Restaurant Guide 2013: Park Kitchen

422 NW 8th Ave., 223-7275,

[NORTHWEST PLATES] For indecisive diners, tasting menus are a blessing and a curse. Freeing you from the pressures of an overwhelming menu, they can prompt disappointment when a much-hoped-for dish never lands on your table. Control freaks can order plate-by-plate at this decade-old Pearl District eatery, but it's really best to hand over the reins after choosing your own drink from the beguiling cocktail menu. The creative if not revolutionary menu changes frequently, and an early August meal began with a salad of nutty wheat berries that gained sweetness from cherries, tang from feta and crunch from cucumber and pepitas. Next was a simple plate of marinated anchovies, eggplant, tomato and mint that burst with high-summer pungency. Korean influence sprung up in a bibimbaplike bowl of rice, pickled kohlrabi and a soft egg, with a hockey puck-sized disk of rich pork terrine on top. Only the large plate—salmon with peas and a brick of toasted barley that looked and tasted like a health-food bar—had us glancing longingly back at the menu, wishing for something more interesting. But all was forgiven by the time dessert arrived, a dreamily decadent chocolate tart so good I'm afraid to describe it.

Ideal meal: Lean toward the small plates, either cold or hot. Order many of them. Share. Order more.

Best deal: It's not exactly cheap (leave the Pearl if that's what you're after), but the small-plate tasting menu ($45) gets you three savory plates and one dessert.

Pro tip: Drinks are $6 and small plates are $8 at happy hour (5-6:30 pm daily)—pair the salt cod fritters with an Old Fashioned and watch a game of pick-up basketball across the street.
5-9 pm daily. $$$.


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