Movies and hotels are fun because they let you temporarily imagine being a more glamorous person. These are environments devoid of dirty dishes, parking tickets and vet appointments, places where the furniture has all its legs and the people seem stylish and purposeful. In a city known for keeping it real, Gracie's, the house restaurant of the cinema-themed Hotel deLuxe (which replaced the longstanding Mallory Hotel last May), creates a retro-elegant, soft-focus atmosphere that is markedly unreal. But movies are also full of exaggerated artifice that looks good onscreen but slightly gaudy in real life, and Gracie's incorporates this element of cinema as well.
Ignore reality with a Barbancourt-rum-soaked Flynn cocktail ($5.50) in deLuxe's James Bondian bar, the beloved Driftwood Room, then move across the foyer into the restaurant for dinner. Or don't—the bar waiters are friendly and efficient but know when to leave you alone, while the overattentive restaurant staff bends over backward to kiss your tush.
The fare is what you'd expect from an upscale hotel restaurant. Basic American comfort food gets its night on the town with modern-arty presentation, self-consciously fancy flavor twists and often local ingredients. It makes sense, considering chef Vincent Albiez's experience at RiverPlace Hotel, Portland City Grill and the Benson.
Start with a goat cheese and organic beet "Napoleon," a stack of sweet, earthy gold and red beets that marry perfectly with the garlicky, salty goat-cheese spread. Forgo the salami and cheese plate ($10, bar menu only); the deli slices are just average hotel-conference fare. For the feature presentation, dig into the prosciutto- and Roquefort-stuffed pork chop ($24) with gnocchi in an addictively heavy cream sauce. A succulent slab of meaty sturgeon ($22), pan-fried in white wine, topped with a zingy mustard sauce and served with mashed potatoes and asparagus, also stands out. Vegetarians can find solace from the flesh fest in a tofu-portobello mushroom Wellington ($19), or a roasted, stuffed Danish squash ($18).
If the heavy-hitting main courses leave you without room for dessert, it's just as well: The lavender crÈme brÛlÉe ($6) was tolerable on one visit, but other days the too-thick crust tended to bend rather than break, and the custard had pockets of cold and warm like the neighborhood pool. A Grand Marnier cheesecake ($6) evoked diner food with its overwhelming orange-creamsicle flavor and cute-but-out-of-place maraschino cherries atop puffs of redundantly citrusy whipped cream.
Gracie's lets travelers enjoy a meal without having to take on an unfamiliar city, and the lounge is a fun, classy drinking destination for locals. But for a more authentic, reliable Portland restaurant, peruse the handsomely bound dining guide thoughtfully placed in the lobby by the management.
Gracie's at Hotel deLuxe, 729 SW 15th Ave., 243-5623. Breakfast 6:30-10:30 am and lunch 11:30 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday, dinner 5-10 pm nightly, brunch 8 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday. $$$ Expensive.