Bobes and I decided to split up the food and wine planning for our Portland trip; him on dinner reservations and me on the winetinerary, or #Pinotinerary as we referred to on Instagram. The dinner reservation that we were most excited for was at Ava Gene’s, especially after the latest issue of Bon Appetit, declaring it the #5 restaurant in the country. We were joined by our mutual friend and Portland local, who shall be known as Patches from this point forth.
Patches had been to Ava Gene’s a couple of times, so he guided us through the menu. I started off with their Switchblade Royale cocktail, composed of Lambrusco, bourbon, Amaro Nonino, honey, and lemon juice. It was a good combination of sweet and strong – just how I like my cocktails (and men)! After perusing the menu for about 15 minutes, we finally settled on our orders:
- Toasted bread with roasted cherry tomatoes and whipped ricotta
- Toasted bread with warm chicken livers, plums and marsala
- “Tuscan Cavalry” – raw black kale, Parmesan, bread crumbs
- Plate of vegetables with egg and Tonnato sauce
- Sagna Riccia with lamb ragu in white sauce and Lacinato kale (for Patches)
- Casarecci with sausage sugo, basil and ricotta (for me)
- Corn Agnolotti with lobster mushrooms and thyme (for Bobes)
- Peanut gelato
My favorite of the appetizers was probably the kale salad, but I also loved the tonnato sauce and the chicken liver toast. Patches was a little skeptical about the livers, but Bobes helped me finish it off. The plum was the perfect sweet addition to offset the richness of the livers.
As for the pasta course, my favorite dish was luckily my own! The smooth ricotta blended with the spicy sausage sugo was a great combination of flavors and consistency. I was so full, but I still managed to be a clean plater! The corn agnolotti was also very good, but a little too sweet for me. And Patches pasta was excellent; I thought the white sauce was a unique representation of the ragu and I would love to replicate it some day.
The peanut gelato was the perfect way to end the meal, but by that point I could only fit a few bites into my already full stomach.
Patches, Bobes and I all agreed that the food was spectacular, both in presentation and taste. However, our service was another story. The general service was friendly and clean, but our particular server was uninvolved and nonchalant. She forgot the smaller things that a #5 restaurant shouldn’t overlook: introducing herself, filling our water glasses, offering another round of drinks, and simply asking us how we were enjoying our meal. Lucky for her, we figured the restaurant pooled tips so we didn’t gip her too badly. But I was sure to say something to the manager on my way out, after I reiterated how delicious our food and drinks were.
Still, I would like to think that she was having a bad night and that the service for a place like this is top notch. Our meal was $50 each, which was pretty reasonable considering the quality of the food (and the fact that we didn’t order a bottle of wine helped). I would certainly recommend Ava Gene’s to any food lovers visiting Portland, and be sure to make a reservation in advance as they were quite busy for a Sunday night at 9pm over a holiday weekend!
(Please excuse the poor photos, the restaurant was very dark and my iPhone’s camera couldn’t hack it)