It's odd to me, but Portland really doesn't have much good seafood. The names that get thrown around are living off their legacies and generally can barely put out a plate as good as I can make at home with minimal work. For a city relatively close to the ocean - not to mention many rivers - the lack of quality fish is, to me, surprising.
Needless to say, because of all of that and Pierce's reputation - and the fact we have enjoyed multiple good meals at Wafu - we added it to the short list. As it turned out opening week in September came at a time when a friend from Chicago was coming to visit, so it worked out nicely.
There are a couple things to know about Roe. First, you must make a reservation. These can be done over the phone or via Open Table, but it's the only way to get in.
Second, Roe is in the back of Wafu on SE 33rd and Division. That doesn't mean behind the building; that means you enter Wafu, give your name to the maitre'd, and then you are led down the length of Wafu to a room in the back, hidden behind a curtain and a door. The maitre'd lets you in and hands you off to Roe people. It's all very cloak and dagger, like you are part of a super secret club. In a way you are, because Roe has only a few tables and a chef's counter, and is only open three nights a week.
The chef's table is the focal point, raised on one side of the room with six seats, but all of the tables in the high-ceilinged room look comfortable. The service is impeccable. If you clicked on their website you will notice the menu is not listed - it changes every week. Pierce picks out the fish each week himself on the Oregon coast. Below was the menu presented to us.
The menu from the day we went.
Our friend came to Portland with the sole purpose of experiencing the food scene and because of that we decided to go light on dinner. Between the three of us we ordered two dishes from the first section and two from the third, then a dessert. First came bread, fresh butter and a selection of flavored salts.
First up was a tuna dish, with tomato, watermelon gazpacho, yuba, lime and basil
Then silver snapper ceviche with corn, tomato caviar, smoked citrus nuoc mam, and edamame mousse.
Then the two main courses came out. This is the butter poached blue prawn with popcorn emulsion, piquillo pepper, grilled padron peppers, and shrimp chips.
Followed by the salmon, olive oil poached with gin botanicals, confit fennel, edamame, tonic gelee and sudachi ponzu.
And finally, a light dessert of salted caramel gelato, dark chocolate ganache and dehydrated milk chocolate mousse.
Everything was fantastic. Exceptional, actually. The service, the presentation, the flavors - I feel comfortable saying this is the best seafood place in town and highly recommend it to anyone. Our friend from out of town counted it as one of her favorite meals of the trip. The total bill was $81, so it's definitely a special occasion dinner for most (us for sure) and I will admit it may not be what many consider a filling meal for that price. However, the crafting of these dishes make it worth it. We'd go back in a heartbeat.
We aren't the only ones who think this; The Oregonian handed out a relatively rare A- in their review of Roe.
Dog-friendly? No outdoor seating.