Restaurant Guide 2013: Aviary

1733 NE Alberta St., 287-2400,

[JOY OF FLIGHT] The 2011 fire that clipped the wings of this fast-ascending Northeast Portland gem is now a bad and distant memory. The three-headed kitchen under co-chefs Sarah Pliner, Jasper Chen and Kat Whitehead continues to fly high, but this year, drunk-with-choice Portlanders have finally come flocking back. WW's 2012 Restaurant of the Year, Aviary offers creative medium-plate dishes smartly melding ingredients east and west, near and far. The standby is a captivating casserole-style crispy pig's ear with coconut rice, Chinese sausage and avocado ($15). But a recent visit yielded two new wonders. One was a dish of lightly pan-fried, just chewy enough sweetbreads with pickled cherry halves, daylilies (a flower that looks and tastes good) and water chestnut gremolata ($14). The other was heirloom tomato French toast, one of my favorite dishes of the year: peak-of-season multihued fruit sings flavor notes from sweet to tart, joined center stage by a light-golden beam of French toast, the main elements tied together with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce, rich puddles of creme anglaise and a sprinkling of herbs. Prices remain reasonable, and the bar in the back is well-suited to a casual drink or two and dishes to share.

Ideal Meal: Two people, five dishes and a dessert should yield a satisfying highlight reel.

Best Deal: Happy hour weekdays from 5 to 7 pm includes lots of cheap treats, though not much from the main menu.

Pro Tip: Pleasant patio dining in season offers an unparalleled view of the Northeast Alberta Street (and sidewalk) scene.

5-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 5-11 Friday-Saturday. $$-$$$.


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