Checking Out Roost

There is a restaurant at the corner of SE 14th and Belmont called Roost. It's not a big place, perhaps seating 40 or so, and the decor is sparse. Not sparse in the sense of poor or underfunded, but sparse in a minimalist sense, all black, white, pine, and stainless steel.

Roost has been on the periphery for us for a couple months now, having read multiple places online about people unsure about visiting because it had generated no buzz. How good could it be, then, right? In a city like Portland where new restaurants, ones who adhere to high quality standards, generate buzz weeks and months before opening, Roost had none of that.

Still, people said the food was fantastic, and then they openly wondered how long it could survive without the buzz and crush of visitors enjoyed by places like Tasty N Sons and Irving Street Kitchen. Visit while you can, people write, because it may not last forever. On one hand that's a sad thing, that a restaurant supposedly this good doesn't seem to be getting the equal treatment, but then again if crowds aren't your thing and Roost is making ends meet it could be the proverbial diamond in the rough.

In Portland, that just means an undiscovered diamond in a city of diamonds.

Roost serves dinner Tuesday through Sunday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, so after another review in the same vein read the other day - very good food, wondering about business - Wifey and I decided to check it out.

If you click on the link above you see a picture of Roost from outside at night. During the day the restaurant's name is barely noticeable and the lighting inside so well directed it's not even obvious whether or not it's open. We arrived at just after 10am thinking there might be a bit of a Saturday brunch rush, but were only the second customers. The staff is polite and let us choose our seats, so we took a two-seat table in one corner.

The walls are white and the ceiling high. The lights that hang are also white, as are many of the chairs (the rest are black, and some are black and white). The temperature inside is nicely warm, but the feel of the place is cold, if that makes sense. Of course, if the food is good do I really care?

I ordered coffee (French-pressed Stumptown, of course - $2) and for our entrees Wifey ordered a ham and leek tart with two fried eggs, parmesan cream sauce and watercress ($12) while I picked braised beef with roasted potatoes, two poached eggs, and toast ($12). We also added on a side of bacon ($4).

Coffee was good, as Stumptown almost always is. My entree came and, well, wow. Just wow. In a deep plate, almost a bowl, sat a very generous serving of melt-in-your-mouth beef in it's own braising juices. On top of that were the two perfectly poached eggs and around the edges were potato chunks soft on the inside with a perfect outer crunch. Sure, they lost some crunch sitting in the braising liquid, but that only added to the flavor. That liquid was thick and rich, with obvious notes of fresh pepper as well as plenty of other savory flavors. The toast was cut thick, almost an inch, and seasoned with a variety of flavors. To be honest, that might be the best toast I've ever had, and it complemented the meal perfectly.

Wifey's tart was equally delicious. All of the flavors worked well together in a perfect melody and about the only thing wrong with it was it was missing watercress. When I say wrong, I mean it didn't match the menu, but really neither of us cared there was none of the leafy green. The puff pastry in the tart sat nicely raised and still soft, even before soaking up some of the egg yolk and liquid from the cream. A well sculpted forkful, with each of the elements on the plate, was perfect. The bacon was also good. It was a tad dry for me, but Wifey thought it was perfect.

Can you tell we enjoyed it? We had brought the camera and didn't even remember to get it out before we started eating because everything looked so good. Roost is the type of place we'd go more often if we lived closer and we can't wait to try it for dinner.

Oh, and did it get busy? Not really. After we finished our meal and left, about 40 minutes later, it wasn't even half full. As we drove off to do some errands we passed many other brunch-type places, ones well known to be barely average offerings of food, and they had lines out the door. Sure, admittedly $30 for two people for a brunch not including any kind of alcohol may be a bit steep, but it's easy to spend less also.

While part of me would love to keep Roost a secret, I also want it to be successful enough to stick around. So do yourself a favor and go there. Do it this week. Find out for yourself.

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