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Celebrity Sighting+Seafood=Cold Broke

June 24, 2007

Joining me for this review of Jake’s Famous Crawfish, a well-known and loved Portland Seafood staple, is my dear friend Munchin’ Mama!

Gourmet Grrl: Let us set the scene for you: Like Lewis and Clark before me, I led the expedition consisting of my mom*, dad,* and MM through the Oregon Trail of Portland’s Gay District, through backstreets and rainbow-laden xxx shops, before finally, we reached our proverbial goldmine, Jake’s Famous Crawfish .

Munchin’ Mama: Crossing the threshold, we entered a veritable oasis of local energy and color – a much needed change from the large, cold Portland convention center with its strange glass spires. Jake’s was warm and inviting and filled with locals chatting it up. There is a long front room off to the left that serves as a kind of lounge and has an impressive wooden bar. The expedition participants looked at one another with obvious signs of relief that we were finally getting a taste of the “real” Portland.

GG: “Oooh!” my mother cried, and announced, “Good Job, [Gourmet Grrl]!” When the host led us into a back room with dark lighting (we arrived without reservations), I heard a resounding, “Dammit!” echoing the room from behind me. Apparently, Mom didn’t so much like this room. “It’s too cold in here,” she announced. My heart applauded when the host looked her dead in the eye, spread her lips into a stiff smile and shot back, “it’ll warm up,” before curtly exiting as fast as she could, already hip to the potential onslaught of complaints awaiting her if she stuck around. Sighing, my mother sat down. Ten minutes later, we were indeed quite warm.

APPETIZERS:

MM: Okay, so I REALLY loved my appetizer because it was a delicious clam chowder. It was creamy, yet not too thick and the clams were very fresh.

Gourmet Grrl: After much nailbiting due to an overwhelmingly gigantic menu, I finally settled on Dungeness crab cocktail, with the house homemade cocktail sauce. The crab was melt-in-your-mouth watery deliciousness, perfect with a lemon twist and a heavy-on-the-horseradish cocktail sauce. I hated to share it, but it was part of my agreement with MM and familial responsibility to those who fed me for my first 18 years. The clams nestled sweetly and copiously within the chowder were plump, succulent, mild and partially motivated many of my later decisions.

Salad:

MM: In keeping with the overwhelming nature of the menu, there were way too many salads to choose from so I picked the cheapest one. Sliced beets and cucumbers in a vinegarette and sprinkled with gorgonzola crumbles. Simple and delicious.

GG: The salad also included a sprinkling of red onion. Simple, good, and the cheapest part of the meal. The beets were marinated and actually exceptional. I am a huge beet fan, especially when they don’t taste like dirt, as I often experience.

Main Course:

MM: I haven’t been out to eat with GG in years – literally at least 10 years, so I wasn’t sure she would go for it, but I decided to suggest that we both order things we were interested in and share them. As it turns out, GG is completely okay with this idea and we ordered horseradish encrusted Sockeye Salmon and Razer Clam as our meals.

GG: The best thing about this menu is that at the top of the paper daily menu, they listed all of their fresh catch for the day and it’s port of origin. This included Salmon from Alaska and Washington, Halibut from Washington, Clams from Oregon, and at least 20 other items. But also the exact town or port where it was caught. In the words of Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier: “Loved It!” However.
The panko-crusted razer clam was a B-I-G disappointment. Or I don’t know what the hell a razor clam is. Is a razer clam a foot-long chewy, slimy, rubbery grey thing? Because I was expecting more succulent goodness as featured in the chowder, but sadly, this was not to be. I completely blame the waitress who recommended the dish, referring to the razer clam as “tender” at least three times. This dish was many things, ladies and gentlemen, but “tender” it was not. The sockeye salmon encrusted with horseradish encrustiness was very red and very good, sweet and savory and but kind of fishy tasting. The sides of asparagus and mashed potatoes were unimpressive and basic, as often occurs in seafood joints.

I must now detour from the food description to introduce the excruciatingly redundant dinner table topic of conversation. My dad spent the entire two hours of our meal attempting to convince us of Richard Gere’s presence at a nearby table. This old, pudgy tourist was nowhere in the vicinity of Richard Gere. But we were not to be believed, and he was not going to be disuaded. Like a true activist, he would not be moved.

Munchin’ Mama: I decided to play along and rhetorically asked, “What WAS he thinking when he kissed that Bollywood star in India anyway?!” (Keep in mind, I really haven’t spent much time with GG’s parents in a long time and as the outsider at the table, I was not sure how to take the Richard Gere obsession. I’m telling you, it felt like I was in a rastaurant scene in a Woody Allen movie.) GG’s dad looked at me in all seriousness and emphatically insisted that I go ask him myself. I laughted it off, but for a minute, I actually considered doing it. Maybe this guy was Richard Gere. I had my back to him, so I couldn’t really get a good look and I have to admit, I am not sure what Richard Gere looks like. Besides, don’t movie stars look different in person?

Gourmet Grrl: The climax came when Dad finally grabbed the waitress who was heavily engaged in other activities like hauling huge amounts of food across a crowded room, and assaulted her with, “Hey! Isn’t that Richard Gere over there in the black sweater?”

“Uh, no.” She stated this abruptly and with obvious annoyance, thus ending the controversy once and for all. This was a wonderful example of why I maintain my deep appreciation for north/midwestern directness when dealing with strangers, customers, and others.

Incidentally, Dad ordered the best dish and therefore won the contest that is always in secretly in play when you are dining with Gourmet Grrl, “Who Ordered Best?”
He got the Pacific Rockfish. Good Goddess. Sweet, buttery, substantially thick with perfect flakiness. He won, hands down.

*My mom and dad are completely awesome and amazing and I love them deeply.

Jake’s: 2.5 hearts out of 5. Service was terrific, ambiance was beautiful, food was very very very expensive and not worth the exorbitant price. I have since found better in Portland, which I will detail in a later post.

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