Ringing in 2011! Here’s a recap of our dinner on 12/31/2010 at Metrovino. After being seated promptly on arrival and being given the time to peruse and then taking our beverage order, we started with the Amuse bouche at Metrovino’s NYE Tasting 2010 dinner. It was a spoonful of tomato and basil and perhaps also tuna tartare if you are an omnivore, along with a little container of Jerusulum artichoke soup. The soup was very nice and creamy and we both really enjoyed it, the spoons were ok- I was expecting more perky brightness in the flavor. As we would soon find out, that was the theme of the dinner- richness with an attempt at a bit of acid on the side.
First Course. For the vegetarian, it was an Alba White Truffle Blintz with house made ricotta cheese, alba white truffles, chives, celery-lemon vinaigrette. He found this too creamy for his liking, and passed the plate over for me to ensure bread mopped off every last bit of truffle (which he didn’t notice!!).
For the omnivore, it was Caviar Blintz: california sturgeon caviar served over a warm blintz stuffed with dungeness crab, house made ricotta, chives, lemon zest. Spreading the caviar over the blintz to even out the saltiness balanced out the creaminess of the inside along with the soft but crisp crepe outside. Along with our dinner, he had a “Syrah Smackdown” flight that consisted of wines from Washington (Tyrus Evan), Oregon (Cristom), and Australia (Mitolo “Jester”). I had a “Sparkling Smackdown” wine flight of Italy (Dama del Rovere Durello Brut) vs Oregon (J Albin Brut Rosé) vs France (Huber-Verdereau Crémant de Bourgogne). Washington won in the Syrah, but France won in the sparkling.
Second Course. For the vegetarian, this course was a Warm Winter Squash & Belgian Endive Salad with goat cheese croquette, lentil & leek vinaigrette, toasted walnut. He didn’t care for his cheese croquette, so I got to spread 3/4 of it on bread to enjoy. And admittedly the cheese was only so-so, croquette form did not improve it- whatever breading was around it was more like soft breadcrumb then crunch. The cheese inside the breading was sticky creamy rather then light fluffy and no additional flavor from a nice culture, now that I recognize the difference in making goat cheese myself at home.
For the omnivore, this course was Lobster, Avocado & Green Apple Salad with Braised Pork Belly, Crispy Potato & Alba White Truffles poached lobster salad with crème fraîche, fines herbes, avocado, celery vinaigrette. I liked the flavor from the pork belly along with the lobster and green apple, but I thought they could have dialed back the creaminess from the avocado a bit and instead added more green apple for more balance against so much savory. The crispy potato also was not very crispy. For a “salad” course, this was a terrible salad, it’s better as a starter, unless they add in more greens as this was so creamy.
As a special additional course for the omnivore, there was Cold-Smoked Foie Gras “Pastrami” with red cabbage marmalade, blood orange & caraway gastrique, dark bread and duck rillettes. This was incredibly rich and like thick tablespoons of Irish butter- I wish there had been more of everything else= be it marmalade, blood orange, or bread to spread that meat butter around. The quotes around the pastrami came from the fact that rillette was coated on the outside with the typical seasoning for pastrami- garlic, coriander, pepper, etc- and when presented at the table a glass container was upside down on it, and when lifted smoke steam wafted up. F also extracted a promise that I would never have foie gras again based on the principle that it is a cruel and unnecessary item to produce and eat.
Course 3, Mains. For the vegetarian, this was Napoleon of Wild Mushroom & Perigord Truffle and sautéed spinach, cauliflower, grilled quince and truffled pine nut anglaise. This was F’s favorite dish, the spinach was tender and cauliflower were seared so had a bit of crisp burnt part to it.
For the omnivore, the main course was Grilled Cattail Creek Lamb Loin,Foie Gras Wellington with Perigord Black Truffles, sautéed spinach and black trumpet mushrooms, grilled quince, sauce perigourdine. The lamb loin was perfectly cooked, and the sauteed spinach still juicy, and man that perigourdine sauce really rocked. The Foie Gras Wellington seemed extraneous to me.
Course 4, Dessert. For the vegetarian, Bosc Pear Crème Caramel chocolate hazelnut crumble, pear salad, nutella semifreddo, and the omnivore a similar set, Bosc Pear and Triple Cream Cheesecake with chocolate hazelnut cookie crust, pear salad, nutella semifreddo. The semifreddo was really thick and chocolate-y- we both had problems finishing it. The crumble, being less creamy and rich then the cheesecake, was the winner between the two. The pear salad was not full of enough juice from a fresh pear to balance out the other two rich components. We were both also pretty full from this very reasonably priced tasting course dinner, the mains really packed a punch in terms of both flavor and being fulfilling as a course, so something more light and palate-cleansing at the end would have been more what we were looking for. However, both of us are not into desserts normally anyway.
Overall, this was a wonderful dinner, despite the critiques you saw above. F’s taste doesn’t like creaminess, but I found the blitz to be great. The salad courses they served didn’t work as traditional salads, but could definitely stand as first course starters on their own. The main courses we both really enjoyed in flavor and texture as it balanced many profiles in every bite and combined the various ingredients well. And, although the dessert was a bit too heavy for us, we admit we generally lean towards lighter palate cleansing desserts, and especially after such richness in the previous courses it seemed like a bit of overload. Similar to the salads though, if those desserts were paired with a different type of dinner, could work well on its own. The main flaw was the progression of the courses put together in a sequence, not the concepts of the dishes- at least on this visit. I’m all for luxury on New Year’s Eve, but the richness here was even a bit much for a butter, bacon, duck fat lover like myself.
The atmosphere was modern but still warm, with the wait staff continually keeping our water glasses filled (F was very thirsty) and checking in on us but still being unobtrusive so we could have our private conversations. We sat by the window but never felt cold, and got to enjoy the view as the evening went on of people travelling to their New Year’s Eve countdown destination with potluck dishes or beverages.
Their wine menu is huge, with tastings (1/2 glass ) and a glass available on most of their wine options rather then the normal only a dozen glasses of wine to choose from. They also had 2 dozen wine flights to choose from if you wanted their suggestions that would be a “smackdown” of various wine regions, definitely an interesting take- but you could have easily made your own wine flight as well with all those tasting options. This would be a great place to explore wine, and since it’s right across the street from the streetcar stop, you could even do so with public transit as your safe option home so you can enjoy all you wanted. Metrovino also was rated “best burger” in Portland, and based on this dinner, has culinary strength to match its impressive wine list.