Veritable Quandary, Portland, OR

I have been skiing vigorously all day, and I’m as tired as a dog – so what you’re getting here is going to be a spot shorter than usual. Veritable Quandary (VQ to locals) is a bar and restaurant serving killer-fantastic cocktails, and food which is thoroughly decent if not extraordinary. It’s right next to the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, with an excellent view of the Willamette river. Look out for the portrait on the inner wall of the conservatory featuring someone looking like a female, Victorian Charles Atlas.

The drinks are simply fantastic. At the top of the page is a VQ-8 – the house Bloody Mary, made with a home-infused beet vodka, making it a gorgeous, lurid magenta and giving the whole drink wonderfully earthy depth. Try the aromatic martini made with limoncello and a lavender-infused vodka (again, made in the bar) – wonderful stuff.

Another time, I think I might be tempted to visit VQ for their drinks and bar snacks alone. I had one of those bar snacks as a starter – these dates (left), wrapped in pancetta and stuffed with goat’s cheese and Marcona almonds. Lovely sticky, sweet, salty, crispy, squashy things to nibble alongside a drink. Dr W’s snackish starter was a very tasty rabbit terrine (below), served with huge hunks of fresh, toasted brioche, a couple of mustards and some chutney.

Main courses thrilled me less. Barbecued boneless beef short rib was always going to be unsophisticated, but the saucing was altogether too much, and the meat itself felt sad and overdone (although this could have been a result of a too-fierce sauce masking the joint’s own flavour). The barley risotto it was perched on top of, though, was great, full of chunks of apple and roast butternut squash. Dr W’s steak was…a steak. A perfectly nice steak, although we both felt we could have happily swapped it and the short rib for a few more of those far more interesting starters.

Full of meat and cocktails, we had two $1 truffles for dessert. They were sticky, dense and coated the inside of your mouth beautifully. I’ve since heard from friends that other desserts are also great – the home-made ice-creams and sorbets (look for flavours like roasted hazelnut, spiced cider and red wine-pomegranate) and the souffles got a particular mention. Head to VQ for views, cocktails, dessert and nibbles – and, like many other Portland restaurants, uncommonly attractive waiting staff. What’s going on there?

7 Replies to “Veritable Quandary, Portland, OR”

  1. Ah, the VQ. We ate in the garden there two summers ago, and I’ve always wanted to go back in cold weather – it looks so cozy inside. I feel like it doesn’t get a lot of credit from the Portland food community for some reason – maybe it’s been around too long?

  2. Tig – you are *so* going to hate it when I get on to the skiing-in-Tahoe bit of this trip. And the Vegas bit. And the Newport Beach bit. Sorry. (Not really.)

    Jessamyn – I think there are two factors here. First up, the online Portland food community (these guys don’t tend to be the same people as the chefs and other industry people I’ve met) is pretty slow to criticise, so where there *is* something to criticise (like the lumpen main courses at VQ), they tend to keep quiet and just not talk about a restaurant – that said, if you find a place in Portland which is talked about online in glowing terms in several places, go. These polite diners do know what they’re talking about. And, of course, there are so many places in the city that do NW cuisine brilliantly (Higgins, The Heathman) in easy distance of VQ that canny diners will probably head there first.

  3. Actually, I’m in CA, skiing now – and I’m being rubbish about blogging because I’ve either been up on the hill enjoying myself or lying very still, recovering from having been up on the hill enjoying myself. Will have to make more of an effort.

  4. Takeaway – actually, there’s tomato juice in there too. It’s only the vodka that’s flavoured with beets (and darned nice it is too).

    Douglas – glad to have enabled you. 😉

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