Monday, February 16, 2009

Clyde Common

SW Stark Street between 10th and 11th Avenues is further evidence of Portland's evolution as a budding culinary center, though with traces of excessive youthful naiveté. The affordable and modish Ace Hotel anchors the block and is sandwiched by today's subject, Clyde Common, and a branch of acclaimed roaster Stumptown Coffee. (Stumptown's espresso was, if not watery, too thin and overly precious. Coffeehouse Northwest, with its characteristic fastidiousness, achieved greater results with the very same Stumptown beans.)

A brasserie, Clyde Common has a spacious and airy dining room with an open kitchen, a very long zinc bar, and an even longer list of whiskeys. The menu changes frequently, and unlike Los Angeles analogue BLD, Clyde Common avails itself of high quality local produce and challenges its customers, such as with the inclusion of a tongue sandwich on its lunch menu. With limited time before a business meeting, I solicited a recommendation from our sprightly server. He counseled the sole pasta dish on the menu: a fresh egg pasta, basically spaghetti, with arugula pesto and walnuts, topped with shaved pecorino romano. While I normally eschew pasta from non-pasta specialists or chefs of unproven technical soundness, the server's advice and the $11 price tag for the larger portion were all the wheedling I needed.

The dish proved to be inventive and delicious. The arugula pesto was, at least for me, a new idea, and the kitchen succeeded in capturing the leaf's peppery bitterness. The pasta itself was toothsome, and the walnuts and cheese provided the requisite nuance. All in all, the dish was quite nourishing on a sleepy and snowy day.

Frustratingly de rigueur in several modern Portland restaurants, communal dining is also the practice at Clyde Common. Though the Portland everyman is a shade under 30 and has defaced his epidermis with depictions of girlfriends past and kitchen utensils, there is no social compact that requires everyone to sit together. Portland is a vibrant and compelling city and does not need to act like a living, breathing Obama rally. (We already won.) Besides, communal dining is always available at the bar, and Clyde Common has a good one. But I'll forgive the Portland pioneers for this conceit. It may be a necessary evil supporting Portland's rewarding dining scene.

Clyde Common

1014 SW Stark Street

(503) 228-3333

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