We actually only even ended up there because of an hour and forty-five minute predicted wait time at the aforementioned Ataula, and at least we knew we'd have pretty good odds (though no guarantee) for table given its members-only status. It was still fairly well occupied, mostly a mature clientele, but no one appeared post-workout in terms of dress- they adhere to a fairly strict dress code, in the restaurants and throughout the club. The MAC has pretty much everything one would need to live, all-inclusively, within the facility, from the swimming pools, library, spectators porch looking out on to Providence Park, a gift shop, obviously every imaginable workout option, and myriad restaurants. Aside from 1891, there's a seasonal outdoor bistro, Joe's Pub and a few snack shops. Suffice it to say that the MAC prides itself on its amenities, so I had pretty high expectations going in, especially given Eater's rave and Boulot's reputation... but while the food was good, there was little to get excited about.
The room itself is quite pubby, low-lit with dark wood, and t.v.s above the bar, giving it much more of a bar-like feel than anything even close to fine dining, as which is seems to bill itself. The menu is nicely arranged and offers enough variety, featuring some Oregonian specialties, but for the most part is fairly classic (read: generic). A few salads on hand included a pretty traditional Caesar, a Bacon & Bleu on butter leaf, and a beet salad with the predictable goat cheese, although this one was zinged up with a hint of
horseradish, which nicely cut the sweetness of the beets. Other starters included a French onion soup, gratinéed, some nice deviled eggs with Dungeness, and on a slightly more modern side, a crispy tofu and broccoli salad or tombo tuna poke.... nothing even remotely revolutionary in New York, but maybe a bit novel for Portland, and certainly in comparison with the rest of the menu.
From there, main plates feature local seafood varieties, like Columbia River sturgeon, silky black cod or a pristine halibut filet, the latter two quite univentively served with the same
pretty meager, much more in tune with the description and price points of the menu, but out of sync with the t.v. screens and pub-like ambiance. The addition of a mi-cuit spinach with Japanese
flavors and a sprinkle of sesame was a welcome supplement. Prime Rib, as might be expected, was a more ample plate, teamed up with some fat stalks of grilled asparagus, some hearty mash and a fragrant au jus.
A rhubarb crumble that I had made the day before lured us back home, a more enticing sweet than the dessert options offered at 1891, and especially given the sort of lackluster quality of the meal. I fully endorse the excellence of the food, but only with that weighty qualifier that the restaurant is in an athletic club. Standing on its own two feet it just wasn't quite as stellar as the press had made it out to be.
Multnomah Athletic Club
1849 SW Salmon St.
Portland, OR 97205