After being under construction for what seems like years, Fenouil, pronounced Fen-wee which means Fennel, opened a few months ago on the edge of Jamison Square in Portland’s Pearl District. The 8,500 square foot interior was designed by KL Design group. Word on the street is the total cost approached five million dollars. It is going to take a lot of covers to pay off this kind of mortgage. Did they get their money’s worth?
Fenouil parallels the square, and though it makes finding the entrance a bit confusing, it more than makes up for it with the dramatic views, both from the square to the restaurant, and from the restaurant to the square. This time of year, the abundance of tiny lights in the trees only adds to the effect. The entry is dramatic, first because the air is redolent with truffles, which promises great things to come. Second, because of the ‘wood’ oven directly in front of the doors, and the sweeping curved staircase that leads to the upper levels.
There is so much going on; it is a bit difficult to come up with a good description. A large bar area with fireplace takes up the space on the left side. It is a virtual who’s who of Portland’s trendiest people. The bartenders are knowledgeable and pour a pretty good drink, though the prices are a bit higher then elsewhere in the Pearl. Two issues: the seats are a suede-like material that works almost like Velcro. Once you sit, you are stuck. Sliding out of the booths can be a bit difficult. Second, if you run a tab in the bar, you must pay before they will seat you in the dining room. This seems ridiculous for a restaurant that obviously takes itself seriously. Just transfer the tab to the table like everyone else does.
The area in front of the entry is dominated by a long kitchen. There is a large ‘wood’ oven, which is actually gas flamed with a few sticks thrown in now and then. A chef’s counter seats about 10 and would be a great place to watch the action. To the right is the main dining room which seats 120, complete with two fireplaces that provide a much needed foil to the three drafty roll up doors that will open to the square during summer months. Overall the space is elegant; the wood floors, limestone pillars, a large French tapestry, and finally a vaulted ceiling all speak to the dollars spent on the space. Hovering over it all is a large mezzanine which, because of the view, is my favorite area to dine. To one side Jamison Square shimmers; the other side looks directly down on the line cooks. Those of you who have worked in kitchens will appreciate the chance to be on the other side of the floorshow for a change. A French tin ceiling arches over the mezzanine. Everything feels very… well, corporate. It was my second visit, when I was sitting in one of the padded armchairs on wheels that make up part of the upstairs dining area, that it hit me. There really isn’t much French about this place. While they have done a beautiful job, it just doesn’t work for me. I felt like I was sitting in a French restaurant in China, or maybe Vegas, if that makes any sense. Fenouil is too big money, a bit Disneyland for my taste. When I looked up more information about the designer, I see they also designed St. Honoré Boulangerie, of which I said, “If Disney Corporation was told to design a French bakery, I would guess that St. Honoré would be pretty close to their final result. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is more the movie version American tourists expect from a French bakery, but not like any I have seen in France”. I feel the same here, and wonder if anyone at the KLM has ever been to France, or if they just stopped at Epcot.
The menu is broken into small cold plates, small hot plates, and entrees. I’ve had a pretty good sampling of everything.
A classic salad from the Alsace region of France, the cresson is made up of watercress, frisée, walnuts, lardoons, and goat cheese. One night it came with almost soapy-flavored lavender brioche, which overpowered everything else. On top of that it was wet, and well, boring. It would have benefited from a bit of walnut oil. Nothing about the preparation lifts this lackluster salad above the mundane. ($7.00)
The salad of cepes chauds is made up of butter salad, porcini, sherry vinaigrette and pumpkin oil ($8,00). This was a little better effort, the vinaigrette was balanced and the pumpkin oil gave it an earthy spin. A warm salad for a cool day still, this wasn’t something I want to rush out and tell friends about.
Foie gras ($18.00) comes in a terrine, served with lavender brioche and a bit of fleur de sel to be sprinkled over your toast. Rich, buttery, and that overused word “unctuous” really works here. If you haven’t had it before and are feeling adventurous, this is a terrific appetizer, big enough for three to share, and a good introduction to foie gras.
A tuna carpaccio is so delicate it should be the first thing you try; translucently thin slices of fresh tuna, a few bits of daikon radish, and a nice dusting of crunchy sea salt give it explosive bites of flavor. A bit of cucumber finishes the dish. Pair this with a really light wine ($10.00).
For a great starter on cold fall days try gratiné of French onion soup ($7.00). Wonderful! Two different stocks are used for the base. There is a perfect amount of finely cut roasted onions with a lovely caramel flavor. On top of it all, the traditional bread cap and a good layer of aged gruyere cheese. This is one of the better onion soups I have ever had.
The frog legs, on the other hand, seem like a waste of a good frog. They are deep-fried which mutes much of the flavor, and then come with a strong, unbalanced bagna cauda dipping sauce which covers them even more. It didn’t help that the sauce cooled very quickly – it shouldn’t since the name bagna cauda means “warm bath”. I didn’t particularly care for them. ($11.00)
Steak tartare is made from Kobe beef, raw quail egg, and brioche. It is prepared the classic way, the beef chopped (not ground!), topped with the small raw egg. I found myself comparing it to the better version at Paleys Place, and missing all the traditional accompaniments.
Black cod has been on the menu since they opened. A nice sized fillet, it comes on a bed of almost mashed potatoes, along with some braised cabbage and Serrano ham. Everything works together to give this dish terrific texture. It is perfectly cooked, the fish flavorful and moist. Manila clams scattered around the edge play a supporting role, and lend a fresh briny flavor. This is a good deal for $20.00.
Magret de canard roti et son confit (roast breast of duck with confit) is another good dish. The wood-fired duck breast has a nice, slightly smoky flavor, and a good, crisp skin. The meat is tender and moist. Armagnac is a French distillation made from wine; for this dish they soak prunes in it, and scatter the flavorful prunes across the top. Finally the dish is rounded out with flageolets, little French kidney beans ($23.00).
Steak frites ala chanterelles consists of a large Misty Isle rib eye steak that has been aged for a week, giving it a deep beef flavor. The dish is cooked just to order, surrounded by chanterelles that soak up the sauce, and comes with a cone of crisp, nearly perfect fries, and an exceptional truffle aioli ($24.00). I tasted this dish twice; the first time the steak wasn’t hot enough, the second time the fries arrived cold and had to be sent back.
Wild boar tenderloin comes with little bits of wonderful bone marrow and pommes sarladaises – potatoes sautéed in garlic and duck fat. The potatoes should be crispy and brown; these were a bit soggy, not true to form. There is plenty of boar with a rich, thick, marrow jus; it is presented French style, and medium-rare as ordered. Unfortunately, everything was put on a cold plate, and by the time we got it the meal was cold. We sent the dish back, and the boar returned cooked to medium-well. Um, no… we want it medium-rare, on a plate warm enough to keep the meat above room temperature ($29.00).
Seared sea scallops, smoked bacon, leek fondue, and verjus are simple and wonderful. The scallops clean and succulent, all the flavors working just as you would expect. One of the better dishes ($24.00).
The desserts take a unique approach for the Portland market. They are tiny little things, each literally just a few bites, and beautifully presented. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one that I thought was particularly good, most of them are your average low-end fare. However, with the tiny prices matching their size, you can try quite a few and have a good time.
A sampling of the desserts:
Chocolate soufflé $3.50
Fig tart $2.50
Glaces maison – when I had it the ice cream was malted chocolate chip – $1.50
Honey nougat $1.00
Chocolate terrine $4.00
Profiterole – $2.00
Seven different cheeses, mostly French, are available.
The chocolate soufflé and the ice cream were the best of this list. While being beautiful to look at, most suffer from poor pastry crust or other similar flaws.
Fenouil serves Umbria coffee, a strange decision considering how much good coffee is available in this town. It arrives on a really cool (as in “how cool!”) plate with an equally cool little cream pitcher. Unfortunately, Umbria is not a particularly good coffee; here it is rather bitter.
Service is always close to perfect. The waiters are knowledgeable, and there when you need them. From the moment you walk into the door, to the time you walk back out, that make you feel like you are important. I have never had a bad service experience.
There is a good selection of wines, with the markup on bottles I checked, about 130%. The wines available by the glass are nothing special, buy a bottle if you can.
Overall, the food is generally pretty good at Fenouil. Unfortunately, the issue of cold food has affected every meal. Over four dining experiences, I have gotten four entrees that came on plates that were cold. When you order a medium-rare steak, and it comes across the restaurant, up a flight of stairs, and across the mezzanine before it gets to your table, it’s not surprising the dish arrives cold. If you send something back, they just cook it to medium-well, re-plate, and send it out. That isn’t what I want. I want a medium-rare steak on a plate that has been heated enough to keep it warm. Between this issue, and the only fair desserts, I am less likely to go back to Fenouil. Simple to fix, but until it is, the overall score drops. Of more concern is how they are going to pay for the space. I wonder if they might be a bit concerned too, as the buzz is already wearing off, and they have now opened for brunch and lunch. Oh, a final thing: When you call for reservations, they should ask if you have any issues climbing the stairs before they plan to seat you on the mezzanine. Some of us have a very difficult time with stairs.
- Phone: (503) 525-2225. Reservations strongly recommended.
- Address: 900 NW 11th Ave, Portland, OR. 97209 Google Map
- Hours: Mon-Thu11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10:00pm, Sun 9am-9pm
- Website: FenouilInThePearl.com
Wheelchair accessible, but ask for downstairs seating.
Food Dude says
Rest – thanks. I suppose I should look these things up instead of relying on my somewhat flawed memory;) You reminded me that the bagna cauda cooled rather quickly, they didn’t have a way to keep it warm.
PS. Shouldn’t you be cooking something?
Marshall Manning says
Interesting, Dude. We went last Friday night and had a very good meal overall. We were originally seated next to one of the roll-up doors, and even I (who wears short sleeves when it’s 45 degrees out) was extremely cold. We asked to be moved, and were going to eat in the bar, but asked about the chef counter, which looked empty. Surprise, it was open, so we sat there, and were treated to a frog leg amuse, which we really liked. Maybe the prep was different as the amuse, but we found it really tasty, but we’re suckers for good fried things.
For appetizers, I had the open-faced duck confit sandwich and Carolyn had the mussels. Both of these were really nice, and were large-sized apps that could easily be split. I had the duck breast/confit dinner (you can never have too much duck as far as I’m concerned!), and she had the lobster and merguez lamb sausage risotto. I loved the duck, some of the best confit I’ve had in town, and the breast was done on the rare side of medium rare just like I asked. Carolyn’s risotto was done just right, but the sausage was a little strong for her and seemed to overpower the lobster a bit…something a little milder and more fitting with lobster would be better.
We ordered four wines by the glass, and the service here was our only complaint. It took 5-10 minutes for us to get our glasses after ordering them, and we had to ask about the wine each time. Otherwise, the service was very good. We had the small pistachio creme brulee brulee, which had interesting flavor, but was a bit on the runny side. They also gave us a couple of the mini donuts, as we had “ooh”ed after seeing them come out for someone else…they were warm and soft like mini Krispy Kremes.
While there are some higher-priced entrees, we were able to get a very filling meal for two, with 4 glasses of wine, for almost exactly $100, which really isn’t too bad. The apps could have easily been split, and if one is on a budget you could assemble a nice simple meal with the frogs legs, mussels, and open faced confit sandwich, paired with a glass of wine, for under $50.
Food Dude says
So we agree on the cold doors, and the duck. When I looked at the risotto, the first thing that went though my mind is that the sausage would overpower the lobster. I’m getting good;)
I think it helped that you sat right in front of the kitchen. If they can’t get those dishes to you hot, then there is something really wrong!
I never even saw the donuts. Sigh. Now I want one with the hot toddy I’m drinking.
I’m surprised by the overly negative tone. We’ve been there 4 times and have yet to have a cold app or entree. I agree on the fois gras terrine – fabulous. I also really enjoyed the fries in truffle oil – intense but really good. I have had the gnocchi and enjoyed that as well. The wine list is lacking a bit but that will come around.
I do agree with the comments on the atmosphere but I wouldn’t call it “corporate” more like “sterile”. Regardless, it is a beautiful space.
Knife Diva says
The french onion soup IS fantastic, also one of the best I have ever tried along with the one at Le Bouchon. I adore the pomme frites, perfectly crispy and HOT both times I have ordered them with a fantastic aioli.
The first time we ate dinner, we were seated next to the roll up doors, but I do not remember feeling particularly cold (this was the first week Fenouil opened, so it was not as cold then). The next time we ate in the bar and the banquette side of the table was extremely comfortable, but so low that it was hard to eat neatly- well for a short person, anyway.
I am ready to go back once I get over this godforesaken head cold and can taste something again.
Is there a decent cheese list? I can’t remember. I have not heard great things about the desserts from anyone, so even at their very modest prices I will probably skip them.
Marshall Manning says
Yeah, the counter height was something I forgot to mention. Even though I’m fairly tall, the kitchen counter came to mid-chest, and Carolyn just had her head above the counter. They could use some taller stools there.
Food Dude says
Hunter: have you eaten upstairs? I was just browsing other reviews on the web, and most of them mention cold entrees. I’m wondering if it is just a problem up there. I only ate downstairs one time.
Hehehe, I don’t cook – that’s for Chefs. :)
I find it funny that there is strong consensus of the good and bad with Fenouil. I’ve been there twice only in Oct/Nov and found most of the faults that have been expressed by Fd and commentaries.
Since my first look this place felt a lot like a hotel, and I can even name it: the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. Other than the unpersonable feel, we found the environs interesting (many layers of decor to look at) and fairly inviting. The chairs by the windows at the first floor were already breezy and freezy in the Fall – but sitting by a fireplace is quite nice. I haven’t seated in the mezzanine yet.
Our food experience was somewhat mixed. No problems with the entrees’ temperatures: steak as well as boar were well prepared and warm. The frites were soggy! (Incidentally, I think boar is totally overrated around here and often misused so badly you could not say what it is.)
Being fond of foie gras, I was pleased with preparation and presentation but I could lose the soapy brioche… not my thing, I used bread instead… there was something off-putting in the bread too but I can’t remember now – well, anyway it seemed to be from Pearl Bakery. Mussels were fresh and prepared to my partner’s liking, she’s a mussel fiend.
I just don’t dig the mini-dessert thing… it takes three to make a small individual portion, so to satisfy your sweet tooth you end up spending $10.50. Too much for what you get, both in choice and quality. Plus, I do not go for cute food: I like to eat it, not play. Cheese selection a la carte was a better option for me, nice though overpriced IMO.
Wine… hmmm… I know they are working on it, and hope they have. Selections were lacklustre, and markup seemed higher to me than what FD reported. I avoided the glass pours simply because they were seriously uninteresting and life is too short to sip boredom. We got a bottle thinking we could take it home if unfinished. Notable is, instead, the dessert wine offering – for a change!
But I could not stop thinking how much they seemingly have spent for the buildout (it doesn’t stop at the masonry… think Kitchen!) and what rent must be like in that location. But, then again Meriwether’s got the same kind of buzz – maybe it is fashionable or they seriously want to place themselves high, but their prices right now don’t match… a $24 ribeye of that quality is a very good deal. Prices can escalate later, I guess.
The other thought from an operator’s perspective was that they seemed way overstaffed on the slow nights we went, so- heck, with that number of managers and servers on the floor service had better be outstanding!
I noticed two problems with their identity that bother me.
First, what the heck is an Urban Brasserie, and why do they name it after the informal type of restaurant when it looks like a four-star hotel’s breakfast room.
Second, I don’t quite dig risotto and gnocchi in a self-appointed traditional French restaurant.
At a time in which Portland restaurants are suffering, reportedly some more than others, opening a restaurant that looks so expensive to run (believe me on this one) seems daring at best. My partner and I liked it a lot and truly hope they succeed.
I ate upstairs and my entrees were not cold. This was opening week too. That seems odd to me. I’ve only been twice and both times the service was great except the waters were empty for a long time. I did enjoy the food both times, and I will be back next month when I am back in town.
my wife and I checked out Fennouil this morning for Sunday brunch. A couple thoughts… the food was very good. I had scrambled eggs with truffles, sage and leek and my wife had an omelette with crab, creme fraiche and caviar. Both dishes arrived hot and were cooked perfectly. I hardly ever order scrambled eggs at a restaurant for many reasons, but mainly because they are often overcooked. These were molten, pillowy, and the scent of the truffles was intoxicating. This dish could be a perfect late night supper as well. Something so simple and luxurious is a treat anytime of the day. My wife’s omelette was also well balanced between the sweet crab meat, tangy creme fraiche and briny caviar sprinkled on top — this brunch was definately refined, net decadent and luxurious; a definite departure from brunch at the Hotcake House. While the food was very good, there are some things that will need to change for Fenouil to remain successful, in my opinion. First, the plates, silverware, glasses, seating, etc. is all top notch. But, they send it over-the-top by having Fenouil emblazoned on the bread plates. In addition, coffee service was way over the top. Each cup of coffee was served on a plate that’s an oval about 10″ long. On each plate there is an assortment of sugar cubes and sweetner. The problem is our coffee plates took up 1/2 of the 2-top table and when our food arrived we had to reorganize the entire table. Plus, whenever our server refilled the coffee he had reach across my wife and lift the entire plate, with the spoon, coffee cup and sugars rattling around uncomfortably. Why not just lift the cup? Also, after my first cup of coffee, the waiter could not refill my cup because they had run out and were brewing a fresh batch. My 2nd cup didn’t arrive until 20 minutes later. This just shows a lack of experience in the service to not have coffee ready, especially for such a large restauranct — and it was hardly full. One more note, if you plan on sitting next to the large park-facing windows wear shorts, a hat, and bring some sunblock. Even though it was a crystal clear 36 degree December morning, we were roasting like we were sitting on the sun itself. I hope that during the summer months they have some sort of sun shade on the windows or the restaurant may as well be the largest, most exspensive sauna in the world — with good eggs at least.
We went to Fenouil for the first time a few weeks ago. Drinks and appetizers in the bar. I found both the french onion soup and the escargo unexceptional. The soup tasted like it was rushed. There was no depth of flavor to the broth at all. Good quality cheese, but served “warm” rather than hot.
The escargot was fine, but not exceptional at all. My husband had the mussles, which I didn’t try. He was unimpressed with them, as well. I was disappointed witht their wine by the glass list. The wine I had was nice, but the majority of the glass wines were over $12/gl.
The service was slow. Friendly, but slow, especially given that we were one of only two couples seated in the bar area. It took way too long to get my glass of wine. I had planned on ordering a second one, but by the time the server came back we were done eating and ready to leave.
I will go back and give it another chance, but I don’t see it making my list of regular haunts. The place is lovely, and I expect in nice weather it will be fun with the park right outside. The happy hour bar menu is priced well.
Okay, so I’ve been here 4 times. I live in the building and REALLY want it to succeed. Each time, it’s been TERRIBLE! Did they do a staff search at the local Mickey D’s? Very unprofessional, slow, the food is ALWAYS cold and not terribly interesting. They haven’t changed the menu since it opened! I went last night with 3 other people to give it yet another try. 2 of us ordered the filet mignon medium well. It was cold and too rare AND still had the butchers string on it! I ordered a side of spinach and another diner got it on their plate! We were polite and didn’t say anything, as we all decided there is no need to return…ever. It’s a pity, but it is clear that the owners are not restuarantuers *the owner admitted this to me (he is a physician). Let the pro’s do what the pro’s do…
Food Dude says
Snackmaster – I’ll have an incredible story about Fenouil next week. Stay tuned.
My daughter once told me she did not complain about being brought the wrong sandwich because she didn’t want the owners to “get mad” at her; I told her, she made a bargain when she walked in: they’d give her the food she ordered, she’d pay the price on the menu. There’s no wiggling out of the price of the filet at Fenouil; why should you eat it cold after removing the butcher’s string? I think they need to know they’ve erred so they can perhaps do better next time.
Maybe the restaurant was offended that you ordered your steak burned… uh, I mean “medium well”…
I don’t think it’s for the diner to fall into lockstep with the opinions of the restaurant. I happen to like my steak bloody; my mom and daughter like theirs medium-well. I think they’re missing out, but I do not make them eat it the way I like it. If a restaurant will not make a medium-well steak because it offends their sense of taste, they should state as much on the menu so that the diner may chose something else.
Sabotaging the meal as comeuppance for the diner’s perceived lack of taste strikes me as fairly ungenerous, and the antithesis of what feeding people is supposed to be about.
Have you read Kitchen Confidential? I was disturbed by how he explained what goes on when well done is ordered. When I was 12 I used to order steak medium well or well too. I think it was when I was about 13 and at a business dinner with my dad in LA that one of his very long time customers was treating us to. It was at some steakhouse that was supposed to be something special. Well, I ordered mine well done, and the customer was so offended that I think he still brings it up to my father. After the verbal berating I recieved from this guy, I never ordered anything above medium rare again…
After reading the horror story of what happened in February, I was reluctant to go to Fenouil, but felt I should experience it for myself. I have been there on 3 occasions: once for happy hour in the bar in early March, then for dinner in late March and then dinner last Friday night.
Our experience with happy hour was not impressive. We really wanted to eat more than drink, and found the bar help was not really tuned in to how to provide any kind of service. The onion soup, although not exceptional, was a very good value at $4. The charcuterie plate was a joke with mostly 2 kinds of salami on it which we didn’t really want; a little prosciutto which was good, no serrano ham (listed on menu), some ordinary cornichons and some mustard. We had to ask and then wait quite a while to get bread with it. The waitress/bar maid was pleasant but clueless and didn’t really check to see if everything was okay. The soup filled us up so much that we took the Duck Confit “to go” and ate it the next day cold. It was very tasty even cold.
Next was dinner on a Thursday night, 3/23 and it was excellent. We sat upstairs and did not have the problem with cold plates or cold food that others had. We all had duck and it was delicious and fairly priced at $23. The flageolet beans that came with it were excellent. We were sorry that we didn’t get any vegetables. We did have the Cresson salad which was delicious, but slightly overpriced at $10. We ordered the chocolate platter for $17. A couple of items we liked, but overall it wasn’t great and I don’t recommend it.
Dinner #2 on Friday, 4/7 was very good. We sat downstairs and enjoyed the more lively atmosphere. This time the restaurant brought out an amuse bouche for us – a smoked salmon, creme fraiche concoction on a thin crostini, and it was very nice. We had the Cresson salad again even though it was expensive, but we liked it even more than the first time we had it. We had Filet Mignon and Duck. The Filet was properly cooked, but nothing special; the potato cake it came with was fine, but nothing special. Again, the duck and flageolets were exceptional. This time we ordered spinach with garlic to accompany the entrees, and it was very good.
We had excellent service during both dinners by Paul, who is from Burgundy and very helpful. By the way, I am a wine collector and brought my own wine both times, and Paul was courteous, pleasant about it and served it properly. The corkage is $20, which is higher than some places, but not surprising. One occasion was a birthday, and although they put a sparkler in the dessert, they did not comp us a dessert as I thought they might. Our favorite dessert (for chocoholics) is the Bonbon plate of three handmade chocolates – $5.
All in all, we had very good dining experiences – it’s a great place for a special occasion, but it is expensive. It’s pretty easy to spend $100 – $130 for dinner for 2 people. If we go back for happy hour we’ll avoid the charcuterie plate unless we confirm exactly what’s on the plate. We definitely plan to go back for dinner, and we will ask if we can have Paul as our waiter again.
Melanie De Silva says
I made the huge mistake of booking Mother’s Day brunch at Fenouil. I was told that theref would be specials for Mother’s Day in addition to the standard brunch menu. Unfortunately there wasn’t. We had to wait for our table although the restaurant was half empty. Service was very slow and our server did not return to check on how our food was. They had run out of salmon and bacon. My eggs benedict chosen from the now very limited menu, was stone cold. My aunt’s granola in her yogurt dish was stale. I was so disappointed that I made such a poor choice for my first Mother’s Day with my family!
Food Dude says
Melanie, thanks for your comment. I think you are the first one to talk about Fenouil’s brunch. Good information.
N Loehlein says
Just a quick comment on bartenders not transferring tabs to the tables. Restaurant workers make their earnings mainly from tips. If a bartender transfers a tab, chances are he/she won’t get a tip on the service they provide (it will get lumped in with the server’s tip). It may seem unprofessional to someone who hasn’t worked in a restaurant before, but it makes sure that service employees get paid for the service they provide. Besides, how hard is it to start another tab when you sit down for dinner? C’mon….
Food Dude says
N Loehlein: welcome to the site. I have to disagree here. While I can see your point, it is not the norm for most restaurants. In my experience at Fenouil, it was a royal pain. Picture this: It is a saturday night, you are at a booth in the bar, it is crowded with people, and the hostess comes and tells you the table is ready. You can even see the bartender through the crowd, and the server has vanished. So while the hostess waits.. and waits.. and waits.. you fight your way through the crowd and wait some more until you get the busy bartenders attention. A pain.
Next time, I just won’t order a drink at that restaurant, and no one will get a tip for it. It’s just not worth the hassle.
especially at higher end joints one of the goals should be to provide a seamless flow for the guest.the usual reason for a restaurant to require settling of a bar tab prior to being taken to your table is that they don’t have systems in place to track your order. (or to insure that a bartender gets the tip for the service that they provide) after a owner deals with a couple of ‘lost’ transfers on a busy night or the bar staff start complaining about losing out on tips the easy answer is to have people settle up before being moved. when I dine with others and settling the bar tab seems awkward I usually leave a tip at the bar/table and ask that the check be brought to the dining table. when I serve and I receive a table with drinks in hand I go to the bar staff and immediatly tip 15% on transfered drinks. everyone is happy and my drinks come out like lightning for the rest of the night.
My husband and I went to Fenouil for my birthday dinner back in January, and we’re reluctant to go back. I ordered the duck breast/confit combo, which has been praised by many here. Unfortunately, mine arrived overcooked. I showed it to the waiter (who, to his credit, was professional and apologetic) and politely asked that the kitchen redo the entree. It came back very soon–cooked to death. By the time they finally got it right on the third try, my husband had finished his dinner. The duck dish was decent, but not fabulous as one would expect at these prices. The waiter and manager knew it was my birthday, and I was very nice throughout, since I was determined not to let this ruin my night. And after the duck fiasco, all we got was free tiny desserts. They should have comped my meal, IMHO. I’ve been considering giving Fenouil another try, but after reading the variety of inconsistent experiences other diners have had there, I’m still reluctant. A place this expensive should be able to deliver consistent service and food. We’ve had far better meals at hole-in-the-wall joints in Paris with tiny staffs.
I don’t think the restaurant should have comped your meal. What it should have done was get the dish right the first time, or the second. That it failed to do so might be an indication that it doesn’t do this dish very well, or at least not consistently. I believe if you choose to spend your time (and its dime) to order it thrice, you must pay for it once.
Also, the desserts are always tiny at Fenouil.
Kim Nyland says
Completely disagree there….She should not have been charged for the duck….if you can’t eat it you shouldn’t pay for it……3 tries is a bit of a joke. If they can’t do the dish right, or consistently, then take it off the menu, unless you put on your menu that you like to over cook that particular dish….if that is the case, then the patrons have been warned.
kim @ apizza
Well, I guess it would be reasonable that they comp her duck. However, she did not state she wanted the duck comped, but that they “should” have comped her meal. I think the doling of complimentary/compensatory meals/desserts/whatnot falls to the establishment, not the diner.
I had a similar experience at Fenouil, with the wild boar, which first arrived cold, and then, badly overcooked. I didn’t ask for them to do it again; I did not care to wait another 10 or 20 minutes on the chance they might get it right; I moved on. The diner chose to order it a third time, and it arrived to her liking (if not as fabulous as she’d have liked). What if she ordered it a fourth and fifth time?
Pork Cop says
I would have comped it and bought her dessert.I like people to return.
Anybody have some info about the cafe going in across from the Brasserie?!?
syrah girl says
We had a very nice lunch at Fenouil this past June. It was our first visit to this restaurant. We found the ambiance very elegant and possibly one of Portland’s prettiest restaurant. We have dined at Paley’s, Wildwood, Park Kitchen, Higgins, clarklewis, Heathman, Hurley’s and Gotham when it was still around.
Our lunch was excellent, I had a butter lettuces salad and a salmon entree, desserts were the profiteroles and the creme brulle which compared with places we’ve been to in the Sonoma/Napa region. We had no complaints at all, and our service was impeccable.
food rebel says
I was invited recently at Fenouil for late night “snacks” with a visitor from out of the country…I ordered the steak tartare and when the dish arrived, the meat was all black and oxidized. It looked like it was ground and seasoned at the beginning of service!I didn’t touch it as I didn’t want to get sick. Even though the waiter was very good, he didn’t ask if something was wrong…
And as we were trying to get the out of town guest to try Oregon wines, we were desapointed to see that they have only 2 Oregon offerings, and not the best that is…
Not a good experience.
Fenouil is a total joke. My wife and I tried to have dinner in the bar tonight and the service was the nastiest we have ever had in Portland in over 30 years.
On top of that when we tried to talk to management, we had to go through 2 managers and finally the guy that said he was the ‘general manager’ said that if we were unhappy with the restaurant he would advise us not to come back.
WOW! I guess they don’t need the business. We did march right oner to Hiro’s and we were treated very pleasantly and had a terrific meal with outstanding service. I guess that tells you who is King in the Pearl and it sure is not Fenouil.
They are a 3-ring Cirque de Soleil with NO CLASS and a HUGE chip on their shoulder.
My sources tell me that Fenouil is no longer a “mom & pop ” owned restaurant. Pascal is still the “executive Chef” but the place is now owned by the company/family that owns the Spaghetti Factory.
This makes sense. Pascal is on the record as being the new Chef at Lucere ( Big time build out near the Strand ) owned by the Spaghetti factory. Pascal and his original partner ( local Portland oncologist, got paid a good dollar for Fenouil & Spaghetti factory ate up the huge debt. .
Fenouil is being run by a working Chef de Cuisine, and will probably become more corporate by the minute….Too bad…..
Food Dude says
Interesting Amoureuse. Thanks for the update!
Since day 1, Jeremy has ALWAYS been Chef de Cuisine at Fennel according to my industry sources.
Sunday Oregonian listed working chef de cuisine for fenouil
Good Food For Me says
This is the seventh or eighth time we’ve eaten at Fenouil. Most recently we ate there with 20 others for a wine maker dinner with Goose Ridge Estate Winery being featured. To say the least it was over the top delicious. The pairings were perfection from the tiny ahi tuna served with a wonderful white to the chocolate creme brulee and every plate was mouth wateringly exceptional. Big tender seared sea scallops atop perfectly done truffled cremed yukons and leeks, giant filets all medium rare on baked slivers of potatoes in cremey yummy sauce- all done to perfection. I was a little apprehensive that everything would not be the same with that many people all being served at once but it was done to a T. Jeremy did a fantastic job. We did a after review and everyone agreed it was the best food at a wine maker dinner that they had ever had. They didn’t skimp on the wine and everyone was impressed with the choice of the winery as well. That is saying something in this group. Kudos to Fenouil. We’re going to try their regional dinners now. And the service we timed it – every request was responed to within 60 seconds or less. I hope everyone has an opportunity to dine there and have the experience we did. Really it was fabulous.
Imagine making a reservation for 3 to celebrate Christmas only to be turned away after waiting an hour and a half for a table. Yep, that’s what happened to me. Didn’t even get a chance to taste the lousy food. Apparently it was a private party in which the manager was a part of. He flat out refused to talk to me in person and explain. Hey dude remember me? I will never step foot in that place again! Oh, I ended up at Fratelli and had an excellent meal and dining experience. Should have went there first.
Gotta be a 2d side to this story. Good or bad, always is.
Had dinner at Fenouil last weekend — this was about the 6th or 7th time in a 2-year period and we were very disappointed this time. Our server was very nice, but very inexperienced and the only part of the meal that we enjoyed was the onion soup. Paying $28 for two very fatty, small beef ribs, we felt ripped-off. The mushroom risotto was under-seasoned and not even the smattering of sliced truffles could make it interesting. This place has definitely gone downhill – such a shame as it’s a really beautiful and romantic restaurant.
Awful, awful service! Awful! Wait forever for service, wait forever for your food. Ordered a Mint julep and got a Mojito twice in a row! Got the wrong food, people in our party got served about 20 minutes apart…Don’t even remember the food. This was our second and last time here. Did I mention that the service and the waitress sucked and it was really frikken expensive. Too many other places in Portland with good food and service…don’t waste your time or money on Fenouil!
“Even the simple sticks of carrots were perfectly crisp-tender and topped with a froth of licorice foam.” as quoted by audrey vanbuskirk at the portland tribune
Carrot sticks with licorice foam
Money can build you the most expensinve restaurant.
Money can’t make the food taste good.
The food at fenouil never tasted good.
and Luciere won’t last either.
But face it,
The Old Spagh Factory, aka Dussin group…
I’m sure would love the tax write off…once it tanks too!
Anyone remember Cody’s cafe?
We aren’t in kansas anymore.
Laurel Barton says
Had a fabulous meal at Fenouil last night! Warm late-summer evening on the patio; the moon was full and the food was perfectly prepared. Salade con Tomate with thinly sliced fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes lightly dressed to release their natural goodness — yum! Spinach sauteed just so to complement steak frites. My husband enjoyed paella and my frined devoured her duck, which was done to a turn, neither so rare as to be chewy nor so over-cooekd as to be tough. Wait staff attentive but not over-bearing. Everything was presented beautifully, too. I will be back!
I went to Fenouil last week as part of an 8 top holiday dinner. Food was good, nothing out of this world. But I need to write about the service. The place was rather empty and there seemed to be plenty of staff on hand. The wait staff seemed to carry quite a bit of attitude with us, it was very surprising. We bought lots of wine and appetizers, but yikes, they need to get a bit more genuinely friendly and not so pretentious. I won’t go back any time soon because of that.
I think the secret to Fenouil is to go on a sunny day and sit outside or go in the evening and have a light meal and cocktails in the bar area, especially when they have music on Friday nights. I have honestly never considered going there for dinner.
Bastille Day Treats!
So, it had been awhile since I last visited Fenouil. I decided to avoid the crowds and actually go on July 14th to celebrate Bastille Day. This year they held the festivities the prior weekend.
Like a previous post, I don’t think I would return to Fenouil for dinner. It seems perfect for Happy Hour. Like many other places around town they are offering mini versions of their main menu at Happy Hour (4p to 6:30p)Yes, the Happy Hour seems to run to 6:30 pm,currently.
I got the House White (2x), Salade au Roquefort, Saumon Au Tartine and overdid myself and got 2 oysters. Fantastic! These were all Happy Hour portions and felt satisfied.
The bartender was knowledgeable and provided excellent service.
Definitely try Fenouil for Happy Hour. I’m going to try their Brunch next.
Oh…before I go. I can’t stand not pronouncing foreign words properly and Fenouil isn’t easy for us Anglophiles. Want to impress folks on how to really pronounce it?
Go here… http://forvo.com/word/fenouil/