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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
5.3
9.0
$20
Modern, Pan-Asian
Bar

Hours
Mon–Fri 4:00pm–2:00am
Sat 9:00am–2:00am
Sun 9:00am–midnight

Features Date-friendly, live music, outdoor dining, veg-friendly, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx

www.thesapphirehotel.com

Hawthorne
5008 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR
(503) 232-6333
Sapphire Hotel
Even the dismal hotel menu and sugary cocktails can’t kill this cathouse vibe

We love a good brothel-turned-bar. There’s always this faithful recreating of sexy vibes and mystery, or at least the romanticizing of what was more likely a very sad, dangerous life (former brothels and ghost tours tend to go hand-in-hand). We love our fantasies—however off the mark—about red-scarf-draped lamps and sultry women in control, and Sapphire Hotel has that in spades. For a romantic drink or a friendly chat with Dita Von Teese, this place can’t be beat.

Exotic lanterns hang overhead, barely burning, and live jazz smolders on Sundays. A weekend brunch served in the quirky lobby has a great ambience, if some questionable judgment. It’s, ahem, provocative to describe meyer lemon crêpes as “topped with fresh fruit, goat cheese & blueberry catsup.” And while this is much better than it sounds (what was wrong with “compote”?), ill-advised moves like this are all over these globetrotting menus, which read like they were constructed from back issues of Bon Appetit: salmon corn cakes topped with stone-ground mustard; sesame-crusted ahi tuna with ponzu; curried mahi-mahi with coconut rice and apple-jicama slaw.

In fact, these are exactly the sort of dishes one would find at a hotel restaurant, which is when the rose-tinted bubble bursts and you realize that’s exactly where you are dining, after all. It’s like the moment of clarity one might have just before engaging the services of a lady of the evening—perhaps skin contact isn’t the best idea. At least some sort of prophylactic measure is called for when ordering a cheese platter described simply as including brie, Stilton, and chèvre; or an “antipasta” of marinated artichoke hearts, pickled asparagus, deli meats, and anything else you might pick up from Trader Joe’s on your way into work.

Suffice it to say: the food’s not the point here. And it doesn’t need to be. Unfortunately, the drinks—which are the point here—are largely dominated by vodka, fruity juices, and sugary sweet gimmicks normally reserved for getting an under-aged girlfriend drunk. There’s a good Madeira here, and much better beers, a few of which are on tap. Happy Hour is offered half the week from 10pm to midnight, and includes $1 PBR tallboys. When everyone else in town is charging three or four bucks for a regular Pabst (irony doesn’t come cheap), this is one outdated move we can get behind.

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