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April 6th, 2005 KELLY CLARKE | z-Bite Club
 

First Course

     
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KRAUT LOVE: Sanborn's German pancakes.
IMAGE: AMY OUELLETTE
Not every restaurant gets kudos for its leftovers as well as its meals. When Bite Club meted out mouthfuls of a lukewarm mango German pancake we spirited away from Sanborn's, chef-owner Russ Sanborn may have heard the delighted moans from hungry WW staffers back at his new Brooklyn neighborhood brunch house.

The airy, olive- and butter-colored diner is a baked-goods bonanza. Think scone-y housemade biscuits slathered with tart housemade blackberry jam, dusky buckwheat pancakes and those puffy, golden German flapjacks, studded with thick chunks of caramelized pears, apples or meltingly sweet-hot, ginger-spiked mango. The restaurant's bland egg-and-potato dishes call for some spice, but the tangy sourdough pancakes (created with an original 1847 Oregon Trail starter) are morning gold.

Sanborn, the ex-owner of a local dry-cleaning business, slid behind the stove at the behest of his musician daughter Rebecca Sanborn, who runs Sanborn's front-of-house staff. The pair has created a citified third cousin to Portland's homey batter headquarters, the Original Pancake House (without the Original's hour-plus wait). And only weeks after starting brunch service, the father-daughter duo is adding a second delicious prospect for night owls. Try live jazz and dessert for Aladdin Theater crowds. "We're gonna have the basic food groups," Sanborn promised Bite Club. "Cheesecake, chocolate and champagne." And moonlight pancakes, too, we'd suggest.

Grandma Thayer's meatloaf sandwich. Porcupine shrimp with shredded filo and sweet-chili dipping sauce. Plus local mushroom ragoût with wasabi potato cakes. What is this? Bite Club was at a loss when we eyeballed the menu at Aja's Pacific Kitchen, the latest restaurant to colonize the Northeast Fremont Street space that once hosted eggs Benedict at Marco's Cafe and the Dining Room's lavender martinis.

It seems chefs Paul Moss, Matt Renshaw and Angelin Appel, the crew behind the eclectic lunch and dinner space, define "Pacific" as neither Pacific Rim nor Pacific Northwest. Instead, this trio of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort alums has concocted a local produce-anchored hybrid of grandma cuisine and Asian fare. (We are really, really tempted to call this "Gramasian" food.) We can't grasp how well the culture-shocked eats will play out at weekend brunch, when Aja's serves traditional Japanese breakfasts of miso soup, Koda rice and fried eggs alongside heartland fare. But lunchwise, we can report this: Our bahn mi-esque French dip-spicy Korean pork piled on a baguette ready for a dunk in a bath of hot Chinese mustard au jus and paired with sour, crunchy Korean pickles and thick-cut fries-wasn't just bizarre. It was damn tasty, too.

Last week, Bite Club took Portland Mercury Managing Editor Phil Busse to task for the Gotham Bldg. Tavern review he penned for the newspaper's March 24 food issue-that's 17 days before the restaurant officially opens this Saturday. Busse told Bite Club the "Nostradamus-style review" was not fake news, claiming the future tense was mistakenly removed from his review during the editing process.

But Busse penned a different explanation to one local foodie who also asked about the "review." "How can a space not yet open for business already be the classiest in town?" wrote Brooke Storer, a server at Paley's Place for the past three years, in an email signed "Anonymouse foodie."

The editor's response? "I think that [it] is fairly easy to extrapolate the quality of food, etc. given the reputation and experience of the staff for the soon-to-be opened Gotham," Busse wrote.

"As I think most thinking-people would recognize, the idea behind the food reviews was simply to draw some attention to a collection of different places and to maybe rally a few people to old and new restaurants. Sorry for trying to be supportive of the 'restaurant community' for which you are the self-anointed spokesperson."

So the review wasn't the product of an editing mistake-it was just wishful thinking?

RIP: Second Story Bistro owners Diana Stapleton and Shye St. Germaine called it quits and sold the name of their once-charmed Old Town spot last Monday. Why? The building's landlord terminated their lease. The pair is currently scouting locations for a new restaurant. Speaking of for-sale signs, Eric Laslow has confirmed that he's closing his Northeast Fremont Street Cuban house, Malanga-that space's sale is pending. What's more, after less than a year at the RiverPlace Hotel's Three Degrees restaurant, executive chef Aaron Dionne has resigned from his post. Perhaps he didn't get along with that behemoth mural.


Sanborn's, 3200 SE Milwaukie Ave., 963-8000.

Aja's Pacific Kitchen, 3449 NE 24th Ave., 287-5400.

Gotham Bldg. Tavern, 2240 N Interstate Ave., 235-2294.

 
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