Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rocket: A review

Hey, man- I could post restaurant reviews on here all day long and be happy. I love eating out in Portland. The food scene here is FANTASTIC. You can get any type of cuisine- super authentic Mexican food, Italian, Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, African, South American, Hawaiian, basically whatever your little heart desires. Portland loves to eat out. My husband and I are no exception, and though we are limited by time and budget constraints, (who isn't, with a toddler at home?) we try to get out on a fancy date at least once every few weeks or so. We usually default to well-known, established joints like Toro Bravo, Castagna, or Ken's Pizza, but of course, we love to try new places. We are lucky to have a leg up on the restaurant scene here, since my husband is a service tech for a large coffee company here in Portland- he installs a lot of the equipment in the places that serve his coffee. So tonight, when I suggested East Burn, he agreed, mentioning he'd put in their brewer.

East Burn is a new bar/restaurant on- you guessed it- (if you're a Portlander) East Burnside. We were on our way, sitting at the intersection of Sandy & Burnside, when a rooftop patio caught my eye. "Ooh, what's that?" I asked, and my husband said, "Oh, that's Rocket. I installed their brewer, too." We decided to skip East Burn and flipped a bitch so we could head over to Rocket.


This place was super modern, sparse and chic, with a lovely muted blue and cream palette. This is the type of restaurant that appeals to my inner designer, but not necessarily to my soul. I was drawn in by the atmosphere, but not in a comforting way. We were shown to the patio by a cute young waitress (wearing a cream colored blouse and a baby blue apron) and I was blown away by the view of downtown and the surrounding neighborhood.


The menu was dinky, and I completely ignored the entree menu. Look dudes, I don't have 30 bucks to drop on a plate of halibut, or steak, or whatever. I might be on a fancy date, but I'm strictly in the 15 dollar or less range for plates. My husband and I both agreed that the menu seemed kind of vague- but we settled on a handful of appetizers to share.


Listen- I'd love to make fun of the overly-conceptual feel of this place, and crack jokes about how someone has been watching too much Iron Chef- but I watch Iron Chef every Sunday without fail. The only reason I recognize the goofiness of this place is that I'm coming from a very similar place, let's be honest.


The first thing we ordered was a red leaf bread crumb salad with, as the menu described it- "goat cheese." It implied that it would be a goat cheese dressing, but didn't come right out and say it. I wasn't surprised by what I got, but I wasn't particularly impressed, either. i know it's a fancy restaurant presentation trick, to just use whole leaves of lettuce to build a salad appetizer- but I've always found it to be extremely annoying. Come on, dudes. Chop up my goddamn salad. Call me trashy, but I don't like to sit and eat a giant leaf of lettuce. Bite sized pieces, please. The bread crumbs were few and far between. A tasty goat cheese dressing, but a completely unexciting salad.

Can you see that blonde blob on the plate behind the salad? That was our order of onion rings. My husband walked past a table eating them and decided they looked delicious, so he ordered some. I hadn't seen them in advance, so I was expecting big, thick cuts of onion in a hearty batter with a nice browning on them, but what came to the table was a big pile of tempura-style onion rings. Tasty, but didn't hit my 'fried-food' spot very well at all.


The highlight of the meal also happened to be the cheapest thing on the menu- a five-dollar lamb corndog. I've never been a huge fan of lamb. I think the flesh gets really tough, really fast, and the only time I've thoroughly enjoyed it was shredded in a tender lamb ragout. This lamb was ground, seasoned really well. I've had better cornbreading, but the dog itself was pretty darn good.


Honestly, I'd recommend this restaurant based on the view and this corndog alone. It was definitely the standout portion of our meal.

And finally, without further ado, I present to you the dumbest thing I've eaten in a long time: The "Bunny Club." (yeah, SOUNDS LIKE IT'S GOING TO BE A SANDWICH, RIGHT?)


Wrong. This "club" turned out to be an awkwardly-plated, super finicky, trying way too hard to compete with the latest food network trends- SALAD. Yeah, a salad. What?

It was listed as "Bunny Club" - toast with rabbit, bacon, tarragon mayonnaise, and cress salad. I guess I read it thinking that it was a sandwich on toast that came with a small salad or something, but WTF? It was like a 'deconstructed' club sandwich. While I always appreciate the IDEA of a 'deconstructed' meal, I feel like it's the sort of thing that only works on Iron Chef, and only irritates in the real world. To me, abstract food is just as snobbish and classist as most abstract art- made with a particular (read: educated) crowd in mind, this type of food is rarely as exciting as the menu would lead you to believe, and usually comes out looking like a self-congratulatory bit of wank on the chef's part. This meal was no exception. I was totally disappointed with this dish. I'd never had rabbit before and I was looking forward to trying it, but this salad was a total jumble and the rabbit was hardly identifiable. I didn't even taste any tarragon! In fact, I didn't even taste any DAMN BACON! What's going on here? I was disappointed and turned off, but I can't say I'm upset that I gave it a try.

Anyway, why did I bother to post this review that isn't in any way relevant to out of towners who aren't planning on visiting soon? Well, I think it's important to try new things, for one. I also think it's important to understand that things aren't going to be as exciting as they look or sound. On the way home, Hubby and I agreed that if we'd gone to East Burn like we'd originally intended, we probably would have gotten a 'safe' and 'adequate' meal. That sounds just as boring and unfun as an over-thought, badly cooked 'concept' from a place that is as slick as a baby's behind on the inside. Listen, I love Iron Chef as much as the next gal, but that doesn't mean you're going to catch me making "trios" of a certain ingredient, making inside-out sandwiches, or any of that other crap. If you have to put that much energy into distracting from what you're actually feeding people, you're not doing it right, in my opinion. And speaking of Iron Chef, don't even get me started on foam as a garnish. Good lord, do you really want it to look like you spit in someone's food? Uuuuugh.

In closing- new restaurants are fun. I don't expect this place to last very long, to be honest. Their menu isn't particularly creative, but it has an air of desperation that reads: please find me interesting! The descriptions of things are vague and kind of silly, with the word "roof" used as an adjective more than once. "Roof cress," "Roof blah blah," etc. I was starting to wonder if they were going to bring me a roofie-colada. I love eating at goofy, hoity toity restaurants because I have something fun to pick apart at the end of a meal. But I also love to see restaurants succeed, and I can't place any bets on this place winning a huge following. Sorry, guys! My advice, as an avid consumer of fancy foods: avoid vague menu descriptions (I shouldn't have to ask what each dish is), if you're going to serve 'exotic' foods like rabbit- cook that shit fresh, don't toss it pre-cooked in a mayo-and-greens salad and expect us to be able to taste it, and finally- relax a little. That's all.


Cecilia said...

Very amusing review. I must be trashy as well because I have never seen nor do I ever want to see a salad made of whole lettuce leaves. How are you supposed to eat that? Do you just stuff the whole leaf into your mouth, or do you take your knife and fork to town on the salad? That's so weird.

I'm glad that you found the silver lining of the experience. That lamb corn dog sounds intriguing...

PonyBoy Press said...

Hilarious! Thanks for posting this. I have been wondering about that building, too. And the restaurant inside. Thanks for saving me the time and the frustration.

Alicia Carrier said...

cecilia- yeah, i think you're just supposed to cut it up. which i did, at first- but then i got tired of it and i just ended up folding the leaves up with my fingers and jamming them in my mouth, haha! this is NOT the only restaurant i've been to that does this. my husband thinks it's an attractive presentation, but i totally beg to differ. i think it looks lazy and not creative at all. think of all the ways you can arrange chopped vegetables on a salad! the funniest "salad" i've ever seen was at the timberline lodge restaurant on mt. hood. i shit you not, it was a WEDGE, like a huge wedge- maybe a 1/3 of an entire head of iceberg lettuce. on a plate. with a couple of tomato wedges on the side. i couldn't believe it. it was the most ridiculous salad i've ever seen. i just picked the whole wedge up and dipped it in the dressing and ate it like i was holding a sandwich. man, that dinner sucked. haha!

ponyboy press- i can't say i'd NEVER go back, and i can't say it was a frustrating experience, actually- don't let the word out, but hubby and i have heard it's the PERFECT spot to enjoy 4th of july fireworks. :^x

i think because of their patio and cute interior, it's totally worth it for drinks and a corndog. but the foofier stuff on the menu is way too foofy.

house and home said...

"chop up my goddamn salad" Hilarious!

...and yeah, wedge salads are very popular here in charleston Sc.

La Meow said...

That salad thing is funny, the only time i eat whole lettuce in my salad is when i am too lazy to chop it up.