Higgins' interior is generic dark hardwood and white tablecloth, its mood elegantly formal, its servers breezily chin-up. For a restaurant that pioneered Pacific Northwest cuisine and local seasonal ingredients, the mood inside—even in the less swanky bistro—couldn't have less in common with Portland's predominantly urban-casual approach to fine dining. But the professional sheen is no accident: Higgins has some of the best execution in town. This means not only that the breading on the tender pork schnitzel is light enough to be unironically called ethereal, the duck confit ungreasy, the salads airily pleasant, the fresh green beans left satisfyingly crisp, but also that the service attends itself handily to the specific needs of each table: formal with the formal sorts, friendly with the friendly sorts, without any break in composure. And while the menu is not as in-your-face innovative as some local haute cuisine, each dish contains a subtle turn from the expected, a refined twist or local nod that makes its own very definite impression on the palate.
IDEAL MEAL: The menu changes each week, but some advice: Even though vegetarians are handily accommodated, this is one place where entree viandes are both satisfying and delicate, with subtle accents and sauces. Break vegan, right here. Do it gently.