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May 12th, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | z-Bite Club
 

RESTAURANT ENVY

     
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clarklewis
IMAGE: WYNDE DYER
In Envy, Jack Black's silly new megaplex hit, a rabidly jealous Ben Stiller will stop at nothing to discredit his successful friend. In Portland, where our own Envy-esque drama is boiling, the plot's not about poo, but restaurants.

Nasty whispers started three weeks ago, when the Oregonian's Diner restaurant guide hit the stands. The daily's four restaurant reviewers tossed the 2004 Restaurant of the Year scepter to renegades at Ripe's industro-sleek eastside eatery clarklewis. Critics sniped that the awarding of this year's ROY title was about biz connections, not cooking.

After all, wasn't the O's Arts and Culture Editor Karen Brooks, one of those reviewers, writing a cookbook with clarklewis co-owner Michael Hebberoy? More greasy dish: Did you hear that the daily was forced to give clarklewis the big thumbs-up thanks to the restaurant's threatened lawsuit over the use of unauthorized photography?

Sure, both bits of gossip sounded preposterous to the Bite Club, who is an olive-oil smeared fan of chef Morgan Brownlow's Italian-infused dishes (if not the restaurant's Hindenburg-sized hype).

But all the talk did serve to fuel the perception among some foodies that the 3-month-old clarklewis isn't yet quite, well, ripe for top honors. And it even prompted O Public Editor Michael Arrieta-Walden to devote an entire oregonlive.com blog to the subject of how clarklewis came to be launched into the ranks of past ROY winners like Paley's Place and Higgins. (According to the blog at www.oregonlive.com/weblogs/publiceditor, reviewers thought the restaurant represented a dramatic change in how people in Portland dine.)

"There is absolutely no truth to either of these rumors," Brooks told WW. "I would never collaborate on a project with anybody in the local food scene. It's not ethical."

Hebberoy also dissed the rumormongers. "I think it's childish and unfortunate," he says. "As if we had time for a cookbook."

The restaurateur says he was as surprised as the rest of Portland diners when his joint got the nod. "I thought Karen [Brooks] would like clarklewis, but I didn't know the rest of the reviewers would," he says. "I didn't think what we were doing would have the mass appeal that it has."

After dismissing the lawsuit rumor as nonsense, food maven Brooks (who has authored or co-written a handful of Northwest cookery books) added that she doesn't even have a book project in the works right now.

"Ripe has their own plans of taking over the world," the editor says. "And I don't think they include me!"

God, just like Hollywood, we're suckers for a happy ending.

*

Where are we, Trader Joe's? The Heathman Restaurant, downtown's chef Philippe Boulot-catered playground for the bold and business-suited, is slashing wine prices every Tuesday. At lunch or dinner, bottles of vino under $186 are half-price when you chow at the hotel's bar, restaurant or lobby lounge. (Not quite two-buck Chuck, but still....)

The discount-drink stunt is the brainchild of the Heathman's democratic sommelier, Tysan Pierce, a 28-year-old woman who believes wine should be accessible to the masses.

As Pierce told Bite Club, "Instead of 'Let them eat cake,' my motto is 'Let them drink Burgundy.'"

*

Blame it on the baby: After five years, Eric and Connie Laslow shut the doors of their continental-cozy Northwest 23rd Avenue dining house, Laslow's Northwest, for the last time Sunday night.

The busy couple opened a second restaurant, the spicy Cuban Malanga, in Northeast Portland last year. Closing Laslow's allows them to pursue new restaurant ideas and--more importantly--to spend more time with their newest project, 17-month-old daughter Celina. "Laslow's wasn't the end-all to our career," Eric says. "It was one step, and now we are excited to focus on the next project."

Laurelwood NW Public House, the westside satellite of the Hollywood district's family-oriented brewpub, takes over Laslow's Victorian digs this week.


clarklewis 1001 SE Water Ave., 235-2294

Malanga Cocina Cubana 4627 NE Fremont St., 528-2822

Heathman Restaurant 1001 SW Broadway, 790-7752

 
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