There is a restaurant I'd never heard of, a really upscale place with gorgeous wood paneling and soaring ceilings with a fantastic deck jutting out over the Sandy River. When friends invited us to join them for a birthday celebration there, we thought, "Cool! Let's check it out!" You never know when a gem might appear that changes your personal dining landscape.
Then I went to the website of the Riverview Restaurant to get directions and discovered it is owned and was built by Junki Yoshida, wealthy local personality and founder of Mr. Yoshida's Fine Sauces, a line of popular teriyaki-type sauces that have never seemed to find a way into our cupboards. Despite this red flag and a snarky comment from a friend that she hears "there's no charge for extra sauce," I decided to take the high road and go with a positive attitude.
The dining room is, I have to say, impressive. And the deck is a place I could while away several hours as late afternoon turns to evening, watching the river go by and the frogs start to sing. It would be a great place to bring out-of-town guests or your relatives for a get-out-of-the-city civilized evening.
But then there's the food. Created, according to the website, by head chef Yutaka Kobayashi as a fusion of Northwest ingredients and Asian influences, the menu is a corporate hodgepodge of stunningly pedestrian selections. And once you make that selection, you're apparently on your own for additional water, utensils or refills of your wine glass, since the service is somewhat lacking in attention or competence.
The food does arrive, however, but it's a decidedly mixed blessing. The crab cakes have no discernible crab flavor, my sesame seared ahi tuna was a piece of perfectly cooked, that is to say seared on the outside and barely warm inside, very fresh fish, but it was served on a mattress of lukewarm, not-very-garlicky mashed potatoes floating on a gloppy "pinot Grigio bechamel sauce" that had started to congeal and looked (and tasted) startlingly like the coconut curry cream sauce served on the "Tower of Seafood" entree (both over $20 each). Said tower turned out to be a couple of unimpressively small panko-breaded skewers of scallops and cod on the same "garlic" mashed potatoes swimming in the aforementioned sauce.
What this place needs and is sorely missing is a chef who knows how to make ingredients come alive on the plate and on the tastebuds of his customers (like so many of our favorite guys do) rather than someone who covers it all up with ho-hum, unimaginative sauces and sides. So the next time I go out on the Sandy River, I'm heading to Tad's Chicken-and-Dumplings. (Their URL is "tadschicdump." Love it!) At least there I know I'm going to get the same terrific view and their trademark strong drinks and good old-fashioned road food simply prepared, not some pseudo-chichi mashup of overpriced "cuisine."