Blow our (fish) balls off.
October 14, 2006 1:56 AM   Subscribe

Where are the really good, really fresh, really affordable seafood restaurants in Portland, Oregon (or the nearby coast)?

So, every time we go to a seafood place in town or on the coast, they all seem to have been issued a blurb from Gourmet or somesuch to the effect of, "These people have clam chowder/oyster shooters/crab legs/steamer clams/wild salmon that will blow your balls off," and so we dutifully go in and try some, only to leave with our balls decidedly unblown off. We're feeling especially bitter about the clam chowder (it's always "famous"), which is either mildly good or tastes like something out of a Progresso can. Also, these people keep breading and frying the fish just like they do in the midwest so you won't notice that, were it still speaking, it would harangue you about how spoiled you are because you failed to live through the Depression. At first we wondered if was just a bad year for oysters, but no, we bought a batch and steamed them and they were great. (Actually all the fresh seafood we've bought's been really good.) I'm sorry to be emotional but we just returned from two rounds of seafood on the coast, and besides the breading thing we paid a rather hefty sum for some little blobs of Dungeness crabs when half the fun is wrestling them out of the shells. Being new to town and loving much of its unbreaded portions, we're not giving up on the dream, so please: tell us where to go. We'll drive out to the coast if we need to, but it'd be nice if it was in town and not so hard on our wallets (though we'll save up to have our balls well and truly blown to kingdom come).
posted by melissa may to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I second Foetry Guy's suggestion of going to Cannon Beach. I usually don't like clam chowder, but I had the best chowder at Ecola Seafood at 208 Spruce in Cannon Beach. It's a tiny little place - the fish they sell is mostly caught by the business owners themselves (from what I remember).

Cannon Beach is a great little town with lots of restaurant selections. Check out the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce's Dining list or Cannon Beach Online for more dining information and other things to do in Cannon Beach. Ecola state park is right there and I think it's the most beautiful cosatline I've ever seen. Enjoy Cannon Beach and don't forget to pick up some saltwater taffy too!
posted by youngergirl44 at 11:00 AM on October 14, 2006

Great question, melissa may! My happy seafood experiences have mostly been on the coast. If you want to make a night in Astoria sometime, I would highly recommend the Columbian Cafe. It's not vegtarian, as the review implies, and its a small enough place that you can talk to the chef about his totally yummy pepper and garlic jellies while he makes your dinner. The ~$20 Halibut Cheeks (heh) meal that I got there made me very happy. The Voodoo Room next door is a fun place to get cocktails and let the aphrodesiatic (?) dinner work its magic.

If you like fish and chips -- which you may not, given your distaste for the 'bread' -- you could do a lot worse than the venerable Horse Brass pub (~$9 + pints) in Southeast, but for the love of Pete do yourself a favor one day and get a Captain's Platter (~$10) from the Lighthouse Deli in Newport. The breading is very light and really just serves to keep the most-excellent and tender chunks of cod, salmon, and halibut in one piece. They have tons of other seafood options too, both fresh and prepared.

Jeebers, I'm glad I just ate breakfast. This would have been hard to think about otherwise.
posted by JohnFredra at 11:20 AM on October 14, 2006

I like the Corbett Fish House. It's not a fancy place, but it is really delicious- the fish is fried, but it's barely battered- using a rice flour- so it's wonderful, warm, fresh, and excellent.

I think I'll go there today!
posted by thethirdman at 11:53 AM on October 14, 2006

Although far from cheap, Southpark (downtown, near the museum) has what I have found to be the best variety of truly fresh and delicious seafood in Portland proper. Preparations range from the simple to the complex, but everything I've had there has been almost breathtakingly fresh and delicious.

Also worth mentioning is that most of Portland's best restaurants have great seafood options. Wildwood, Higgins, Paley's Place, and my personal pick for "best restaurant I've ever been to," clarklewis.

These are all more expensive, of course. A bit less expensive, and another one of my favorites, the Farm Cafe just off East Burnsde always has at least a couple of wonderful seafood options. They often (although not always-- the menu changes frequently) have on their menu the best crab cakes I've ever had, which they make using arborio rice (risotto) as the binding starch. So creamily delicious I'm drooling just thinking about it...

(Stay away from the various Jake's restaurants, by the way. Their time came and went a decade ago, and they're getting by on reputation and the tourist trade now.)

Admittedly fried, but definitely inexpensive, and absolutely not to be missed, the Pepper Salted Squid at Thien Hong is quite simply the best calamari I have ever had. It's like crack. Delicious, delicious crack.

If you like your fish uncooked, then Murata, also far from cheap, is the best sushi place in town, far superior to the overrated Saburo. Mio Sushi (locations in NW Portland, N. Killingsworth, and SE Hawthorne) is a very good lower-cost alternative

As far as the coast is concerned, one of my favorite cheap-but-delicious places to eat is the Dory Cove, in Lincoln City. Yes, a lot of it is fried, but it's fresh and delicious.

Truly, though, your best bet is to go buy whatever's freshest at the fish counter at your local New Seasons (the best supermarket chain EVAR), and cook it exactly as you want it.

Now, if it's salmon recipes you want, just say so...
posted by dersins at 1:52 PM on October 14, 2006

Hell yes, dersins, I will take all the recipes you are wiling to give me for salmon or any Northwest Pacific fish. I am in a new and delicious world here and I want to make the most of it. (And yes, we've discovered New Seasons, and you are right -- wowie.)

Thanks to everyone so far for the great recommendations. We've been to Astoria and gorgeous Cannon Beach several times and we definitely want to go to Newport, so those are all great locations to suggest. Also, sorry for the militant anti-breading theme. Very light and tasty breading is great, but we've been getting some brick-heavy oil-soaked Long John Silveresque stuff. (And I wasn't going to name names, but since Foetry Guy did, yeah: Mo's clam chowder is among those I'd classify as utterly foul.)
posted by melissa may at 2:22 PM on October 14, 2006

I will take all the recipes you are wiling to give me for salmon

Well, here's my personal favorite way to make salmon. It's sure as hell not very healthy, but it is CRAZY delicious. It sounds complicated, but start to finish it takes MAYBE half an hour, including all the prep.

Crispy potato-wrapped salmon with mustard butter sauce.
Serves 2.

(adapted-- well, blatantly stolen, really-- from either Gourmet Magazine or possibly some Food Network show. I don't remember. Hey, maybe it was Sara Moulton's show on the food network, in which case I could have stolen it from BOTH!)

1 large russet potato
3/4 lb to 1 lb center cut salmon fillet, skin (and pin bones!) removed
vegetable oil (canola or grapeseed or something like that. olive oil won't work for low-smoke-point-related reasons)
1 bunch of fresh spinach, stemmed (if you use baby spinach, you don't need to remove the stems...)
half a stick of butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon whole-grain mustard
Salt & Pepper

Peel potato, then use a cross-cut peeler to shave wide, paper-thin slices off the potato. I find this to be easiest if you start with the biggest potato you can find, slice off the very ends and the sides, ending up with, essentially, a rectangular peeled potato as wide as the blade on your cross-cut peeler.

Slice salmon fillet crosswise into three pieces, each around 3/4" to 1" wide.

Season salmon with salt and pepper, then wrap each piece in potato slices, overlapping as needed.

Heat 1/4" vegetable oil in a skillet until very hot (but not smoking!)

Carefully place wrapped salmon pieces into oil, and cook about 3 minutes, until potato has turned golden and crispy. Carefully turn over and cook the other side for another 2 - 3 minutes, until done.

Place on paper towels on plate in an under-200-degree warm oven to drain.

In a large sautee pan, skillet, or whatever, sautee the spinach over medium heat in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until wilted, stirring as neccessary. Should take 1 - 2 minutes. Season spinach with salt & pepper, and transfer to DIFFERENT paper towels on DIFFERENT plate in an under-200-degree warm oven to drain.

Clean out original skillet, and heat lemon juice, water, and mustard over low heat, stirring. Add butter, swirling, to incorporate. Don't let it get too hot, or it will separate. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt & pepper.

On two warmed plates, mound spinach in center of each, and top with 1 1/2 pieces of salmon. Drizzle sauce around the outside.

Serve with an Oregon Pinot Gris or an Italian Vernacchia di San Gimingiano.



Simpler, and almost as good, is this, also stolen from somewhere, although I don't know where:

Seared Salmon with Balsamic Glaze
1/4 Cup good balsamic vinegar
1/4 Cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
4 teaspoons brown sugar
3/4 lb - 1lb center cut salmon fillet-- skin ON
1Tablespoon vegetable oil
salt & pepper

Mix together vinegar, water, lemon juice, brown sugar.

Divide salmon into two portions. Season with salt & pepper.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-highish heat until hot.

Crank heat to high and immediately add salmon, skin-side up, searing for 3 minutes.

Turn salmon, sear other side until just cooked through, another 3 minutes or so.

Plate salmon, and then dump the vinegar mixture into the skillet. Reduce heat slightly and reduce glaze (stirring) by about 50%, which should take a couple-three minutes.

Spoon glaze over salmon.

Serve with Oregon Pinot Noir or French Cote du Rhone. (Also good with Rosé wine, if you like that sort of thing, but not everybody does. A-Z, an oregon vintner, makes a great low-cost Rosé...)
posted by dersins at 3:01 PM on October 14, 2006 [3 favorites]

oh man now i'm hungry.
posted by dersins at 3:02 PM on October 14, 2006

dang me too
posted by melissa may at 3:58 PM on October 14, 2006

I just got back from Cannon Beach today and a couple nights ago we had a great dinner at some fireside place that had wicked good clam chowder. I think any place out there that isn't Mo's (which sucked and I think was Matt Groening's inspiration for the Sea Captain Restaurant in the Simpsons) will have good stuff.

My absolute favorite fish I've ever had in the state of Oregon was at the Blackfish Cafe in Lincoln City, down the 101 a bit. It was featured in Sunset Magazine once as being a high end place that still does fish and chips and I think they do some really good fish & chips but their fish dishes are the kind of thing that can blow your balls off. It can be pricey, maybe $20-25 per person on dinner entrees. The halibut and salmon are great there.

Also, the Blackfish has the best dessert ever which is what you'd call a super-sized Ding Dong, but done with fine chocolate, fine cake, and freshly whipped cream. It's to die for.
posted by mathowie at 7:25 PM on October 15, 2006

a super-sized Ding Dong

to a non-native English speaker who doesn't know exactly what a Ding-Dong is, much less a super-sized one, it dangerously sounds like a gigantic sex toy.
posted by matteo at 8:27 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

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