Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Davenport is a newish addition to Portland's red-hot restaurant scene, and it lives up to that feverish temperature.  It's a pretty tiny spot, situated in SE, with just nine tables, none large enough for more than a party of six.  A handful of seats are available at the bar, but that's the maximum the  one or two servers on the floor could possibly handle, as well as the two frenzied cooks manning the kitchen.  All tables were filled on our visit, keeping those servers jetting to and fro the entire evening.

While not  specifically advertised as such, Davenport's menu is just one medium-length list of mostly small plates, intended to be ordered and shared as such.  Only after which having ordered were we advised that they would come out as they were ready, even though we quite obviously ordered in a starter/entree format.  This was a little awkward, then, as for our party of three my beets arrived solo, although they were generous enough to generous enough to capacitate the sharing format we were sort of forced into.  Everyone loved them, however, as much as I did, the golden variety a novel diversion from the
 standard crimsons, and straying from the ubiquitous beet-and-chevre tedium with a magically good (and mysterious) walnut vin royale... which no one seems to know exactly what this is, except for delicious.  Its creaminess soothed the sweet roots together, tufted with celebratory bunches of mache (always a treat in and of themselves).    Midway through the beets another appetizer (as we would have it) arrived: a wide
 steaming bowl of delectably thick fennel soup, hearty in texture yet light and pure in flavor, crowned with a generous mound of snowy Dungeness crabmeat, the proudest example Oregon could possibly offer.

Having cleaned those up, licked-plate style, we tided ourselves over the brief hiatus before our next dish with slices from the half-loaf of Little T (sic), the menu giving no indication that the $3 menu offering was bread from that bakery, but they are worthy dollars spent:  not only for rounding-things-out's sake, but for the chewy slices of ciabatta themselves, served with a grassy olive oil.  Next out were marvelously tender leeks, littered with shreds of salty black trumpet mushrooms.  Not much to look at, perhaps, as the alliums succumbed to the long braise to achieve a somewhat pallid pallor, but a silken texture and mild richness compounded their inherent umami with that of the mushrooms in a salty braise the resulted in flavors far exceeding its humble description.

Soon thereafter, two of our intended-entrees arrived, although the scallops were (priced accordingly) an appetizer portion.  The two bronzed beauties made up for in flavor what perhaps they sacrificed in quantity: a warm slaw retained just a touch of cabbagy crunch, its earthy vegetality enriched by a chunky salbitxada, a Catalan pesto-type condiment pairing roasted almonds and tomatoes with just a touch of peppery heat- this is a dip to keep an eye out for, and chef Gibson masterfully combines these elements for an extraordinary plate.  Brought to table simultaneously was a heftier dish of pork tenderloin, paired with al dente pocha beans and crisp, bitey arugula.  Contrasted to the rest of our orders, this dish was noticeably less complex, but nonetheless delicious.  The tenderloin stole the
 spotlight with its ur-porkiness, the beans and greens forming a mellow framework to showcase the savory grilled meat.  Most conspicuously absent, however, was the third plate we ordered, and while our server had tried forcibly to impart our order family-style, we had blatantly shifted plates to their designated recipients, leaving Tablemate #3 most glaringly without.  For a long time.  I mean, a really, REALLY long time- such that our waitress (lied and) kept saying the pork paprikash would arrive shortly.....  but didn't.  Almost a full HOUR later did it finally alight, and while perhaps its falling-off-the-bone tenderness might explain if not justify its delay, we got no further apology from the kitchen.  It was borderline appalling had the pork not been so good, reminding us that alas, it's only time, and we had nowhere else to be but there.  Eating THIS.  And so appreciative of it.  Two meaty hunks nuzzled into a velveteen puree of celeriac, a couple more
 flounces of mache for color.  Worth the wait, or at least some measure of it, but still... some sort of explanation or compensation really was in order.  It was strikingly tedious and weird.  Instead, our server seemed to turn a bit chillier (perhaps even she was at a loss for words), and the kitchen just continued to plod away with the incessant barrage of incoming orders.  Helmed by two lone cooks, Chef Gibson and a sous-/saucier/salad/grill/prep, etc., they were nose-to-the-grindstone the whole evening, as was our server flitting about table to table.  We never ascertained any reason.

It didn't, however dissuade us from staying for dessert.  But there is only one provided each evening, this time a cardamom panna cotta dusted with pistachios, which would've showed better paired with a strong coffee... except Davenport doesn't have any.  Apparently, Pix Patisserie next door handles most of the dessert crowd (and brews a fine joe), so Davenport doesn't bother.  Only after having requested the $10 sweet (which was a bit of a gauge, I felt) did she impart any of this.  With that knowledge, definitely close out your tab and follow the herds to Pix after dinner, both for a greater selection and lively scene.  Which in no way detracts from Davenport as a whole- I still recommend it.  I'd just make sure to put my paprikash order in immediately upon arrival.

 2215 E Burnside St., Portland, OR 97214

Tuesday - Saturday: 4pm - close

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