This review has been replaced by a newer one. You will find it here.
At one time, Echo was one of those restaurants I really liked. An 1890’s building that once housed a brothel was completely renovated. Large windows spill light into the room from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There is a nice bar area where you can sit, if there is a wait for a table. The owner, Tim Krawczuk, always seems to be there, either working the bar or expediting food. Echo was a great addition, helping to turn around an iffy neighborhood. Six months later I am back. Is it worth the trip?
When it first opened, the food was excellent. I became a regular, stopping in about once a week for vintage cocktails and good, reasonably priced food. Most of the newspapers in town wrote glowing reviews, and it became difficult to get a table any night of the week. Things must have been bright in the Echo world, but suddenly everything changed, and it hasn’t been the same since. Dishes lost focus and became overcomplicated conglomerations of ingredients. Friends called and asked how I could have recommended it to them. I stayed away for a long time but recently decided it was time to go back and see how things were doing.
My first return visit was on a Saturday night at 7:00. Unlike six months before, we were seated immediately – not a good sign. The menu has changed a bit from the early days as they take advantage of seasonal ingredients. Here are comments on some of the dishes I have had recently: Bruschetta Deconstructed – olive oil brushed toast with mushroom/garlic/parsley mix in a small bowl on the side to be spread on the bread. This dish was gimmicky…what’s the point? Done right, the mushroom-garlic mix will leave the bread crisp, so there is no reason to serve it on the side. The garlic and salt overpowered the mushrooms, which was a shame because they looked really good, but we really couldn’t taste them. A dish called Salmon Fillet Over Greens was a bit overcooked and just okay. The greens were crisp and fresh but had almost no discernible dressing. For $12.00, you would expect a bit more pizazz.
On the first visit back, I had Pan Seared Monkfish in Saffron Vegetable Broth. It was way too salty and not quite balanced. There was a nice saffron flavor but was missing something. Perhaps, it was because the fish did not absorb the broth, and served with a fork, it was hard to get broth flavor and fish at the same time. As my companion commented, it just doesn’t quite work. $16.00.
The Chipotle Ravioli Stuffed with Grilled Vegetables under a Southwest Style Hazelnut Romesco Sauce Topped with Sautéed Leeks and Cotija (whew!) was overly complicated and lacked depth. Compared to Gotham, the romesco here was a C-. Not balanced and too salty. There was nothing redeeming about this dish, another effort that just didn’t work. $14.00.
A Crab Cake Sandwich with roasted tomato and chili rémoulade, lettuce, tomato, and onion had the texture of a chicken burger, was somewhat dry and looked a lot like too much bread was used as filler. The side salad was just fine, but nothing special. $8.00
Recently, I had the Pork Chop with Apricot and Almond Liquor Reduction. The meat was nice and thick but again a bit overcooked with a rather pedestrian and overly complicated sauce. A nice blend of vegetables was served on the side, but the first bite was a salt-bomb. It tasted like they had been plated and then had salt thrown on top. Once I cleared away the upper vegetables, the others were nicely done. Mashed potatoes served under the chop were nothing out of the ordinary, and served too cold, only warm where the pork touched them. $14.00.
On my first trip back, out of two table settings, we had 2 dirty plates, 1 dirty fork, and a dirty knife. This did not recur on subsequent visits. Service was average at best. We were never asked if we liked our meals and had to wait with empty water glasses for refills. On another visit our entrée plates sat empty for almost ten minutes before they were picked up.
Echo has a great selection of vintage drink specials, though unless my memory fails me, prices have gone up a bit; most are around $6.00. With choices like a Cosmopolitan, Old Fashioned, Singapore Sling, and Mint Julep, it is like working your way through a bartending guide from the 50’s. Unfortunately, they tend to vary greatly depending on who is making them that night. Sometimes, the Dark & Stormy is perfect, a nice balance of ginger and lime, other times mostly lime with barely discernible ginger. Other drinks seem to vary from week to week, too. They don’t exactly have a heavy hand with their pours, but it is still fun to have some of these older cocktails.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to Echo. It is a convenient neighborhood restaurant in a nice building with nice owners who really care about the place. Go for a few drinks and the happy hour food when prices are considerably lower. Stick with the simplest dishes and you’ll probably be happy.
- Phone: (503)460-3246
- Address: 2225 N.E. M.L. King Jr. Blvd., Portland OR. 97212
- Hours: Mon-Wed: 4:30pm-11pm, Thu-Fri 4:30pm-Midnight, Sun: 9am-11pm
- Happy Hour: 4:30–6pm, and after 10pm nightly. $10 off every bottle of wine SUNDAY nights.