Grüner (Jan. 6):
Having heard great things about this place for the last year or so, including a Best New Restaurant nod from PFD, I was eager to visit, and got a chance last night for a friend's birthday gathering. The place was lively and merrily loud at 8:30, but we sat immediately -- I like that this place takes reservations, a comparatively rare feature for popular spots in Portland. The menu is "Alpine," not that it makes much difference to an omnivorous palate like mine, and everything I tried was tasty. I won "best looking dinner" among our foursome, having opted for the choucroute garnie, a selection of really well-flavored sausage and other tasty bits of pork smothered in a small mountain of fresh sauerkraut, accompanied with by a little cup of awesome-tasting mustard. A couple forkfuls of the spaetzle off Nic's plate made me feel like I was at my German grandmother's house (even though I haven't got a German grandmother).
Service was super friendly and very attentive, but oddly forgetful (a dropped fork wasn't replaced, despite assurances, until several minutes after the entrees were set down, a request for checking a type of liquor was never heeded, etc.). And despite the good flavors, I and my tablemates couldn't shake the irritating feeling that this place smirkingly knew it was "all that." I dunno. It wasn't any attitude on the part of other diners there, who all seemed to be having a great time. Just little cues. My whiskey sour was served up, with some kind of foamy top layer upon which was adorned three delicate syrup hearts. An artistic touch, I guess, but ... why? One of the servers randomly slipped into and out of a European accent. The bill was delivered, bookmark-like, in a hardbound edition of Brecht essays, in German (were we supposed to read it? had anyone working here read it?).
All in all, I could certainly see what some of the fuss is about, but I won't be rushing back here. B-