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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–2:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri 11:30am–2:00pm
Fri 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Southeast Portland
1001 SE Water Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 235-2294
Welcome back to the big time

For years, Clarklewis was (aside from being one of the original shift-key deniers) perhaps Portland’s highest-flying restaurant, an icon that delivered the city to a new culinary era, received loads of national recognition, and was imitated lovingly en masse. But after losing some of the key figures at the helm, the restaurant took a turn for the worse, which caused quite a bit of grumbling.

Our recent visits have indicated that it’s absolutely back on track, as exciting as ever, yet refreshingly classic, too. The new kitchen keeps it simple, focusing on making great use of local seafood, local produce, and a wood-burning oven that figures into a lot of the menu. In what still feels like a cutting-edge warehouse space (in what also still feels like a cutting-edge part of town, a surprisingly still-not-really-gentrified industrial area), the service is great, the people are beautiful, and one of PDX’s top dining experiences has been restored to its former glory.

The kitchen’s deftness is evident in soups like chilled cauliflower with almonds and oregano, which has a luxurious smoothness and depth. Although preps that brandish strong fats do well—e.g. pan-roasted pork belly with polenta, gooseberries, and verjus—the ones that focus more on elemental vegetable flavors do even better, like roasted beets with shaved fennel, Gruyère fritters, pistachios, and cherry vinaigrette.

We’ve really enjoyed the pastas lately; tagliatelle have come with a well-developed lamb ragù that showed unexpected hints of rosemary. Portland has a way with salmon, and Clarklewis has a way with Portland, so it follows that Clarklewis has a way with salmon. Wild Alaskan Coho salmon is cooked expertly and has been spectacular with haricots verts, sweet onions, roasted red onion, baby tomatoes, and gently mustardy sauce gribiche. And it doesn’t stop at fish; a pork shoulder is lovingly roasted in the hearth, with sweet corn, braised fennel, baby turnips, arugula, and roasted hazelnuts.

A thorough and astute liquor selection makes for faithfully rendered classic cocktails. You’ll pay a very slight premium on these, but we find the lovely, warm, woodsy space worthwhile. A titillating wine list has a range that protects novices as much as it provides for industry professionals, and at some of the lowest markups we’ve seen. There are unsung crazy Italian geniuses, small-production Austrian crowd pleasers, and the Alsatian reds and whites that were born to be drunk with fish.

Although Clarklewis is getting to be pretty historic, there isn’t a trace of datedness these days. It hasn’t been reborn; it has come back home.

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