The Blue Hour is back. Or did it really fade? I don't know: it was good when I was first there, but that was awhile ago. Now it has recaptured its original popularity with a buzzy new chef, Thomas Boyce, if not surpassed it. The room remains its twinkly/shadowy self, becoming more beautiful as skies darken and the light casts graceful silhouettes through branches and glass, reflecting off white and mirrors. The food has been reenergized, and while some classics remain, Boyce offers his touch on new ones to a delicious end.
The service that everyone raved about, however, was blatantly absent. More acurately, it is exclusive to larger tables. I saw the convivial, nimble gentleman navigate the floor deftly, recognizable on reputation and confirmed later by the physical description of his lovely head of silvery grey hair. Our server, on the other hand, was lackluster at best, a bit distracted in attitude and of a haughty disposition. But she brought our food, and simply put, the food is very, very good.
Yaquinta Bay oysters were impeccably fresh, with a champagne mignonette and fragrant lemon wedges, served on that classic icy bistro stand. A salad of mixed greens studded with impossibly juicy grapefruit (citrus seems to be having a most excellent season this year) and pungent shards of shaved pecorino. A simple enough salad, done exquisitely well. Hamachi sashimi was a smart hold-over from Kenny Giambalvo's reign, studded with floral pink peppercorns and crisp slivered fennel, giving it a festive flair.
We both opted for pescatory entrees: a sauteed golden trout stuffed with Dungneness (we're in Oregon... would they use any lesser crab??) and fennel arrived with a crisp skinned crust encasing its tender meat and the luxurious filling. Plates are spare, but side dishes at a mere $4 each are well worth crowding the table with as many of them as you fancy. Roasted turnips were crisp, salty and juicy, and brussels sprouts were roasted perfectly, flavored with big bricks of smoky guanciale. A puree of Yukon golds was perhaps a bit redundant since both entrees we took were bedded in creamy purees, but nonetheless velvety-smooth and buttery-delicious for it. My scallops, four golden-crusted specimens nestled with nubs of caramelized cauliflorettes and a sweet and salty-sour nod to Sicily with tiny currants and plush capers.
A classic chilly rain, more forceful perhaps than a typical Oregon drizzle, pattered against the ceiling-high window panes, begging for some rustic, oven-warmed wintry dessert that refused to appear on the menu. We instead took our server's recommendation of a beet financier, and on this, at least, she earned her stripes. A just-moist enough cake redolent of almond was topped with thin slices of fried, candied beets, deliciously novel with a playful earthy sweetness and noticeable chew. Passion fruit curd smeared a path between the cake and a lovely turret of goat yogurt panna cotta, incised with another disc of beet. Coffee... well, let's just say it was no Stumptown. Opt instead for a after-dinner tipple off their extensive list of grappas, cognacs and dessert wines, or one of their fanciful teas from Steven Smith.
The chef passed through the dining room on several occasions, and shouldn't have found much to take issue with, instead finding tables full of smiling, contented guests. The blue hour is defined on their homepage twilight, or any moment that elicits heightened emotion. The Blue Hour lives up to its name.