Posts tagged ‘review’

June 7, 2011

Restaurant review – Aviary

In thinking about what our blog would be comprised of, we thought it might be fun to add some diversity and also do restaurant reviews.  Most restaurant reviews will be in our home city of Portland, Oregon, but if we come across any notable restaurants on our CULINARY EXPEDITIONS out of town, we will be sure to include them.

First up… Aviary  (

The restaurant is a fairly new one in the PDX scene and had recently gotten some good reviews online, as well as an endorsement from a friend that had eaten there.  It is in the trendy up-and-coming Alberta area, which is one that I have not spent a lot of time, but intend to explore more in the future.  The restaurant is located in the lower courtyard level of and new building on NE Alberta, between 16th and 17th.  The decor is a nice, contemporary industrial chic space with some seating available outside in the courtyard.  Portland got its first sunny and warm weekend of 2011 (finally!) and we were lucky enough to score a table outside.

The menu is very interesting at first glance, with a great diversity of items.  The waitress explained that the menu was mostly small plate dishes with a couple of entrée-esque items that were a touch bigger.  There was a variety of foods that you don’t often see on menus such as pig’s ears, sea urchin and the relatively tame octopus.  It was shaping up to be an interesting adventure.

Our group of four decided to get three “appetizers” to share and then each order an “entrée.”  Tempura Pumpkin, a Dungeness Crab Strudel and a Seared Octopus Salad were ordered for sharing.  They all came out looking amazing.  It was obvious that a lot of care was taken in the presentation and I always appreciate that.  Good tasting food MUST also look good!  I was suspicious of the pumpkin, with it being a vegetable and all, but they deep-fried it, so I figured it was worth a try!  It was very good and the spicy curry sauce that accompanied it was what really made the dish.  That sauce was tasty!  The other two appetizers really didn’t impress me too much.  They looked good, but both were pretty plain and one noted.  The Crab Strudel really sounded like it had potential, but I think pastry most often over powers the delicate, sweet crab flavor.  Maybe I just like crab in its pure form….with melted butter, of course.

I was feeling brave this night and ordered the Crispy Pig Ears.  It was described as being braised and then fried, with a bacon-like taste.  With a description like that, I thought I had a sure winner.  The dish came out in a small skillet, which was a nice touch, giving it much more of a table presence.  On the bottom was a bed of rice, topped by the crispy pig ears and sausage, all with some avocado slices and micro greens.  I searched for what I was expecting to see in pig’s ears, but they were thin, chip-like pieces, not the thicker appendage I was expecting.  The sauce on them tasted good, but overall, I was disappointed with the dish.  It wasn’t nearly what i had hoped.

The other entrées ordered were a Shao Xing Chicken, NY Strip Steak and Brioche Crusted Halibut.  I didn’t get enough of a sample of the three to give a thorough review, but the small tastes I did get were not all that impressive.  They all appeared well presented and interesting to look at, but fell flat on taste.  I think it was mostly just a lack of flavor throughout.  The dishes looked and sounded like they would pack a good punch, but nothing showed up.

Dessert came through for them though.  With Beer Ice Cream on the menu, it was a MUST ORDER.  It was subtly beer flavored and topped with a nice caramel sauce.  I gotta say, it was good and I would definitely order it again.

With the bill came a nice treat; they included a breakfast curry muffin for each person.  I thought that was a great touch that I rarely see.

Overall, it was a fun experience, but the food was underwhelming.  I really wanted to like Aviary.  It was well crafted food that had high hopes, but the lack of flavor couldn’t be overcome. Opening a restaurant in the culinary city of Portland is tough, and with it being a relatively new restaurant, I will likely give it another try after some months pass. We are so fortunate that there are just so many other “great” restaurants to choose from, so restaurants really need to make you HAVE to come back.


Addendum: Call Aviary before you attempt to go. Aviary closed temporarily due to a fire on the 4th of July.