And no, I'm not talking about Vitaly Paley's venture into the questionable realm of the it-tastes-like-cardboard power bar. I'm talking about the pocket-sized and European-feeling bar that sits to the left of the main dining room at Paley's Place, one of Portland's great dining spots. You take a seat, hang up your purse or coat on the hooks under the bar, and before you can even greet the folks sitting next to you, you've got a menu in your hand, water and a dish of their addictive homemade barbecue-flavored chips to munch on while you ponder your beverage choices.
And this bar has major cocktail chops. My negroni was nearly as good as Dave makes them at home, though theirs is the orange zest version rather than the lemon zest we use. And those of my companions were spot-on as well, nicely balanced and with generous pours, not those wimpy little half-sized things that some bars in town pass off for $8 and change.
The bar menu is the same one the restaurant offers, so you can stick with their wonderful small plates or go for the big entrée guns. We had the night's special mussels, big, orange-y and succulent, and when they start rolling out the (seemingly bottomless) house specialty fries with mustard aioli, stand back. As if that weren't enough, we then had the truffle spaetzle with mushrooms that oozed earthy goodness, and a Dungeness crab salad with truffles and bacon. Yikes!
This is as good as anything you'll get on the planet, and it's the ideal cozy, romantic spot to share a drink and a nosh with someone special. Even if they're sitting next to you at the bar and you've never met them before!
Details: Paley's Place, 1204 NW 21st Ave.; Phone 503-243-2403.