Modern romance goes a bit classic
Three music-and-meals places pull dates out of the doldrums
Since most modern dates consist of taking in dinner and a movie while dressed in nothing finer than jeans and a sweater, it's no wonder that the notion of supper set to smooth jazz is a highly romanticized one. If the archetypal big-city night on the town is a thing of the past, with a bit of imagination these clubs can still sweep you away to another era.
The Blue Monk
With waitresses clad in cute Blue Monk baby T's and an affordable menu, Portland's newest wine-dine-and-listen entrant definitely skews young but seems to embrace everybody. A mellow paint job, cool test-tube light fixtures above the bar and blue lantern lights in the windows have helped transform the space from its former It's a Beautiful Pizza days. The kitchen, dining room and one bar fill the upstairs room, but customers also can order drinks and food from the downstairs lounge, which hosts performers such as Alan Jones, Silky and the Ramsey Embick Trio.
The kitchen is more impressive than one might suspect. Chicken Parmesan is refined and deliciously gooey at the same time, and a recent special of thick, baked halibut was accompanied by piquant olive-tomato risotto. Wine by the glass is served in juice glasses, but at least it's a generous pour. And the extensive beer list will delight trivia hounds: each beer is tagged with an alcohol percentage and the year of the brewery's inception, e.g., 'John Courage 5.1% Amber Ale from England since 1787.'
3341 S.E. Belmont St., 503-595-0575
The dress code is casual, but aided by a snazzy black-and-white-checked tile floor, clubby green upholstery and grand chandeliers, the Brasserie Montmartre still evokes old-school glamour. The swank factor increases with a K. Rae's martini Ñ Grey Goose vodka with a splash of Chambord and a twist Ñ and some plump, hot-and-sweet prawns.
The surprising thing about the brasserie is its fairly low price point. Most entrees are around $15, and while they're a bit passŽ, they are very well executed. Tender chicken breast is stuffed with chvre, crabmeat and spinach and sliced into rounds for a classic presentation. A fresh, warm loaf of bread accompanies each meal, and service is swift and professional. Jazz musicians from Everything's Jake to the Gordon Lee Trio play on an enclosed stage every night of the week at a volume that permits conversation.
626 S.W. Park Ave., 503-224-5552
Jazz de Opus & Opus Too
This 1972 Old Town fixture is worlds apart from garish neighboring nightspot Banana Joe's. The wood-paneled lounge's small stage and low ceilings make for a big sound when Tom Grant or Mary Kadderly take the floor. Perch atop one of the swiveling bar stools with comfy seat backs for the best spot in the house. The cuisine is in keeping with Jazz de Opus' traditional ethos: New York strip steak, Oysters Rockefeller and saganaki. For something lighter and cheaper, the bar menu offers a good range of satisfying sandwiches and salads.
33 N.W. Second Ave., 503-222-6077