As you may already know just by reading a few of my previous blog posts; I love food.
Tonight was another of those nights where I had no intention of going out to eat. In fact I was on my back from the grocery store, salami and fontina cheese in hand ready for a nice quiet dinner alone at home. I am a simple man at heart. But serendipity had other plans for me this evening. My good friend Ben sent me a text asking if I’d like to grab a bite to eat. He reminded me that Riffle NW (Riffle NW is a new “Catch Inspired” restaurant in Northwest Portland). (http://rifflenw.com/) was officially open. It had totally passed my mind that tonight was the opening night. I jumped at the opportunity at hand.
Ben picked me up from the apartment and we headed down to grab what I anticipated to be a few small bites and good conversation. What ultimately unfolded was an absolute dance on my palate. Given the warm night the Pearl District was buzzing; similar to nights I spent in the open street fairs of Germany. The smell of well prepared food, the sound of busy cafes and, people laughing with delight. As we enter Riffle NW we notice that they are obviously slammed. The hostess greats us with a huge smile and gleefully welcomes us. As we wait for our table I scan the room to see who’s here, and to no surprise it’s the who’s who of Portland's food and drink scene. This is going to be good.
We are seated near the open kitchen where we can watch the action up close; you all know how much I like to watch. I turn around to say hello to Chef Ken Norris and he beats me to the punch line with a grin he says, “great to see you guys.”
I guess I should tell you; I have seen this project take shape since the first day. And when it comes to fresh seafood these guys and gals know what they’re doing. I’ve been waiting for this dinner way too long.
On to the meal:
My first taste of Riffle NW is a Sea Urchin and Quail Egg shooter. This is a fantastic way to start our experience. The fat of the egg in conjunction of with the salty sea flavor of the urchin is delectable. An ideal combination of fat, salt and, acid to start a meal.
Next: Peppered Hush Puppies, I could not possibly ignore these beauties. A perfect combination of fried corn fritters and the "To die for" maple butter. The crispy exterior gives way to a soft core with a wonderful pepper undertone. Add the maple butter and it's heaven. I am going to dream about these guys.
Next up: Salt Roasted Spot Prawns. If you have never heard of these guys it's time you have. These are found off the the west coast, from California to Alaska, their name is derived from the incandescent spots located on the outer shell. The flavor and texture of these bad boys is un-matched by any other. With this said; You can smell the prawns from the pass; the aroma makes my mouth water the moment my nose catches wind of the dish. Again, another well thought dish. I separate the head from the body and suck the sweet tamale from the salty shell. Oh, oh so freaking good, with the lingering flavor of the tamale still on my palate, I separate the shell from the flesh and bite into the perfectly cooked flesh of the prawn. The combination of sweet salty shell fish is a magical experience not to be missed by any means.
Entrees? Yes. Yes we will. Black Rock Fish with braised greens and celery. I start to chuckle, the sight of this dish alone brings me to a place I once knew, where sea meets earth and flavor profiles dance methodically through an open valley of fragrant aromas. for the simple man, this dish is perfect. Crisp tender rock fish with tender greens. Again heaven on earth.
These were roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, as you can see we really liked these.
The last bite: At the end of the night I reflect back to August of 2011 when I first met the owners and chef of Riffle NW, from the first time I saw them cook, and was fortunate enough to try some of their small bites, I knew this restaurant would be special. (No I don't say that to all the pretty girls.) This establishment takes great pride in the food they prepare, the pure love of fresh seafood is exemplified in every bite. Here at Riffle NW the moment you walk through the door your senses are heightened and teased, the ambiance is classy and refined, the bustling cooks are well mannered and attentive to every detail. Service is impeccable; the owners care about your experience. Every detail of the dining room has been well thought; the way a watchmaker cares for every cog.
We were treated to an experience tonight; one that I have no doubt will be repeated with every visit. I can not say enough good things about Riffle NW. Thank you to all the staff who have made this; an experience I will not soon forget.