Review: clarklewis

5.07 – Note: clarklewis chef Morgan Brownlow has left to pursue other ventures. Since then, the restaurant has been taken over by Bruce Carey and company. The food currently being served may or may not match this review. When they settle on a new chef, this review will be updated

Clarklewis was opened in February 2004 by the same people who own Ripe Family Supper. They chose to move their chef, Morgan Brownlow, from Ripe. Morgan was the former chef de cuisine at Oliveto in the bay area.

The restaurant is on the east side of the river in the industrial area along Water Avenue. The room is dominated by a large open kitchen and grill. On busy nights, it is a sea of orange shirts worn by the kitchen staff, and provides a good floorshow from just about anywhere in the restaurant. The dining room is long, flanked by large roll up doors that afford a nice view to the outside, and can be rolled up on nice afternoons. Since my first review, a great deal of effort has been put into damping sound; it is not as loud as it used to be. The lighting is a little better too, though they still give little penlights to people who are obviously having trouble reading the menu. The bar at the far end has an interesting list of well-prepared cocktails. It is a pleasant place to wait until your table is ready. Overall, I like the space.

Service is generally quite good. The staff is very knowledgeable about the menu, needs are generally anticipated, and food arrives quickly. I’d say not one stumble in all my meals.

If you haven’t been to clarklewis before, the menu takes a little getting used to. It is laid out as Starters, Soup, Pasta, and Stove and Hearth, which makes perfect sense. The prices can be confusing though, as most dishes come in Small, Large, or Family sizes. From the back of the menu:

“we want you to be able to order from this menu with ease and joy. please take note of a few clarklewis differences. first, you can order anything on the menu family style – just indicate how many people at your table want that item, family style. you can also order items as a small portion or large portion… we trust in time this will become perfectly clear and may even be exciting…”

Note: the lack of capital letters is apparently the thing to do if you are cool. I left it alone so I can be cool too. The same goes with the lowercase clarklewis. I think that is supposed to be cute.

As I’ve said before, the food is most important to me. Picture this meal in your mind:

• Fresh, sweet French breakfast radishes, with good sweet cream butter, and a breath of Portuguese sea salt.
• A salad of roasted Bulls Blood beets, roasted until just sweet; thin, juicy slices of blood oranges, slightly tart to offset the beets; crisp watercress, pungent oil-cured olives, and smooth, creamy goat cheese.
• A huge bowl of mussels in a mind-blowing broth of garlic, wild fennel pollen, conserva of chilies in vinegar, and huge, pungent bay laurel leaves; the best I’ve ever had.
• Unctuous fat duck liver, seared, with sweet Medjool dates roasted with acacia honey and sherry vinegar. Acid, sweet, earthy; all the flavors were there
• Homemade tagliarine pasta with Dungeness crab, spicy Calabrian chilies, sautéed garlic, oregano, and a dusting of parsley
• Almost translucent fresh ravioli, filled with Cypress Farms goat cheese, leek cream, and prosciutto san Danielle. The cheese inside was so light it was almost like egg white, yet had the full goat cheese flavor. The leek cream and prosciutto gave perfect creamy/salty counterpoint to the cheese.
• Perfectly crisp red-banded rockfish, pan-roasted, with piquant stewed celery root and leeks, a hint of saffron, and Calabrian chili to round out the flavors. Pair this with pieces of crunchy skin that tastes almost like it was roasted over wood.
• Slow-roasted spit of Sudan Farms lamb, rubbed with chilies, served with crisp potatoes, and sugo

Yes, this was all one meal, split by two people, courtesy of the chef’s menu at clarklewis. It is easy to put your table in their hands and be brought the chef’s favorite dishes for the night, all for a fixed price of $38.00. Each person gets a different item every course, so the more people at the table, the more things you will get to try. The above meal was for two people, and the portion size of each dish was just right, so you walk out completely satisfied, but not feeling like you need to lie down in the car before driving home. This sounds like a pretty good meal, and it was, though there were two resounding thuds: the tagliarine with crab was so overpowered by the chilies I couldn’t even taste the crab, though the texture showed it was there. Secondly, the lamb was stomped on by rosemary, muting all the other flavors. I’ve had worse, and I’ve certainly had better. Still, with so many good dishes, I was generally pleased with the experience.

On another night, the chef’s menu consisted of:

• Radishes, again, served with traditional butter and salt
• Bood oranges with shaved fennel, oil cured olives, and new pressed olive oil
• Fennel salami tossed with young arugula, capers, pickled onions, and ricotta salata
• Farro “alla pilota” – guanciale fried with onions, yellow foot chanterelles, sage, and walnuts
• Tagliatelle egg noodles, ragu of Ford Farm Beef, braised with porcini mushrooms
• Alaskan true cod and Savoy cabbage stewed with onions and sage, porcini red wine sauce
• Spit-roasted pork shoulder rubbed with Dijon, wild fennel, and rosemary.

For this review, I went back five times. Starters tend to be amazing, almost breathtaking in their inventiveness, and pasta is usually sublime. Take the second menu above: the starters were wonderful, a master class in combining flavors and textures, requiring concentration to truly appreciate the various shadows of flavor across each dish. The farro was stunning, with a hearty, nutty, risotto-like quality – I could have eaten an entire bowl. However, I found some of the same problems I did when I originally reviewed clarklewis a year ago. Items from the stove and hearth are a mixed bag at best, sometimes absolute disasters. The tagliatelle was harmed by big pieces of gristle in the meat that threw off what would have been a wonderful, hearty dish right out of Tuscany. It was followed by an overcooked cod, and a very dry pork shoulder that was difficult to cut and had little pork flavor.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is the desserts. Last I heard, Naomi was making them herself, but this hasn’t helped, they fail almost every time. A vanilla-caramel panna cotta was draped with blood oranges which ruined the texture of the custard, and overpowered any subtlety ($8.00). The chocolate torte was grainy, though a topping of praline-whipped cream was pretty good ($8.00). Other desserts also fall firmly in the ‘unmemorable’ category. Save some money, just have a cup of coffee, or if you need something sweet after all that food, head across the street to Bakery Bar. They do a much better job.

The wine list has grown quite a bit over the last year, with many good choices to pick from. Markup is about average. I’ve quizzed several of the servers, and found them to be very knowledgeable about the various characteristics. My only issue is that (as is the case in much of Portland) the reds tend to be served too warm.

In spite of the occasional duds, I like clarklewis. It is fun to get the chef’s menu, being surprised with every course and getting to taste lots of different things. You could have a wonderful meal by sticking to starters and pastas, even the fish if you get lucky. More items from recent menus can be seen below.

  • Phone: (503) 235-2294.
  • Address: 1001 SE Water ave, Portland, OR. 97214 Google Map
  • Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm. Dinner Mon- Sat from 5:00pm
  • Happy Hour Tues-Sat 5pm-6:30pm
  • Website:
  • Access: Wheelchair accessible if you enter through the rear doors.

Clarklewis on Urbanspoon

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Dave J. says

    I totally agree with the review. Their starters and salads are incredible–transcendant. The technique is always perfect, and everything is flawless. The mussels are easily the best I’ve ever had…in fact, I don’t think you can even see 2nd place from there, they are that good. The pastas–especially those w/o meat, in my experience–are incredible as well. But then the entrees come and the whole thing goes right into the mediocre category. What the heck? How can they be so good, so playful, so committed to solid technique when it comes to the first half of the menu, and then fall on their face for the 2nd half? I really just do not get it–and reviewers (Food Dude, Shuna from Eggbeater, etc.) keep pointing it out, yet the problem remains.

  2. Food Dude says

    Pollo: okay, I’ll grant that it should have read “grilled”, but the coppa is right off the menu. Yes, coppa always refers to pork, either as a sausage from Corsica, a fatty ham cut from the shoulder, or pork fat obtained from pigs fed on chestnuts, so I can’t tell you what they are talking about since I didn’t try it. It also means bowl or cup, but that doesn’t fit either.

  3. vicki says

    I’ve eaten there four or five times but always at lunch. There’s not a choice on portion size at lunch but that’s okay, I like small. I had at least one totally memorable meal, sqyab with cold romanescu with a marvelous vinegarette/pine nut dressing. This was back during the summer so when I say memorable, I really mean it! Other lunches there have been excellent. And yes, going over to Bakery Bar for dessert is a great idea. Love that place too. Only problem is finding a parking space.

  4. pollo elastico says

    i didn’t mean to bust you on a typo, just wanted to make sure – i googled “rilled” and saw that it was actually used as a modifier a quail in one instance. I didn’t want to miss out on some new trendy way to tenderize the flesh, and you never know how cute and clever these guys are trying to be, so I had to ask.

    maybe the steak is stuffed with coppa (and maybe cheese?) and topped with the sugo, which doesn’t seem to far out there…sorta like a bolagnese with proscuitto (except using whole cut of meat)

    do you take notes for the menu items? i’ve heard you mention that a number of times you take notes relating your experience…that’s a whole lot of transcribing. thank you for your efforts!

  5. Food Dude says

    Pollo, if you can’t keep up with the latest food trends, perhaps you’d be better off on a less sophisticated website. “Rilled” is a new cooking technique. A steak is thrown on the hood of michael hebberoy’s Mercedes, which is very hot from being driven constantly from restaurant to restaurant. As he brakes quickly, the steak slides across the hood (in it’s own grease of course), and lands on the grill of the car, which gives it unique ‘rill’ marks. ;)

    Yes, I take extensive notes.

  6. Food Dude says

    I tend to be really sensitive to bad seating, and didn’t have any problems at all. Makes me think they may have replaced them. Chairs without lumbar support wreck my back.

  7. grapedog says

    Sarah and Food Dude, I’m so glad you mentioned the seats at clarklewis. I’ve read reviews mentioning the chairs being uncomfortable, but i’ve not had a problem with them! Maybe I’m just so busy with the food.

    This is one restaurant that allows me to explore the menu and explore the chef’s creations. With one other person, you can cover a lot of the menu, trying many dishes but not overeating or overspending.

    I really hope the restaurant and the quality survive the ripe meltdown.

  8. says

    If this is true, the other shoe will drop for CL.
    You can see, in today’s O, that Tommy Habetz (of Gotham) will be heading up The Pork Store. This is within, what, three months of Gotham closing? Morgan, too, is a talented chef; he’ll land on his feet.

  9. Dave J. says

    Well, Morgan was pretty quick to jump on here when Food Dude made the jokey “Is a Sysco truck in their future?” statement about CL, so I’ll be interested to see if he debunks this rumor. Certainly it would be hard for CL to cope with losing its talented chef so soon after Ripe/GBT closed down.

  10. morgan says

    hello portland

    morgan here chef partner clarklewis

    yep i’m still alive and kicking…

    thanks for being curious

  11. Dave J. says

    I’m pleased to say that clarklewis is alive and going strong. Some friends and I went this past Saturday, and it was easily one of the better meals I’ve had in some time. I started with a salad of endives, black mission figs, chevre, and sugared walnuts–this blew me away. As is usually the case with their starters, everything was as fresh as can be and perfectly proportioned. Having had mixed luck with their meat entrees before, I went with a wheat pasta with veal sweetbreads fried in lardo. Incredible. (Best part of this was that nobody at the table would take anything from my plate, as I was a double sinner: eating veal, and eating a non-traditional body part.) Nobody at the table had any complaints about their dishes.

    I was very relieved to see that despite the recent tumult in the ripe empire, clarklewis seems to be doing very well. Tables were full for most of the evening.

  12. Chambolle says

    Had an absolutely transcendant meal at CL last night. We tried as much as humanly possible, and out of 13(?) dishes, there was only one that wasn’t fantastic. We ate at the bar, and the service was great, knowledgeable, and not attitudinal (which was kind of a big concern for me in the past). I think it’s great that Morgan can really let it fly, and I’m really glad I don’t feel bad about eating there anymore.

  13. syrah girl says

    We have only had one lunch at clarklewis, but it was a memorable one. The sea scallops that I had were probably the best I’ve had in the PDX area. We arrived pretty close to 2:00 and the place was fairly empty. I hear a lot about the chairs being uncomfortable, but we didn’t even notice this at all.

    I recently received an e-mail from clarklewis stating that they are again open for lunch after being on a hiatus for awhile. We also enjoyed lunch at Carlyle this past Feb. Both places are pretty darn good!

  14. loti says

    Went to ClarkLewis on Saturday with my wife and a friend of hers. The food was fantastic. We shared 3 starters that consisted of Mussels,fat duck liver and a pear and endive salad. All were prepared well. The duck liver with huckleberry reduction was my fave. We will be getting a larger plate next time.
    For our entrees we had the black cod,pork and lanb. Again all were prepared perfectly. All in all a very nice experience and we will be going back again.

  15. Food Dude says

    Thanks dennis, and welcome to the site. I’ve been trying to get confirmation on this all day. See the related article.

  16. Underwhelmed_portlandia says

    I gather clarklewis is capitalizing on Portlanders penchant for navel-gazing, sollipsism. The over-arching sense I get from having eaten now at every restaurant of note in this town is that we so WISH to have cuisine that we project our collective imagination upon these chow houses, much like the Israelites did upon the nation of Israel in order to develop a sense of identity, place and belonging. While I understand this need, it does not relieve us of the requirement to actually DELIVER on the promise of a gastronomical saviour-king. We must now go beyond praising ourselves for building places for us to congregate and twitter over the IDEA of cuisine, we must actually deliver on the REALITY of fine food.

    I, for one, am tired of this town’s routine if not devotion to mediocrity. It shows up beyond just the cuisine-scene but extends deeply into a number of industries and past-times. We need to stand-up for innovation AND excellence and hold ourselves to a standard set by the best of the best. Only then can we take our rightful place on the world stage. Otherwise, Portland will remain what it has been for years, an also-ran, me-too, self-referential not-invented-here commune of big-city ex-pats and almost-ready-for-prime-timers.

  17. been there says

    underwhelmed’s vitriol suggests something more than simple dissatisfaction with PDX food scene, please someone psycoanylize (i’ve never been able to spell, and it still doen’t bother me).

    I don’t recall anyone in pdx banging the drum until after NYT and Bon Appetit and just about every other national magazine did (which is actually a sad commentary on PDX insecurity). Sure theres room to improve, but the pdx restaurant scene is a damn sight better than “also ran”.

  18. extramsg says

    BC, I thought you were making a clever philosophy-geek joke about there being only one “i” in solipsism, but then realized they just misspelled it. Oh, well. I think they meant narcissism, anyway. While solipsism can mean a preoccupation with oneself, narcissism is more of a self-love. While I think us Portlanders have a healthy pride in what we got, I don’t think we’re deluded into thinking we have the same food scene that SF, NY, or Chicago have.

  19. casey says

    i agree with both underwhelmed & msg, actually.

    it’s a correct assessment that despite our many leaps forward, we as a restaurant community (patrons & proprietors alike) do tend to celebrate mediocrity perhaps more than most. we’ve all heard & read a lot of undue praise for what is ultimately just okay food/service/what have you.

    that said, i know few people that will attempt to put us next to sf, ny, or chicago. somehow in proper context we get less self-congratulatory.

    for what it’s worth, i think we’ll get there. some of us are not content in the middle & our numbers are growing. as the city evolves, so will its restaurants.

  20. bc says


    now i wish i would have made that joke. dammit! sarcastic regret. i feel like george castanza.

    i.e. “the jerk store called and they’re all out of you”

    anywho…i will admit that there is some credence to what casey and underwhelmed had to say, but i feel that people seem to hop on the “band wagon of discontent” in this town fairly quick. I guess my point is; it’s food, get over it and yourself.

  21. a cook says

    nicely said bc! There is always so much focus on whether we have a viable food scene here, how about focusing on being part of that scene and helping it grow and become something. Stop comparing it to other cities and get out and make it the best it can be! I am sick of you people who just like to talk and tear down what we are trying to do here. Of course there is going to be people settling with mediocrity but then there are the ones really trying to do something different and add something “positive” to our beloved cities food scene. blog all you want, we’ll be trying to make beautiful food and enjoying the beauty of what we do have!

    Less talking more cooking!

  22. extramsg says

    anywho…i will admit that there is some credence to what casey and underwhelmed had to say,

    Sure, though I do think that people forget how inexpensive Portland dining is compared to other cities. I think for the price, you’d find Portland VERY competitive with other cities. Often the same people complaining about how Portland doesn’t have this or that like other cities are the ones complaining if they see an entree go over $30. Everyone wants their fine dining and their value, too.

  23. Chambolle says

    I just think it’s weird that there are people complaining about how crappy things are here – yet still live here. Also that there are people saying they are Portlanders – yet don’t live in Portland. Huh.

    Regardless – and back on topic – have fun out there, Morgan, you deserve it.

  24. casey says

    while i totally agree that our collective panties need not get into a bunch over how we stack up next to the big guys, i’ll point out that there’s a difference between not showering praise on the mediocre & tearing a restaurant up.

    calling attention to shortcomings is not damnation, i assure.

    like i said, we’ll get there. but in the interest of getting better, restaurant professionals (myself included, friends) need to identify what works and practice this stuff. that doesn’t happen when we happily accept status quo. it happens in part through discussion (like this) & mostly through obscene amounts of hard work & imagination.

    ok… back to clarklewis!

  25. Phil says

    Your review is remarkable spot on with my expereince last night. Came in from out of town, went with family, enjoyed the space, found our server to be knowlegable, just right with her attention, great with the wine list, loved the salads, crostoni, clams, bread and olive oil, did well with the pasta and then tucked in to the most dissapointing (for the money) leg of lam and brisket that I’ve had in a while. Seasoned with some lovely touches but overcooked, dry, tough–I couldnt figure out if it was the quality of the meat, the cooking or both, but everyone in our party agreed it was a surprisingly amateur offering and simply not worth the money

  26. Food Dude says

    Phil: Welcome to the site, and thanks for the feedback. Sorry your experience wasn’t great. I think the lesson is to stick with the other dishes, and you’ll have a fine meal.

  27. Courtney says

    My husband and I finally went in December. We were terribly disappointed.

    We followed the directions from the clarklewis web site, which led us to the back door instead of the front. There were no signs anywhere indicating that we were in the right place, and when we went inside nobody greeted us. After a minute or two of being ignored, we decided to walk across the restaurant where we found the “wait to be seated” area.

    The restaurant was over-crowded and loud. It was filled with noisy hipsters and the wait staff weren’t all wearing orange shirts — they seemed to wear whatever they wanted and were difficult to distinguish from the customers.

    The service was disappointing. We had a reservation for two, but there was no table available for more than 30 minutes. We were shown to some weird stools to sit on, and nobody asked us if we’d like a drink or anything for more than 15 minutes. We left a note that we were disappointed with the long wait along with our payment, and I got a call a couple of days later. Instead of apologizing, the person who called accused me of mixing up our reservation time and arriving too early. Our reservation was at 8 p.m., and that’s when we got there.

    After reading about the multi-course prix fixe meal, we though we might have found a cheaper alternative to Genoa. But we were told we had no say in the dishes we received, despite my husband’s shellfish allergy.

    The food was pretty good, but it didn’t stand out as any better than we could have had at La Tabla or a number of other Portland restaurants, and it cost more.

    After reading such rave reviews, we expected more. And considering a tab that topped $70, we should have received it.

    We won’t be going back.

  28. Food Dude says

    Courtney, realize the chef has changed in the last 60 days. That makes most reviews out of date. I’ll try to get back and update mine soon.

  29. a cook says

    yeah courtney- Because you know how much the chef is in charge of how every front of the house person treats you! Mainly your review was about the service aspect and then one little line about the food, so yeah jump on the chef changing, that was easy.
    don’t worry courtney, soon all waiters will wear white collared shirts and black bow ties. They will appear all the same and they will have no personalities and no individuality. Clarklewis is going to start using the olive garden employee handbook and guidelines so we can be more like every other restaurant.
    These are all necessary changes, so that you, the customer, won’t have to use your brain at all and clarklewis will be more like all the other “amazing” restaurants in this town.
    We hope you are happy and that’s all we care about!

  30. atlas says

    So “a cook” are you trying to imply that because Courtney takes some issue with service at clarklewis, she must want penguin waiters waddling around following corporate mantras and/or that she prefers servers that have no personality of individualism???

    She said the food was pretty good didn’t she?

    She also recognizes that here in portland that can be said of many restaurants in this town… so it would seem that for her and her husband, service was the primary issue… and from her account it appears that service had a major breakdown during that visit. She had poor service.

    I can appreciate those grievances, I’ve had similar… I wonder, does that make me someone who doesn’t want to use my brain when dining and would like clarklewis to be more like every other place in town? Perhaps it does in your mind’s eye, but the reality is this… great food, great service, and appeal in setting make for great restaurants and when anyone of those start to slip so do the sales.

    Courtney’s issue was service and it would seem to me that at multiple points in her story the situation could have been made to take a turn for the positive, but that didn’t happen and you get what you have here… her “aired” complaint, but more importantly for clarklewis… the last sentence of her comment.

  31. witzend says

    A cook:
    I would have to side with Atlas regarding your post. You’re really doing yourself and your employer a disservice by dissing a customer that seemed to have a perfectly legitimate complaint. Chef or no chef, of equal (if not even greater) importance to a diner discovering a restaurant for the first time, is a sense of welcome; that the staff is making every effort to ensure a pleasurable experience. That was clearly and unfortunately not the case for Courtney.

  32. Food Dude says

    a cook: I hate to say it, but I think you are doing more harm than good, by bringing more and more attention to the very comments you are upset about. Every time you post, you bring another 300-400 eyes to the negative comments.

  33. a cook says

    it’s called sarcasm people! I was actually mocking food dude more than courtney. I was at the restaurant when this happened and before you guys jump on backing someone, maybe you should know the circumstances. Out of the hundreds of covers we do a week, we’ll take one complaint. You can’t please everyone and this lady did not get it, i.e…” The restaurant was over-crowded and loud. It was filled with noisy hipsters and the wait staff weren’t all wearing orange shirts — they seemed to wear whatever they wanted and were difficult to distinguish from the customers.” That is our atmosphere and why would we change for one person? Hipsters like to hang out at the restaurant, why is that bad? wait staff wearing orange shirts- after 3 years you would think they would understand that those are kitchen staff uniforms. “There were no signs anywhere indicating that we were in the right place.” You would think people would get that we don’t have a sign and that is how we want it. Many restaurants don’t have signs, and this is what I was talking about by using your brain. It’s the only place in the building with people sitting at tables, people cooking, and a ton of cars out front. Oh yeah and the fact that there is huge garage doors with windows to see everything that’s going on! So maybe she did just not understand the concept, and that’s okay, not everyone is going to get it.
    I was criticizing food dude for making the easy statement- “Courtney, realize the chef has changed in the last 60 days.”
    hopefully we’ll see food dude soon, so we can wait on the edge of our seats for his very insightfull food review.
    food reviewers in this town are funny!

  34. ben says

    food dude

    Hi, my name is Ben Alandt. I’m the new chef at clark. I wasn’t going to leave a comment on this site, because well I don’t really have the time, but I would like to say that “a cook” does work for me, but by no means was ever authorized to make such comments on this site. He does not speak for the company. I would appreciate a note from you or a call. Hope your experience last night was enjoyable, and look forward to hearing from you.

  35. doc says

    As a person in the Portland restaurant biz for the past 20 years…’a cook’ is exactly the type of individual I would look to weed out…customers don’t always get it clearly…it’s up to the operators and their front people to help them get there…wouldn’t a comment from ‘a cook’ simply saying “Sorry things didn’t work out, I’ll pass along your concerns to so and so and I hope you’ll give us another try” go alot further and at least give the impression that he cares about the opinions of the customer?

    Some cooks in Portland are funny!

  36. Underwhelmed says


    And well, underwhelmed again.

    The recent review (see quote below) was apparently written by a lunatic w/ a Lunesta addiciton. Perhaps his dream-state and wake-state have merged…

    see for yourself:

    “…Starters tend to be amazing, > in their inventiveness, and pasta is usually > Take the second menu above: the starters were wonderful, > in combining flavors and textures, requiring concentration (huh? is this a meal or a prostate exam?) to truly appreciate the various shadows (huh? shadows? is this mysterious, nefarious culinary skullduggery>?!) of flavor across each dish. The farro was >>, with a hearty, nutty, risotto-like quality – I could have eaten an entire bowl. ”

    I wish you had. And you can have mine as well while you’re at it, you Superlative-crazed whacko. You must’ve acquired Montezuma’s Revenge of a linguistic sort.

    This is some seriously hyperbolic drivel. If charged, you’d have gone bankrupt by the first paragraph.

    HAHAHAHA! I kill myself…

    Ok, in all seriousness, Courtney’s comment was the only thing that I found STUNNING about ClarkLewis. The fact that someone called her and then didn’t immediately and profusely apologize, prostrate themselves in WONDERFUL, NUANCED, SHADOWED, CONCENTRATED, SUBLIME, BREATH-TAKING apologia, is UNACCEPTABLE.


    At 100 price point, we have options. Quite a few options, btw. IN fact, I secured some wonderful Duck legs from your suppliers btw, braised them in Banuole wine and balsamic, served them with poached pear and a parsnip and turnip and prune cassarole… and btw, it was better than anything i’ve ever had at CL. Serving portions — 4 adults. Duck 5.95 a pound from the wholesaler aka 5 bucks per person (30 bucks total.) Wine – 25.00 used 1/2 bottle in the braising liquid, consumed the rest with meal. Pears, 4 – 4 bucks. Parsnips and Turnips de minimus. Dinner for 4 wine starters of salad, fried goatcheese, home made dressing, pomegranite seeds… Dessert of poached pair and vanilla bean ice cream….

    Grand Total 60.00 bucks. Personal street cred among foodie pals — priceless.

    Now, I say this as someone who has never cooked anything like this in my life. IN fact, i have never cooked > in my life. Ok, i’ve microwaved Healthy Choice frozen entrees in college and warmed up STAGG chili con carne, buts that it. Now I say this as someone who loves to eat well–my college dinner menus, nothwithstanding —

    Case in point, I dropped 500 bucks last month at The Waterside Inn in London, Brae, actually. That was WITHOUT wine. So, hopefully I have established I value fine cooking and will spend 10,000 for a week at various Relais in England and France to find it.

    This time, however, I decided to do it myself. I found a book — in this case the Lucque cookbook (LA restaurnat) and make the meal for some friends as an experiment. And let me tell you, THIS was BETTER than what we had at Waterside, by far. Fancier? No. Tastier? ABSOLUTELY.

    Remember, you CL orange -shrited staffers and hyperbolic PDX boosterist reviewers —YOU are being PAID by your patrons. Those of us who return again and again are your silent majority, your benefactors that really make your bottom line. Ergo, When one of your benefactors has a bad experience, you need to pay VERY close attention to why that could have occured. Because, if you piss us off, those of us with the means and time to do so, end up competing with you at home. And in my case, my guests, former pastry chefs for the holding company that owns NOBU and other gastronomical assets, were very very interested in attending my second attempt and “cookery.”

    Perhaps I should thank my pained CL experiences for unleashing my latent culinary genius.

    Rachael ” Catie Couric” Ray, consider yourself warned.

    And to the Lunesta lunatics, perhaps I will invite you to wax prophetic about my attempts. And no, I wont have a sign out front–no i wont greet you at the door either, you will get a stool, no menus, poor lighting and be ignored. And true to form I WILL be wearing an Orange jumpsuit in your honor.

  37. Underwhelmed says

    Oh, and someone please Bee-atch slap “cook.”

    That Olive Garden crack proves my point. Arrogance w/no follow-thru. Clever insults which serve exclusively as a put down make you look weak and by contrast strengthen your opponents position.

    Take my mudslinging for example: Unlike you COOK — I offer absolution, redemption. I offer a way out of the morass. I suggest positive alternatives, not merely bash on my opponents for being mental midgets and intellectual Lillyputians. I embrace their idiocy and offer a route out from the cave of their ignorance and discontent.

    I extend the same hand to you COOK, you knuckle dragging, Portland State night school drop-out. Join us in here the light! My fine foolish friend, we are here to accept you, warts and all.

  38. Erin says

    Underwhelmed, run a spell check, man.

    And spare me the rich-guy bragging. How is gushing about spending 500 bucks for a dinner (‘WITHOUT wine’) or $10,000 on a week’s stay much different than the lame review that pissed you off in the first place?

  39. Dave J. says

    I went to clarklewis last night, and was interested to see what, if any, changes had taken place since Morgan left. The food was, for the most part, good, but there was one noticeable change: the menu shrunk! Seriously, there are probably 2/3 the number of starters, and four pastas, and four “from the hearth” options. Contrast this with the sample dinner menu on their website, which has a broader selection of starters, five pastas, and six meat entrees. Like I said, the food was good, but I was surprised by the pared-down menu.

  40. pastry gladiator says

    so how IS Bruce Cary’s new and improved (former staff swept out the door like dustballs) clarklewis? How’s the California chef couple?

  41. dear says

    We had a very good experience there last week, and the desserts at the ‘new’ clarklewis are some of the best I’ve had anywhere… out of this world good. The whole place feels happy, airy, and bustling. The chairs? Lots more comfortable than the old rickity ones.

  42. jersey cow says

    Dear “dear”

    That sounds like a prerecorded message

    Pastry gladiator…i am sorry that bruce swept the staff out the door. or did they leave just for that?

    My what a golden piece of dirt.(for lack of a better term)

  43. Ihearteating says

    We definately miss Morgan and this place is NOT the same. On a recent celebratory dinner for six, with lots of wine, cocktails and champagne (read: the check was spendy), I was embarrassed, but I sent my dinner back to the kitchen because it was too salty. I don’t think I’ve ever sent my entire dinner back before, but I literally couldn’t eat it, so they remade it and brought it back, I still didn’t love it, but asked them to box it up so as not to be rude.

    Our server was not really apologetic or even engaged in the situation. Everyone ordered dessert except me. So here’s my restaurant ethics question for everyone. In this situation, do you think it would have been “expected” for CL to comp a dessert, offer a dessert wine, or even take the meal off the ticket?

    The point is we spent about $50 a person, and aside from remaking the food, I didn’t get any “customer service” that I thought would have been a sound business strategy. We were having a great time, but now that’s all we remember.

    I don’t know where people running Portland’s restaurants get their business degrees. Seriously, a little customer service goes A LONG way. Do you agree or tell me to F-off?

  44. sidemeat says

    I heart;
    If what you say is true, yes, they should have comped your meal.
    Any time a guest sends a dish back to the kitchen the first thing is that the chef tastes it to see if it was prepared correctly. If it is correct, and just not to the guests taste, the server will suggest something else on the menu. The fact that they remade the same dish indicates that, in the chefs opinion, it was not right. So you have to wait for a properly prepared meal while your companions dine. Did the server address the situation at all? Apologize for the delay? The fact that you had your second meal boxed should have brought some sort of manager to your table. Sadly, not all servers bring problems to the attention of management, not all managers are interested in hearing about problems. Some show of concern, and maybe a comped glass of wine would have gone a long way towards making you, and your guests, feel better about things wouldn’t it?

  45. Ihearteating says

    Thank you sidemeat, for that small validation, because I’m from the east coast and have worked in a variety of fine to low brow establishments, but what they had in common was customer service and I just feel like the west coast “pc” attitude means that people here believe that one should never complain and somehow it is our destiny to pay for service but never actually get any :)

    Yes, what I said is true, and yes, I got an obligatory, “sorry about that” when he brought my second plate to the table, but nothing more. OH WELL, it will be a LONG time, if ever, before I go back with so much tasty food in p-town.

  46. sidemeat says

    Please, let’s leave the size of my validation out of this.
    I am from the west coast, but I know service,
    and you got none from CL.
    Why would you go back?

  47. sidemeat says

    ‘Cause, you know, I validate like a farm animal
    length and/or girth or whatever metric your using there
    I’m not insecure, it’s just that I get these e-mails you know,
    and they make me question my validation abilities,
    not that I have any doubts, but, you know, a guy has to wonder,
    that validation that we shared,
    was it good for you?

  48. sonja says

    This used to be my favorite restaurant. Despite its hipster pretentions, it offerred the most reliably delicious food in this city. Since Morgan left, and along with him most of the familiar faces, the food has suffered considerably. It has gone from sublime to fine. The wood-fired meats tend to be a bit over-cooked now, and not as tender as they used to be. The sauces and pastas are uninspired. I’ll probably still return every now and in the futile hope that the magic has returned…

  49. salty ham says

    I remember the pasta guy that used to make the fresh pasta during the day time, I think BCR fired him. I loved watching him work when I would go in for lunch, truly the best pasta making artisan the town has seen in a while. Hopefully someone will pick up where those creative ones used to make wonderful food every day, but then again haven’t we been saying that for months now? Hmmm.

  50. bird says

    The pasta master at clarklewis is still there. Saw him just past week…..dinner this week: ……..the whole wheat pasta was very good, as was the corn salad, and the desserts were amazing.

  51. foieman says

    We dined at clarklewis last week. The corn salad is delicious. Overall a good meal, although not a very good perceived value for what you get. The flavors are simple and clean, but I’m left wanting more punch.

  52. Parsnip says

    The pasta maker at Clarklewis is also the pasta maker at Meriwethers, last I checked… Therefore, those of us who won’t set foot in a BCR establishment are still able to enjoy the artisanal pasta goodness he creates in a much kinder environment. And that, to me, is pretty darn rad.

  53. customer says

    Spent the last week in Portland and a close friend who volunteers at the farmers market told me I must eat at clarklewis. Note: I hope everyone who eats food and drinks in Portland have the good fortune of experiencing the squid ink tagliarini (ink folded into eggs and flour when pasta is made) with chopped squid (legs and head)- beautiful compliment to mother and child- as well as the apricot terrine for dessert. Those two menu items stand up to all the upset and otherwise negative remarks I have read about this restaurant herein. If anyone has questions about the food or how it is prepared, please simply go and ask to meet the chef (Daniel Matterns, or dude wearing a backwards ca during service in the kitchen), who is usually at the restaurant starting early in the morning to receive the bounty of organic, artisan, wild or otherwise spectacular produce prepped on the gigantic wooden blocks in the kitchen. Service was preternatural. Ambiance of irregularly shaped water vases and stubby hurricanes glistening of gold and frosty tints amidst screaming trains (one block away!) in addition to the aroma of the kitchen was an experience Ill never forget. Ratatouille in the vents has a large grin on his face!

  54. sidemeat says

    Oh, I’m a big fan of preternatural service!
    Good evening, my name is Nosferatu,
    and I will be your server this evening.
    May I offer you something to drink?
    Of course, the best compliment to any mother and child is to eat them.
    Screaming trains obscure the screams of…
    ah! dinner is served!
    May I open a vein for you?

  55. Sir Loins says

    You call it “service” but clarklewis calls it “finding transcendental motives for sublunary action.” How Huxley of them!

  56. salty ham says

    Squid and squid ink pasta, oh my. Sounds like customer hasn’t ever dined out before, wait till the old spag factory finds out, then we are really doomed.

  57. Shakti says

    It’s been over a year since the last posting; wondering what locals think of clarklewis now. We’re coming to Portland for our first visit for one night and are planning to eat at cl. Thanks for any updates.

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