Top of the Class: Clyde Common

clyde-common-hanger-steakGreetings from Portland 🙂

When I looked outside the hotel room window in the morning, I noticed the white cotton-like fuzz falling from the sky. I watched the little icy flakes dance in the air, then fall slowly and peacefully on the ground … and wondered if I had just witnessed what people often refer to as … snow. The local news reported that many schools in the Portland area were closed this day and wished that I too can stay in for a snow day. But the bitter reality of adulthood is that you need to suck it up and drive to work in the snow because the company did not pay hundreds of dollars to fly me from Los Angeles to Portland so that I can make snow angels all day. I sure miss being a kid sometime.

I actually had the chance to feel like a kid that night, when Tiffany and I ventured out to Southwest Portland to check out Clyde Common for dinner, a restaurant that captured one of the top spots in Portland Magazine’s Best Restaurants list in 2008. We arrived at the restaurant which is connected to Ace Hotel, around 7:30 p.m. and were seated immediately on one of the long community tables where we shared the table with a foursome already enjoying appetizers and glasses of beer and wine. We were handed a menu printed on a notebook-like paper, with today’s date stamped on top like the one you get when you check out a library book. I almost wanted to handwrite my name on the menu in pencil and turn it in to a service staff. I felt like I was back in elementary school, with my classmates sitting next to me in this slightly more sophisticated and epicurean cafeteria.

We examined the menu as if it were a homework assignment and suddenly realized that we were assigned in a class far more advanced than our current culinary aptitude. Mind you, Tiffany and I take pride in our love for food and consider ourselves slightly above average when it comes to our level of knowledge in unique cuisines and ingredients – but not this night. We were virtually clueless as to what the majority of the items on the menu meant or how they tasted and we needed some serious hand-holding from a friendly service staff to tutor us in what to order for dinner!

For instance, can someone please tell me what the heck “lomo,” “aquavit,” “pappardelle,” and “pork rillette” are? Or better yet, please tell me how a beef tongue hash would go with my 2007 Domaine du Cros Marcillac. After studying the menu with items like pork rinds, beef tongues, marrows, and chicken livers, I realized that Clyde Common is a place with the Midas touch that can turn not-to-desirable animal parts into something new and adventurous, almost in a Fear-Factor-meets-Iron-Chef kind of way. I loved this restaurant’s commitment to using fresh, local ingredients that promoted sustainability, and its practice in using up everything in an ingredient.

Tiffany and I started the dinner by sharing an order of salad with Belgian endive, fennel, citrus and oil-cured olives. I was pleasantly surprised with the portion of the salad since many Portland restaurants only serve a tiny, kindergarten-sized plates. The freshness of blood oranges balanced out the slightly bitter flavors of the lightly-dressed endives and fennel.

portland-dinner-002

My choice for dinner was grilled mackerel with roasted sunchokes and salsa verde. It is not typical to see mackerel — other than sushi or Japanese restaurants that consider this fish to be a staple of home cooking — on a menu at upscale restaurants. This fish is often considered as bait and even the hard-core fish lovers stay away from it. I would admit that this dish is pretty potent and is not recommended for a fair-weathered fish eater, but if you are a fearless eater like myself, do try it because the combination of pungent and salty fish, sweet roasted sunchokes (which tasted like a cross between red potatoes and parsnips) and a tangy, vinegary chimichurri-like salsa is top of the class.

clyde-common-mackarel

Tiffany ordered the tagliatelli with wild boar ragu and granda padano, and although I’ve committed to stay away from meat (I still eat fish), I had to take a bite. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the ragu was out of this world. I like boar meat because it has a very distinct flavor without being too gamey.

clyde-common-pasta

By the way, the grilled hanger steak you see on top belonged to a very nice gentleman who sat next to us at our community table. I had to ask if I could take a picture of the lovely steak he ordered because it was so beautiful and he was kind enough to let me (he asked me if I was a food critic … haha). The steak came with cipollini onion, marrow, toast and horseradish sauce.

The dessert menu was one of the most impressive things about Clyde Common and you’ll see why when you find out its unique offerings of sweets like rosemary crème burlee, avocado ice cream, chocolate and scotch ice cream roulade, absinthe cake, and meyer lemon tartlet with pomegranate syrup, just to name a few. We decided on parsnip cake with cream cheese frosting and clove ice cream because we had never heard of putting this root vegetable in a cake and were too intrigued not to try — and it was delicious!

clyde-common-parsnip-cake

If this were school, Clyde Common will receive one of the top grades in the Portland culinary classroom where the competition is fierce and the expectations are high. It should also receive an extra credit for going beyond the usual repertoire and trying something unique and adventurous!

Clyde Common

1014 SW Stark Street, Portland, OR 9725

★★★★☆

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