Name: Wildwood Restaurant & Bar
Location: 1221 NW 21st Avenue Portland, OR 97209
Contact information: 503.248.9663
Web address: www.wildwoodrestaurant.com
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: $18-$40 for an entree, around $9 for an appetizer
Reservation recommended: Definitely
Good for: Dropping a lot of money, impressing your friends by dropping a lot of money, realizing you just dropped a lot of money on blase food
Insider tip: The reputation as the King of the Court when it comes to Pacific NW dining doesn’t hold up
Review: Where to begin with this huge disappointment? Maybe with the hostess when I called to change my reservation to 6 instead of 7:30. Her sniffy comment, “I don’t know how you got a reservation anyway” prompted me to awkwardly stutter, “er, um, well, I did…” while inwardly wondering why she was giving me a hard time about making a reservation for when they were probably less crowded?
My party of five was promptly seated when we arrived at a half-booth that had a spot for one person on a chair. I thought the arrangement was rather awkward, rather than cutting edge.
Bread was not served until we had fully ordered – wine, appetizers and entrees – which made me wonder if they were afraid of people coming, eating bread and then taking off? The bread and butter itself was plain and nothing to speak of.
Our waiter was remarkably aloof – not at all engaging and bordering on haughty when my out of town companions asked about Oregon pinot noir recommendations. Innovatively, he suggested the most expensive two bottles on their non-reserve list. If there ever is a next time, I’ll convince my companions that the $32 Erath pinot offers an excellent value, despite being the lowest priced.
Our appetizers came within a reasonable amount of time. I had the pumpkin and mascarpone ravioli with arugula and gruyere. I skipped the house made pancetta ($10.50).
I also sampled my companion’s first courses, which included the fried rosemary and blue cheese pizza with sweet onions and walnuts ($12.50), the crispy Monterey Bay squid ($11.00) and the Kinsey Orchards pear salad with walnuts and blue cheese ($10.00).
Perhaps whenever I start to pay upwards of $10 for a side salad or a couple of ravioli, my expectations go through the stratosphere. All of the appetizers were acceptable, although the two overwhelming tastes of the blue cheese and rosemary were too much after a slice of the mini pizza.
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The pear salad was…a pear salad. Good, excellent cheese, but exactly what the menu said it was…only for $10 instead of the full-meal size you can get for $7.95 at Acadia. The calamari dipping sauce had a wonderful bite and made the squid worth ordering if you enjoy little tentacles. However, the standout was the ravioli – wonderfully filling, a great blend of flavors and perfectly cooked.
Then came the main courses. Or, correction, I should say, they didn’t come. For a very, very, very long time. As in, 45 minutes after we were done with our appetizers. During this intermission, the waiter stopped by once to try to sell us more wine (he failed) and then wasn’t seen again until he presented the check. Thankfully, the water steward was the most attentive I have ever seen, almost to the point of annoyance. Perhaps larger water glasses should be served and then he wouldn’t need to reach over a table of five to fill up one person’s water glass every 4-6 minutes (and I’m not exaggerating).
During our wait, I anxiously fretted about the main courses. The reason for this is that the chef felt compelled, in every dish, to put at least one ingredient most people hate. This includes slow-cooked broccoli (aka mush), cabbage and creamed Brussels sprouts. I decided to take my chances on the mush. As I feared, all of the dishes we ordered failed to live up to Wildwood’s reputation.
My Columbia River sturgeon with slow cooked broccoli, chanterelles and fried lemons ($24.00) was so dry and tough it tasted like overcooked chicken. The broccoli was soft and flavorless and the fried lemons were lumped together so that you had to use your hands to try to peel them apart. Visually, the plate was a disaster and highly unappealing.
The pan seared rockfish with celery root puree with Toten Inlet mussels, apples and horseradish cream ($22.00) fared slightly better but still lacked flavor. I did not have any mussels but was told they were the standout of that dish.
The pan roasted Clatskanie quail with pumpkin griddle cakes, creamed Brussels sprouts, pancetta and toasted pumpkin seeds ($26.00) was another dark plate, with two little bony bodies of meat. It’s hard to look civilized at a nice restaurant when you’re attempting to scrape off meat. My companions both proclaimed it uninspiring, but since I’m a vegetarian, I can’t attest to that statement.
The mesquite roasted Draper Valley Farms chicken on sweet potato hash with roasted poultry broth and aged sherry vinegar ($22.00) consisted of the largest two pieces of meat I’ve ever seen served. It was a low-carb dreamland…or, it would have been, if my companion didn’t find it so boring she only had a quarter of it.
We, wisely I think, skipped the desserts.
Because this meal was important to me, I had researched Wildwood extensively before making a reservation. Although the personal opinions I solicited were worrisome, I convinced myself that if Wildwood had received so many praises from…somewhere….that it must be good.
Had the meal been half the price, I would have declared it acceptable, and indeed the appetizers offered a promising start. However, although Cory Schreiber’s commitment to Oregon and Pacific Northwest agriculture is commendable, Wildwood Restaurant is like the emperor’s new clothes. Some people rave and sing praises, but in reality, there’s not much there.