The Original: A Dinerant   2 comments

Across from F's workplace they finally finished building the Courtyard Marriott, and along with it came a new restaurant that is a twist on a diner: they call themselves the Original, a dinerant. Perusing the menu, I was amused by offerings such as creme brulee french toast, lobster corn dog, duck and waffles (with duck confit), lobster popcorn, pigs in a blanket with kobe frank with cheddar fondue, fried bologna (mortadella, onions, shallot mayo, smoked mozzerella on ciabatta), and a voodoo doughnut burger (natural beef and cheddar on a Voodoo doughnut). I put together a small group for an after work happy hour to see if the execution would live up to the potential in the menu.

I of course immediately ordered the lobster popcorn. When they cut the bag open, the aroma of lobster greeted the table. It actually did taste like lobster. The issue I had was that I have my lobster with butter- and my palate was only getting lobster. More butter! But seriously, it did need more butter. For $5, I was expecting at least AMC theater level popcorn, and this was more microwave quality- and not even the movie theater butter flavor.

Two people (the vegetarians) ordered salads, which hilariously, they each got the other person's salad and neither said anything but just ate it and only figured it out at the end as they reviewed their salad that it was not what they expected. Doh!

Even though I ordered my fried bologna after the other couple, for some reason I got my dish first. Bizarre kitchen timing. My first problem with the sandwich? They also fried the ciabatta. And ciabatta is like a sponge for the oil- making the sandwich greasier then it needed to be. They should have just fried the bologna. It also was a bit weird because the bologna did not taste right- probably because I'm used to only Oscar Meyer bologna. The upgrade in meat was still good, but I didn't get the tinge of nostalgia that I was expecting, and it didn't give the more powerful flavor bologna usually offers compared to other meats. It also would have been greatly, greatly helped by some sour or acid, say pickles, to help balance the richness, or perhaps a really strong cheddar as the smoked mozzerella was not smoky enough. The fries look better than they tasted- they were a bit dry and needed ketchup. This would have been matched really well with Rogue's smoked porter. 

Another diner ordered the pigs in a blanket, which I forgot to take a photo of. The frank portion was pretty chubby- think kielbasa size. And the cheddar fondue meant that fries became cheese fries, bonus! Sadly, for the $9.75 price tag at happy hour, the dog didn't come with fries- he had to poach his wife's fries with her burger (which was $7.25). The pastry dough that the piggies were wrapped in also were a little overdone- they should have been hey, more buttery and moist rather than browned.

The order of the Voodoo Doughnut Burger was greatly anticipated. Honestly, with the level of $5 burgers offered at many other happy hours in Portland, this burger's beef patty just did not measure up. Sure, it was on a doughnut, which turns out was a lightly glazed one, and had the consistency of a small super-soft bun that was a little sweet. I wonder if you could have achieved something similar with Hawaiian bread. I was disappointed they didn't even have a fun presentation:Voodoo Doughnuts are world reknown, after all, for their humorous take on doughnuts, and this dish had no humor to it. And yet, this dinerant offers gummy worms and doughnuts as toppings on its pancakes and waffles. 

Overall, I think they missed the mark slightly, at least with in this initial experience. The enthusiasm and sense of whimsy we had after we ordered just wasn't met when we actually took that initial bite. The premise is obviously comfort food taken up another level, but the issue we had was that there wasn't enough nostalgia and parts of the original that a customer would expect to really appreciate the update that was being done. You need a bit of both- the traditional and the contemporary, and in the samples we tried it just didn't marry them both. We wanted to have fun- and although we did, it wasn't fueled by the food, in my opinion. Of course, I've also tasted attempts of this same concept by Homaru Cantu and Grant Achatz, so I'm a bit spoiled.

All of these photos can be viewed larger at my usual Picasa Adventures of Pech 2009 Photo Album


2 responses to “The Original: A Dinerant

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  1. so was there any lobster in the popcorn?

  2. The butter was lobster flavored, so I think it had lobster juice in it. I think they used the lobster meat in the lobster corn dog, but there was none with the popcorn.
    I had the leftover half of the sandwich, and heated it up in the microwave really hot, and ate a lot of the meat separate from the bread. It was MUCH better this way- serving it much hotter really helped bring out more flavor of the meat.

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