Review: Paley’s PlaceBy PDX Food Dude Last Update November 13, 2020 57 CommentsNote: This review is out of date, and has been replaced with a completely new one here. The older comments below have been left for reference, and are entertaining reading.Related
Marshall Manning says
Our last meal at Paley’s a few weeks ago was fantastic, too, and was a perfect birthday dinner for my wife. It had been a while since we’d been there (our last time was with a group about 2 years ago and most dishes were mediocre to poor…must have been a bad night), and we’ll be back more often now.
Funny, I’ve had a few sub-par meals there myself, but not for a few years. I wish I had time to go there more often.
Thanks Marshall. I always enjoy your knowledgeable posts on other sites.
Tim Lehman says
We are unable to dine at Paley’s very often but, on every occasion, we’ve had a stellar meal. I truly believe that Kimberly comes as close to perfect as one can get in running the “front of the house”. She greets everyone equally with genuine warmth and affection. Likewise for Vitaly when he is able to break free from the kitchen.
Arthur Delaney says
I went there last year with a friend, only time I’ve been but every time I drive by I wonder when I’ll get to go next. What I remember most about the meal was the escargot and the garlic mashed potatoes. Both amazing. Also I remember the server complimenting me on one of the bottles I’d brought for him to open. Made me feel great, particularly since it was obvious we only had the wherewithal to eat this way once in a great while. Very generous. We didn’t get met at the door by Kimberly for some reason, I forget what, but I do remember that as we left she was very busy dealing with a phone call and a large party that had just arrived that was milling around at the front door. We’d noticed that she’d said goodbye to other people, very nicely, but she was busy and we snuck out the door quietly. We were standing on the sidewalk lighting up some cigars we’d bought for the occasion and she came running out apologizing that she hadn’t been able to say goodbye. She was incredibly gracious and just seemed to be a delight of a human being. This is a classy place…good, generous, unstuffy hospitable but unapologetically decadent classy place. While I haven’t spent much time in the upscale restaurants of Portland I can easily believe that when you want to drop the bucks on a great meal, and you can’t do it very often, there’s no reason to experiment. Stick with Paley’s Place.
Thanks for the excellent review. We experienced Paley’s Place for the first time on Valentines. Though due to the day we were a bit rushed through our courses, it truly was a four star experience. The food was amazing. Cef Vitaly knows how to cook and his wife knows how to make you feel welcomed. Together they make for a memorable dining experience. (Fois gras, blood orages, beets, sweetbreads, shrimp, scallops, mussels, pasta, truffles, fries, cheese, honey, chocolate, coconut, oh my.) AMAZING.
Ate at Paley’s on a Friday night in February. Kimberley was working the front and couldn’t have been more gracious and soothing. Unfortunately, on this night, her staff failed to work up to her level of excellence.
Lots of awkward waiting for something to happen… a polite way of saying it took them 20 minutes to get us a cocktail (after a 20 minute wait, on a reservation). Said cocktails had flat tonic water and took another 5-10 minutes to replace. Then they took our order. :-( Hey, shit happens. I just didn’t expect it would happen at Paley’s.
There were further gaffes along the way — none horrible by itself, but it got a little comical. Worse yet, our harried server had no clue about how to apologize or otherwise acknowledge the fact that she was essentially doing a crappy job. Her stoicism made a bad situation even more uncomfortable. Every once in a while she’d get a bail-out from a fellow staffer, but it still took us 3 hours to get in and out of there. Some nights that’s fine…but we were with a family member who’s not big on the small talk, so it seemed like a frickin’ eternity.
Of course the food, once it showed, was mostly stellar. Mussels, chickpea fritters, beet salad, lamb shoulder were all very good. But we still won’t be heading back anytime soon, I’m afraid.
I know this was probably a rare occurence, but these blogs can be so gushy about the good places that I thought I should mention my caveat. Thanks for the bandwidth.
Food Dude says
Charlie – welcome to the site. I’m surprised to hear this, but have had variable experiences at Paley’s myself over the years, though never with the service. Getting to the status of a ‘regular’ server is difficult, you have to really know your stuff. I’m wondering if this was someone in training. Kimberly is quite the taskmaster.
Tim L says
http://www.paleysplace.net. I called the restaurant this a.m. about Wed. wine tastings and learned about the new address.
Thanks Tim. I am actually feeling bad about my rant and would only call to aplologize at this point. I dont want to give a great restaurant any undeserved bad press. That is why I was hoping Food Dude would remove this. That submit button is too easy to hit!
Food Dude says
Thanks Tim. I’ve updated the links. The new website is pretty entertaining ;)
Bill, I”ll delete the comments since you really seem to have changed your mind. I just didn’t want you to sucumb to peer pressure. Everyone is intitled to their opinions.
Paley’s Place has been closed since the beginning of the year for remodeling. They reopen tonight to showcase their new look. Can’t wait to see it…
I commend Paleys for closing and changing their “look”. It has been over 12 years since they opened, and its about time. This will be their second face lift from the original Paleys. Higgins, Wildwood, and the Heathmen should note this ( a good spring cleaning is a good thing ) .
For Portland Paleys does a good job. The menu seems stale ( how much black cod should a person have to endure? ) But the service is always good and that bartender Suzanne is awesome. I do wish they would change the menu more. Fridays and Saturdays seem busy at the small bar with people from Gresham trying the “Paley burger” and “fries and mussels, what a weird combination? ” Also the bar area is small. I always seem to run into a big Italian guy ( imagine a combination of Pussy Bompansario and Vito Spatafore with out the bling, sweatsuit, and cologne ) REAL LOUD GUY! Seems to know the staff, especially “Suzy”. Him you could do without. ( Although last time his wife was beating him up-BUT GOOD ) made for a tough dinner.
But Paleys tries, and the Paley bar is pretty good with the cheese plate – REALLY! Small wine list though.
Not as bad as some think, better than most in Portland though. Hey they have been around since 1994…
syrah girl says
How interesting, we loved it the way it was! Our 2 meals there have been out on the front porch area, I’m sure the re-model will be very nice. Looking forward to your thoughts! :)
I really like the wine list at Paley’s; it reflects their interests and their ‘mission’; markups are pretty reasonable for the most part. And yes, the bar is small, but it is hard to convert a house into a restaurant. And could we leave Gresham alone for, say, 2007? Just a thought.
syrah girl says
There is a really great 6 page article in the Feb. issue of Sunset magazine called “Portland cooks” featuring clarklewis and Paley’s Place. There is a very nice photgraph on p. 78 of Kimberly & Vitaly. Several Portland restaurants are mentioned and there are recipes from the restaurants, too! :)
I’ve dined at Paley’s many, many times over the years and have come to the conclusion that it’s just overrated. The food isn’t bad, it’s just, well, fine. Sure, Vitaly uses good ingredients, and the execution is fine. But it’s nothing interesting or extraordinary.
The inspiration is just missing, particularly when compared to Castagna, for example, where Kevin takes wonderful ingredients and creates truly sublime dishes that perfectly highlight the taste of the ingredient itself inthoughtful combinations that make it more than it could be on its own (I wonder, btw, why no review of Castagna itself – just the cafe).
clarklewis, in its heyday, offered similar food. Dishes that reached beyond the ordinary. Paley’s, to me, is just ordinary. The fake French prints and blah decor (yes, even the renovation isn’t interesting). If this restaurant weren’t located just below the west hills, I doubt very much it would still be here. Just because it’s supposed to be extraordinary doesn’t mean it is.
Raul Garcia says
Am I the only person who thinks this is the most overrated place in town? I’ve given it five tries and it never fails to disappoint in food or service. I agree with the last reviewer entirely. The service tends to be snooty. The food is ordinary but costs quite a bit. It is like the Emperor’s New Clothes of Restaurants. Hint: If you drink a lot before the meal, it
may seem terrific.
Nope Raul, you are not the only one. There are many of us out here who agree with you.
Paley’s is the most overrated restaurant I have ever seen. When I moved here from Atlanta, everyone told me that I have to try Paley’s. Paley’s, Paley’s, Paley’s. That is all I heard. Well, I tried it, and it was completely un-impressive. I agree with LovetoEat. The presentation, the ingredients, everything was blah. The Decor, blah. You would think that since they have this beautiful victorian home, that the restaurant would be georgous. It’s not. I have heard from people that Vitaly is not even in the kitchen that much anymore do to the fact that his attention is directed towards the Paley Bar and a book that he is writing. It shows.
This restaurant is overrated and I don’t understand it, I even tried the dishes that were most highly recommended. It isn’t bad, it’s just not good and also is very dull. There are plenty of better establishments in the city, including the often overlooked but excellent Genoa which recently had an interesting chef change, worth checking out.
Has anyone been here since the last post (6/29) that has had a positive experience? I was contemplating going this evening…
fyi to the administrator…I am THRILLED at the possibility of being a rabble rouser…keep me posted!
I hear the food is about the same as always, maybe a little predictable, and not as creative or contemporary as some of the newer places that have opened the past year or two………..Does anyone have an opinion about dining in a house/restaurant?
That topic was raised at dinner last night, (which ended up being at 23Hoyt) The feeling of dining in a house/home/restaurant, has the potential to turn some people off. I don’t necessarily feel that way but somehow the dining area to the left at Paley’s has always felt a little too… bedroom like for my taste, although I believe orginally it may have been the living room. (BTY I have not been there since the remodel and that may have all changed)
When Philippe/Heathman won Best Chef/James Beard the quality of his food remained very good, consistent and Philippe was in the kitchen almost every day.
Paley’s is overpriced and overrated. I used to call it one of the best in Portland. Castagna is far supeior in all ways (imo).
salty ham says
When you get a beard award you are a puppet to the society.
If you actually pay your cooks more than ten dollars per hour they might stick around.
I’ve never been impressed with this place.
Sad to read all the negative comments. We recently had an EXCELLENT meal there. Service was spot on, drinks well made, and I’ve never craved a soft egg in my ravioli so badly in my life.
Dan De Lion says
I am glad you thought so highly of your meal there littleredbikecafe. I have had several very inspired meals there myself recently. There must be many other happy folks like us out there.
I really don’t understand the bitchfest up above. Everyone is a critic though. It’s a free country, right?
Dave J. says
The sudden and vitriolic anti-Paley stuff feels like sockpuppetry to me, quite honestly. You spend enough time on the internet, and you get a feel for it, IMO.
salty ham says
“You spend enough time on the internet, and you get a feel for it, IMO.”
“However, there are cases where using Internet slang is considered ridiculous, due to association with the stereotype of the internet.”
Dan De Lion says
I forgot to mention, during my last visit we sat next to a French winemaker couple. We overheard them saying to the waiter that this was their second visit in two days to Paley’s. They loved this tuna dish so much they had to have it again.
I must try it next time I am there.
Chef Assassin says
I am biased due to the fact i work at the resturant, but i think Paley’s is great place. I have been around and like to eat out alot, and honsetly I have had few meal’s in town that were better than the food I have eaten at Paley’s as a customer . As for paying the cooks more we dont do it for the money, and I dont belive that other places in town of similar caliber pay much more. In my opion there is no other place in town were I would rather work. As for the naysayers well all I can say is that we are really busy everynigth and if you really dont like it you have other options.
Pork Cop says
taste is taste and everybody is different. if you don’t like Paley’s that’s your opinion, there’s no need to bash others.
we love paley’s and have had wonderful food and service both times we’ve been.
To paraphrase William Burroughs; Beware of chefs that say they don’t want money, the hell they don’t, what they mean is they want more money, much more…
Wow, fascinating stuff. So much opinion (it’s spelled like that, by the way) and so few answers.
Mine: Vitaly is a figurehead; and I mean that in the best sense of the word. He is downright f*ing cool. He makes working there worth it; otherwise it is an extremely difficult place to work in – logistically (the house thing) and psychologically (no need to go there).
Re: Phillipe/Beard. Any single one of you out there – do this: execute 21 meals a week. Spot on. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Repeat. Be creative and make no mistakes. Anyone? Anyone?
And Derek? This site has a spell checker on it. When you are typing something wrong it lets you know. Heed its warnings.
wow! i’m sure that for every negative comment on this website there are ten others that have had amazing food and service at Paley’s. people are so quick to post negative reviews on a website where they can hide their face and not have to own up to their feelings. did any of you who had these aweful experiences talk to Kimberly while you were there and let her know just how bad your experience was? or did you just run home and turn on the computer to post a cowardly & anonymous negative review. i agree with CHAMBOLLE when he says you try it. restaurant work looks easy, but you try to cook amazing meals and/or serve people who have the most ridiculous requests and see how many raving reviews you get from idiot bloggers.
i have had great meals at Paley’s and will continue to dine there regardless of what self proclaimed “foodies” write on this website.
good job to all those who make it through every night working in a restaurant. also i’m happy to hear that “Food Dude” is going to be doing another review of the restaurant.
salty ham says
I didn’t realize kimberley was the chef at paley’s,
oh that explains it.
that’s what FOH managers are for. i dare you to go into the kitchen and tell Vitaly or Ben that their food “sucks” and see if you come out walking. oh but wait, you wouldn’t – you’ll just come home and post something on here.
I’ve eaten there many times over the years, most recently three months ago, & have always had a stellar experience with both food & service. This is my personal experience, not worthless hearsay by “bird”. I’m not personally acquainted with anyone who works there.
I went to Paley’s last Wednesday on a whim – I wanted to check out the wine flight. The service was great, they put me at the bar (I was by myself) with no wait at all. I ordered the pinot wine flight and the cheese plate as I didn’t intend to have dinner. However, the oxtail that I kept seeing go by, changed my mind and I just had to get it! It was delicious, cooked perfect, excellent sauce.
As for the wine – I thought the selection was too weighted towards California; 1 Burgundy, 1 Oregon, and 3 California selections.
T Lehman says
On the many occasions that we have dined at Paley’s the food has been delicious and artistically presented. BUT… my overwhelming memory of every visit to Paley’s has been the incredibly professional, timely, and personal service received there. Of course,Kimberly is not the chef but is instead the key to keeping a pulse on the operation of the dining room. I feel her awareness is top notch and, IMO, the fact that the dining experience never slips when Vitaly & Kimberly are not present, is a complement to both Kimberly and her staff. Yes, we have been there enough to be greeted by name but we notice the same welcoming and professional response to first time diners there as well.
a reply to billz,
just for the record, the wine flights last night were all burgundies. no california wines and the only oregon pinot was the mystery wine. otherwise, as i said, all from burgundy
Foieman, Perhaps Paley’s is not the place for you. Perhaps you have expectations that it cannot live up to nor should it have to. As you say, there are lots of other great places to eat in Portland so why should you force Paley’s to succomb to what you want it to be? I say, go out and enjoy yourself in other restaurants. Not every restaurant can please everybody. If that were the case, there would only need to be one perfect and ideal restaurant for every town. How boring would that be?
I realize this is a food blog and all, but i’m kinda tired of the whole whoa is me, being a chef is so hard, “try this: execute 21 meals a week. Spot on. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Repeat. Be creative and make no mistakes. Anyone? Anyone?”
Yes chef’s are the most creative people in the world, lives hang in the balance…
you are creating food, that someone is paying what $20 a plate for. life is so tough. get over it.
There are other creatives in this world besides yourselves, with stresses and deadlines and expectations too.
What’s that old saying, If you can’t handle the heat…
And what makes a glowing opinion any better than a negative opinion. Opinions are like assholes, we all got ’em.
If you’ve been a half a dozen times and you don’t care for it, give it up.
It’s not a matter of right or wrong, it’s about your taste and preferences.
How many bottles of wine would you buy if you didn’t like it but everyone else raved?
(‘still tastes like gasoline to me, but it gets great reviews… hmmm.
maybe one more bottle.’)
By the same token, if you love a place, and no-one else does, who cares?
You dine for your pleasure, not for the approval of others.
Paley’s ain’t cheap. Time to go out for a nice meal can be hard to come by.
Go somewhere that you enjoy, and have a good time.
Don’t beat yourself up for ‘not getting’ a certain place.
Mostly Running. says
Your response is perfect. No restaurant makes everyone happy. Boards like this let people harp on their bad experiences at a place that will never be able to please them. I’ve had amazing food and service at Paley’s, but it was years ago. I’m not going to rehash them here because things might be different now.
Probably not. If you didn’t enjoy it, don’t go back.
Raw Food says
The beef tartare alone is reason enough for me to be a repeat customer.
salty ham says
“tell Vitaly or Ben that their food “sucks” and see if you come out walking”
Sounds like you need to be put in some anger management classes.
If you can’t take peoples comments then don’t read what their opinion is.
Doesn’t sound like you represent paley’s as they would like you to.
I thought the customer service had little to be desired. The waitress was very rude and was very unwilling to explain the menu to me. I specifically told her that I wanted to possibly share a meal because I didn’t know if I could eat an entire meal by myself and I wanted to know the size of the portions. She never even mentioned that they have half and full portions. She was very curt. The menu just shows 16/32 who in the world is supposed to figure that one is for half portion and the other is full portion and the full portion is so small it looked like a half portion. It tasted good but barely filled you up. When I got the bill 100 dollars for 2. I was shocked because I felt the fish plate I ordered was a half portion and was only 16. I asked for an explanation and the manager’s best waitress said that she did not do wrong in not telling me about the half portions because it is clearly evident on the menu. She said it with such attitude. The manager backed up her rude employee and even stated she was one of the best waitresses and that they are not supposed to explain to customers whats on the menu because that could offend customers. They don’t even know the first thing about customer service which is the customer is always right and you don’t justify errors made by your staff. I had the worst experience there. They belittled me for not reading the menu correctly. It was very very poor customer service and due to this I would never return.
I am a big fan of Vitaly & Kimberly Paley and their restaurant. I have been there countless times and NEVER had anything but a great experience. That said, I just want to know what you thought that 16/32 number was? The date it was created? The age of folks who prepare it in the kitchen? Or maybe the temperatures the recipe is cooked at?
Usually, when I see a number next to a dish on a menu, I assume it’s….the price! How hard is that? Was this your first time out in a restaurant? No wonder the waitress was rude! I would have been too! In the industry, we call people like you “amateurs”. Maybe I should draw you a picture to explain?
My advice to you: stick with chain restaurants, you’ll be in your comfort zone.
Paley’s Place is, by far, my favorite Portland restaurant. The food is always wonderful and perfectly portioned, the service is knowledgeable and gracious. The reception warm, gracious and accommodating.
In general, and I don’t think I’m wrong here, the attitude of the customer dictates the one of the waitstaff. Think about it…
I’d heard a lot about Paley’s place and after reading some reviews on other sites, decided to make it the pinnacle of a family member’s visit to Portland a month ago.
Knowing that it gets crowded on weekends, I made sure to make a reservation.
I made the mistake of mis-remembering my reservation and showed up ~20 minutes late. Yes, that was completely my fault. Completely and utterly. Did they have every right to not seat us? Yes. In fact maybe I’d have preferred that.
But did I need to be verbally accosted and made to feel like a criminal about it when we showed up? No. Did I demand to be accommodated? Not at all. In fact, I’d rather they’d have kicked us out after that, since I’d lost much of my appetite after our reception. Since when does actively making your customer feel guilty pass for service?
They were ‘kind’ and did seat us, after making sure to tell us we wouldn’t have the full time normally allotted. Perhaps the food would make up for that rude introduction? Not a chance. Way overpriced and completely average in every way.
Fantastic! I ate there last year, so I can’t remember exactly what we had, but I had some sort of steak entree. I remember dessert was fantastic as well.
The best thing was that when we asked them to slow down the pace of the meal they did so, and we were really able to savor each dish in our own time.
I agree with (most) everyone about the service–they’re very kind and happy to have you visit.
And I am happy to visit again.
I went to Paley’s last night for the first time in quite a while. Excellent food, nothing was out of place. The rabbit ravioli with wild mushrooms was amazing. The service on the other hand was “interesting”.
Helpful with information almost to the point of being annoying. I got the feeling that they assume you are dining with them just once and that you know very little about the food so they will explain, in a very nice (nearly condescending) way, everything. If they could just hold back the information and provide it if needed/asked. Very strange, never experienced that ever in my 27 years of restaurant visits.
Also, they definintely started out with a quick pace. We wanted to read the menu since there is so much to try, but the server gave us very little time before coming by and asking if we wanted a drink or cocktail. Or if we were ready to order. Did they want to turn the table or something? We were dressed nicely, didn’t look out of place, had made and kept the reservation time. Hmmm.
I plan to go back and eat in the bar so I can see if they do this type of hyper-service every night. Oh yeah, and to have more of that rabbit ravioli. :-)
one swell foop says
When I go out to dinner, I like to order a drink to settle in with as I browse the menu. As a server, I find that most of my clientèle prefers the same, at least the ones that are less stuffy and like to have a little fun…
If I have to wait 5+ minutes before a visit by the server to find out if I’d like a drink, I begin to wonder what’s going on. In any case, it is better to have the server there in case you’d like something than absent.
John Barrows says
After years of my feeling that Paley’s is the best restaurant in Portland, I have now demoted them to my “probably not again” list. Frankly, over the past year I’ve begun to feel that way, especially with the decline in the consistency of the food – over-cooked meat, limp and over-dressed salads, etc. (compared to what I’ve been used to there). Just this past weekend I took dear friends from the Bay area there. It was an early res. (6:30) and not especially busy at that point, and the person on the phone had warned me that they had to turn the table by 8:30 (what?!) when I made the res.. Upon being seated and handed menus the waitress soon descended for our drink order and “suggested” we order our meal at that point. We declined. Upon receiving our drinks, we ordered some appetizers, and she again “suggested” that we order entrees at that point – “since it may mean a gap in our service”. We declined. When we were ready, we ordered our main courses. Of course they arrived over 45 minutes later – actually 3 of the 4 arrived. The fourth (my wife’s) arrived 15 minutes later than the first 3. During that time, the waitress rudely suggested that the three of begin eating – not waiting for my wife’s to arrive. There were no apologies, until later when one of us complained mildly. Then we were treated to an after dinner drink so that “we did not leave Paley’s unhappy”. BTW, my pork was over-cooked, and my guest’s salmon was almost raw though she ordered “medium”. The razor clam of my other guest was dry. My wife’s late arriving steak was the only dish cooked appropriately. Yikes! I’ll never recommend this place again – after so many years of satisfied experiences, they have fallen off the deep end – which of course happens to all good restaurants eventually. (this is the first bad review I’ve ever written for any restaurant).