There are two Davenports.
One version of Kevin Gibson's East Burnside Street restaurant happens at the tables in the neutral-minimalist dining room, where older couples who remember the esteemed chef from Portland landmarks Zefiro, Castagna and Genoa hover over subtle, beautifully tender pork loin with lightly acidic cabbage and apples roasted just to the point of caramel. Steak is served to light char at its edge with aching red within, and comes with potatoes and green onions. Beautifully sourced ingredients are less spiced than lovingly evoked, and wine is often ordered by the bottle.
Then there's the other Davenport, which you'll find at the bar. The food menu is exactly the same, but different things are ordered from it: high-wire small plates with both deft balance and intense flavors. You're always sitting next to at least one off-shift chef or bartender, and the atmosphere is playful and possibly even a little off-kilter. Ask the restaurant's co-owner and bartender Kurt Heilemann for a recommendation on bubbly, and he might flash out an already open bottle, declaring it the "worst wine from the best producer." He then pours a tasting glass in passing for a visiting wine steward, asking her to guess what it is.
"Not even close!" he tells her.
If you're at that bar, always ask what to drink: It'll be better than the idea you might have had. A grilled eggplant stuffed with Thai-spiced sausage is a seeming nightmare for wine pairing—an herbal, bitter-savory balancing act of lemongrass, chili and tamarind. And yet upon inquiry, it turns out there's just the thing: an Arbois La Fauquette natural chardonnay from the upper Loire valley that somehow tastes like tamarind.
Amid other adventurous items, an albacore crudo marries coconut and bird's eye chili with tomato and sesame to somehow create an unholy and surprising balance. A negimaki dish moves from Thailand to a goofball take on Japan, with grilled beef strips wrapped around the end of late-summer scallions like steak-swabbed arrows, next to a miso-ginger sauce complemented warmly by a lightly acidic glass of rosé. Each unlikely plate has its perfect beer or wine, and only your bartender knows it.
Pro tip: Davenport's dishes, almost all $12-$18, split a funny middle ground between small plate and entree, but the meat plates toward the bottom tend to be heftier. For two, split a steak or pork, then throw in a delicate live butter-lettuce salad, the crudo and then the two weirdest-looking things on the menu. Whatever the ingredients, the balance and poise will surprise you.