BY SHANE DIXON KAVANAUGH

Back in 2012, WW named Aviary Restaurant of the Year. Three years later, it remains one of the city's most ambitious and creative dining experiences.

Aviary's spare concrete and white-walled interior serves a subtle reminder to guests: Your focus for the evening belongs squarely on the eclectic small plates dreamed up by chefs Sarah Pliner, Kat Whitehead and Jasper Shen.

Each dish is a delicate and subtle creation, a balance of Asian-inspired ingredients and Western techniques. Here, a boring brick of silken tofu becomes a harmony of taste and texture thanks to sweet hot bean paste, scallions, cantaloupe, sesame, peanuts and lime ($9).

We also loved the charred octopus served with a ricotta pudding, broccoli raab and red curry jus ($21). The pork belly katsu ($14) and crispy pig ear, served with coconut rice, Chinese sausage and avocado ($16), are house favorites. The service here is impeccable, which makes even a visit on a random Thursday evening feel like a special occasion.

Your knowledgeable waiter may wax rhapsodic over lapsang souchong, an aromatic black tea found in the delicious smoke & iron cocktail. Or he may gush over the bone marrow custard that's served with a flat iron steak smoked over Douglas fir, a potato puree and pickled daikon ($22).

Don't be surprised when he refolds your napkin neatly each time you step away from the table.

Photo: Nashco
Photo: Nashco

Pro tip: That soup dumpling spinoff? We're still waiting. Go to Taste of Sichuan.

GO: 1733 NE Alberta St., 287-2400, aviarypdx.com. 5-10 pm Monday-Saturday. $$.