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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
9.1
9.5
$70
Italian
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Tue–Sat 6:00pm–9:00pm

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

www.docpdx.com

Alberta Arts District
5519 NE 30th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 946-8592
DOC
The dining experience is all Italian, even if the ingredients are all Pacific Northwest

DOC is incredibly cozy and inviting. You enter through the kitchen (which feels a bit naughty), and are seated at one of only a few tables; one table is communal. From any of these, you can watch all action in the kitchen, the only source of visual stimulus aside from the food. The minimalist-chic room has plain cream walls, warm lighting, and a friendly buzz. Service may not be the most astute, but it is on the ball and very sweet. This is Portland at its very best.

There’s a $50 tasting menu, but the ever-changing regular menu is so refreshingly small that you can almost get through the whole thing anyway with two or more people. The smaller number of dishes allows the kitchen to really focus on each; true to Italian form, these are divided into three courses: antipasti, primi, and secondi.

On one visit, an antipasto of delicata squash (like pumpkin) with bok choy and fennel was interesting, even if the bok choy didn’t contribute much beyond nutrition. Balsamic vinegar played off the earthy-sweet squash nicely. Fried sardines have been absolutely delicious, not too bony, a bit buttery even. They came with firm, but springy new potatoes and expertly cooked greens. Risotto is right on, a touch al dente, and it is usually nicely composed (in one case, with chanterelle mushrooms), but the number of vegetables can overwhelm the delicateness of the dish. Tagliatelle are homemade (right in front of you), and might come adorned, for instance, with big chunks of pork and Southern greens. The porky-sweet broth is great for sopping up with a spoon or their very good bread, but it didn’t bind at all with the pasta. Also made on the premises is a loose-packed pork sausage which, when served with poached peach, burst with loads of interesting flavors. Ricotta pie has also been nice, light and airy, and with a hint of Meyer lemon.

The wine list is remarkably well chosen, a reasonably priced selection of lesser-known and smaller-production Italians from truly reputable (not magazine-hyped) producers. Cheers to that. Many of these are opened each night and paired with the menu, but this has resulted in a few tasting oxidized, probably from having been open too long. There’s also a welcome effort at Italian cocktails here, employing digestifs like Campari, Chinato, and limoncello.

While the constant menu changes may prevent the kitchen from totally mastering any one dish, this is a brilliant way to have dinner: with intention focused so keenly on each playful creation, you really feel that you have not just eaten, but dined.

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