2930 NE Killingsworth St., 503-227-2669, damerestaurant.com. 5-10 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
Established: September 2016
A lot has changed since Dame first opened. Gone is chef Eli Dahlin, taking with him a minimalist, seafood-focused approach to Eastern European cuisine. Gone, too, is world-beating sommelier Dana Frank, responsible previously for lists at Ava Gene's and Grüner, and today hosting a series of wine bar pop-ups and preparing for the publication of her first cookbook, Wine Food, due this fall from Ten Speed Press. But Dame soldiers on. The menu is now focused on elevated comfort food classics like big sticky pork ribs with peanuts and sesame ($16) or fried razor clams with aioli ($6). The wine list still contains wonders, and the by-the-glass program is available in full and half sizes, encouraging much splashing and sampling. Drinking Georgian winemaker Nikoloz Antadze's mtsvane—a deeply orange, unctuous, transportive Old World wine—is always a treat, and Dame's got it for $11 (or $6 for a half glass). Bubbles come from good natural makers like Jousset and Labet, and the bottle list is still open for treasure hunting, with cult natural winemakers like Jean-Yves Peron and Alice et Olivier DeMoor lurking next to local favorites like Holden, Minimus, and Johan Vineyards. Dame could've been Portland's equivalent to Wildair or the Four Horsemen, two NYC restaurants leading the vanguard for the fusion of natural wine and food in America. Instead, it is something more easily recognizable: a cute, increasingly accessible NoPo wine spot with elevated bar snacks.