Restaurant Review: 23Hoyt

In a city that's said to be up and coming in its growth of super-plush condominiums, trendy city neighborhoods and an explosion of unique dining venues, Portland is, no doubt, a place with options. Will it be the latest hot spot in the lower NW Pearl District, a classic adventure to Portland's almost-forgotten SW downtown neighborhood, or a stop at the always-comforting upper NW area? For myself and two young mothers ready for a much-needed night out, NW 23rd was our venue of choice. The chosen spot for what we hoped would be mouthwatering cuisine? 23Hoyt.

Situated, as one might guess, on the corner of NW 23rd and Hoyt, 23Hoyt is the latest brain child of restaurateur Bruce Carey and adored Portland chef, Christopher Israel. These two have collaborated in past lives on such famed city meal destinations as the former Zefiro, and the still-hopping cocktail and pan-Asian cuisine destination, Saucebox. And, they've both done it again. The marriage of Carey's eye for elegant, trendy venues (which also includes the Pearl District's Bluehour) that boast a touch of glamour with Israel's diverse expertise in simple, but deliciously desirable European-inspired cuisine, 23Hoyt delivers another sweet surprise to Portland's growing culinary sophistication.

Arriving fifteen minutes early for our 8:15pm reservation, the girls and I were promptly taken to our four-person, dimly lit table against the window that looked out onto Hoyt. The dinning room sits under a 20-ft ceiling that adds to the glamorous combination of white table clothes dressed with lit tea light candles in glass votive holders and a grey color scheme. Two tall ficus trees to the left of the space add a lively element that isn't seen a lot around town. In the middle of the C-shaped room sits the lit-up bar filled with cocktail-thirsty patrons. Though the bar is located in the middle of the restaurant, it doesn't feel out of place or too crowded. I walked passed the it twice to visit the ladies room - up a small flight of steps and to the right - and I never felt like I was interrupting the sip of a perfect martini.

So we swooned and ooohhed and ahhhed at the menu and the three of us each decided on dish. We, first, decided we would start off our feastful evening with a bottle of the Montsant Falet Rose. Served chilled, the reddish-pink wine delivered a burst of fruit that was surprisingly refreshing to start off with. We proceeded with our ordering. I chose the Insalata Caprese and the girls each had a Caesar salad. The caprese was gorgeous with bright red and yellow tomatoes, rich slices of homemade mozzarella, basil and a perfect drizzling of olive oil. It's a shame that summer is coming to an end and ripe tomatoes are almost a faint memory. These were perfect; fresh, juicy, sweet and with each bite I envisioned a bright blue Greek sky and the turquoise water of the Mediterranean. There was not a drop left on my plate. The Caesars were served in a classic style with full, long romaine leaves, Caesar dressing and sprinkled with grated parmesan and croutons. I didn't taste it I will admit. I love Caesar salads, but wanted to revel in the flavors I had just devoured with my caprese.

If time allows, I always love to view the menu of a restaurant online first to get an idea of what I'll want before I go. I was so excited about this dinner menu that after looking at it for two days, I was still unsure what I would have until our server nodded to me, signaling my turn. With choices that ranged from Linguine with blue mussels, saffron cream, garden tomatoes and basil chiffonade; Grilled Alaskan Coho salmon wrapped in grape leaves and served with grilled eggplant and a Catalan sauce of raisins, tomatoes, lemon, olive oil and toasted pinenuts; and Grilled Cascade Natural flat iron steak served with horseradish cream, roasted red and chiogga beets, watercress and red potatoes, what does one choose? I picked something in between and one that our server highly recommended, the Oregon rabbit hindquarter braised with white wine, mustard, cremini mushrooms, bacon lardons and pearl onions with pappardelle and rabbit sausage. The girls, staying consistent in their ordering of the same item, both chose the Roasted Carlton Farms pork tenderloin with Italian prune plums, red wine sauce, Yukon gold potato puree and sauteed carrots. Yum.

As we awaited our main course and sat relaxed in good conversation, my eyes scanned the room to see who, exactly, is coming to 23Hoyt. The crowd was very mixed and ranged from the mid-aged professionals on a first date to the trendy, savvy and sophisticated elders still interested in what's new and hot around town. And, of course, there were the thirty-somethings sipping a cocktail, or two, and sharing their latest adventures from the week. It is a diverse mix that somehow complement each other and work well together to create a balanced, but interesting, scene.

After what seemed to be a slightly longer wait than expected, our food arrived. Sitting in the center of pearl onions and bacon slices, my rabbit hindquarter looked simple and clean. The pork tenderloin looked absolutely heavenly with slices situated atop the potato puree with red wine sauce decorating the plate on one side. A very lean meat that is easily overcooked, the Oregon rabbit was done just right with a lot of flavor and still a bit of juice. I will admit, though, after trying the pork tenderloin, I was totally jealous. It was tender, succulent and rich with the red wine sauce and I'd wished I had been the one to sign up for it. All's well that ends well, I suppose, and I did finish off my feast with the black plum puff pastry tartelette with plum ice cream. It's a delectable, rectangular-shaped pastry with slices of plum baked on top. A scoop of the light berry colored ice cream was so sweet and tangy and made me feel like a grown-up kid reveling in a grown up dessert.

Any cons? Not really, except our table was a bit loud due to the fact that we were situated close to the kitchen and, trust me, they were hopping!

I will be back, to experience more items off the savory list of appetizers and entrees, to sip another bottle from the restaurant's incredibly extensive list of wines from around the world and, of course, to bask in my own plate of roasted pork tenderloin.


Go. And enjoy.



Sheila Saltmarsh said...

Well said! I enjoyed every minute of it. She

Keith said...

nice review. I was really reluctant to give it a try. I guess I'll go check it out.

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