Heading to Portland for the Wine Tourism Conference, we reached out to the Portland restaurant community and were excited to get an invitation to dine at Genoa Restaurant, open since 1971 and part of Portland's restaurant history. Chef Jake Martin’s five-course tasting menu changes monthly and is expertly paired by Sommelier Michael Garofola. While the wine list is deep and broad, we'd suggest putting yourself in his hands by opting for the food and wine pairing menu available.
We walked to the restaurant (in the dark), partly to prepare for all the food we were about to enjoy, but also to get a feel for the neighborhood. The area has a funky feel to it; we especially loved the fact that restaurants and other establishments sat side by side with homes and other uses, nothing quite like a mixed-use neighborhood. Approaching Genoa in the dark also gave us an unexpected benefit: seeing it lit up like a jewel box, revealing the beautiful design within. Almost sheer curtains shield most of the dining room from passersby, giving just a tease of what's inside. The exterior is also quite striking, blending the tradition of the old brick building with a more contemporary entry. Nicely done.
The interior is definitely on the formal side, though it is not stiff or uncomfortable. Plenty of dark wood, glass and mirrors, as well as textiles, were lit beautifully and made for a harmonious whole. Sitting by the fireplace was very pleasant on a cool evening. The tables are spaced far apart enough to provide privacy, but not so far that you can't spy on your neighbors to see what they ordered. Conversation from other tables was audible, but not intrusive; the sound in the space remained at a pleasant level throughout our meal.
As we scanned the menu options, we sipped glasses of François Pinon,Touraine Petillant Rosé, Loire Valley, France NV, and you should too. I have yet to find a fine dining meal that has not started out auspiciously when sparkling Rosé is in one's glass. I have found that they are almost universally romantic and tasty wines and perfect aperitifs for the tastes yet to come.
After a tuna Amuse Bouche, here's what we had for dinner, along with the wines that were paired for each dish:
- Hamachi - green apple, cucumber, suèdoise with Ermes Pavese, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle, Vallée d'Aosta, Italy 2011
- Carote - smoked carrot tartare, hay, yogurt, vadouvan with Agniolino Maule, "I Masieri", Veneto Bianco, Italy 2012
- Capellini- brioche, whipped lardo, soft boiled egg, parsley with Ar. Pe. Pe., Rosso di Valtellina, Lombardia, Italy 2009
- Tagliarini- vodka, sepia, roe, lemon with Taschlerhof, Kerner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige, Italy 2012
- Coda di bue - oxtail terrine, brioche crust, baby mustard greens, raspberry gastrique with Domaie de Vaccelli, "Granit", Ajaccio Rosé, Corsica, France 2012
- Zucca - squash variations, pecan, maple with Edi Keber, Collio Bianco, Friuli-Venezia Guilia, Italy 2012
- Fagiano - pheasant, smoked apple, celery root, kohlrabi with Montesecondo, "Tin", Tuscany, Italy 2011
- Funghi - roasted porcini mushroom, carrot, fregola sarda, spruce with Franz Haas, "Manna", Vignetti delle Dolomiti, Italy 2010
- For the life of us, we cannot remember what we had for dessert and it isn't on the menu, but we do remember it being very tasty. They accidentally brought us a dessert we had not ordered, so we ended up trying all three. One was named Financier, but beyond that...
If that list doesn't make you hungry, I'm not sure what would. While the descriptions are on the understated side, the food certainly is not. And nothing is as it seems -- every dish held a surprise or a taste that went well beyond expectations. While we had hoped to have Oregon wines with our dinners, the mostly Italian options proved more than adequate. Presentation and information were top-notch, with everyone from the wait staff to the bus boy to the Sommelier helpful and knowledgeable; clearly, training is an integral part of the Genoa business plan.
Cerebral food with equally thoughtful wine pairing make this a great destination to be treated royally. Food presented very simply but nothing simple about it.
More information can be found on the Genoa website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Disclaimer: This meal was provided for review purposes.
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