started with a bottle of the Love & Squalor 2007 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, a wine that ended up going very well with our appetizer, salad, and entrées. For our first dish, we ordered the grilled Monterey Bay calamari, which was served with gold potatoes, ice lettuce, Piment d'Espelette and crushed Castelvetrano olives. The calamari was cooked to perfection with the potatoes, peppers, and olives adding a wonderful flavor and texture complement.

Our second dish was the haricots verts with grilled apricots, burrata, arugula, roasted hazelnuts, and La Vecchia balsamic. The green beans were a bit underwhelming, while the accompaniments stole the show in this dish. Once again the wood-fired grill served to delight, with me wanting a full plate of the the apricots, hazelnuts, arugula, and cheese dressed to perfection.

Of the six entrées available, I selected the spicy grilled Cattail Creek lamb leg and chop (cooked medium rare), which was served with rapini, Italian white beans, gaeta olives and pistachio gremolata. What a fantastic dish this grilled lamb was; in fact, it was one of my top 10 lamb experiences dining out. A dish I would order again and again when returning to clarklewis.

My wife chose one of the four fresh pastas on the menu, a half portion of tagliatelle with lamb ragú, pecorino toscano and rosemary. This was just as delicious as my grilled lamb. In fact, I found myself diving into her plate of pasta on more than one occasion, for the fresh ribbon noodles and sauce were divine.

Throughout our meal, the service was friendly and attentive. We especially enjoyed talking to the person in charge of the wine list, who steered us toward the Love & Squalor, an Oregon pinot noir I have enjoyed again since our visit to clarklewis.

Eating at clarklewis was a terrific way to celebrate local food and wine. It is a restaurant I will definitely return to during future visits to Portland.

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