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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Tue–Sat 5:30pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Essential


228 NE Evans St.
McMinnville, OR
(503) 472-9623
Bargain hunters and foodies: there’s gold in this here wine country

This brilliant little restaurant is well worth the trip out to McMinnville. You’ll even enjoy getting lost in the old downtown area, as the sign (off the main road) is a little obscured. Inside, it feels warm and friendly, as if you’re over to a family’s house for dinner. This husband-and-wife team with the big-city pedigree started this place as an adventure in mid-2009, bringing unprecedented sophistication to this cute little wine country town. There are very few tables, and reservations are absolutely essential, even on a random weekday. The décor is sparse and minimalist, but in a totally cozy, European country bistro sort of way.

A chalkboard lists what the chef is cooking up that night, and you can watch him prepare your food in a flurry of fire and knives from a bar seat. The menu changes frequently, but we’ve flipped over duck liver parfait in a Lillet gelée. It was cold, luscious, and sublime. Chilled cucumber soup with mint, lime, and chili flake was like a walk around the park before dinner. Seasonal fresh oysters—one time creamy, full-bodied little guys from Netarts Bay—come with a nearly perfect, non-intrusive Champagne mignonette.

A handful of main dishes are available on any given night, so you’ll need to be open and receptive (do you question your grandmother when she tells you what’s for dinner?). Even the mains that aren’t mind-blowing are still expertly made. Homemade gnocchi with chanterelles, tomato, and sheep’s cheese have just the right texture. We’ve enjoyed Alaskan sablefish (black cod) with meaty lobster mushrooms, corn, and green chilies, and a grass-fed beef flatiron steak, ideally seared and served with duck-fat potatoes, broccoli, and hollandaise. The steak is a fattier cut than usual, yielding more flavor than the quotidian cut generally does.

And what a spectacular wine list. If you’re into wine, talk to the staff and let them know you’re really into trying something more obscure. In this way, we’ve been treated to an off-the-list 2001 Rolly Gassmann Auxerrois from Alsace for only $30, a fleshy white full of peaches and gravel that you would normally have to sift through an endless, marked-up-to-hell Vegas list to find. And here, we paid retail for it. Man, how we love the thrill of the hunt.

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