Bread and Brew
In a perfect world, every neighborhood would have its own perfect little bistro. Roost comes close to filling that role for lower Southeast Belmont, the mainly residential area between 21st and 12th avenues.
Roost is cute, bright and cozy, and hugs the line between food for special nights out and for nights when you just don't feel like cooking: whole Dungeness crabs, skirt steak, pork stew.
Ideally, though, there would some entrees for under $15, some hard liquor and a little less frying.
Not that fried isn't good, especially in Roost's version of cauliflower fritters. Rather than being battered, succulent whole florets were just barely coated in a crisp layer of breadcrumbs and fried to a nice, toasty brown. They sat in a pool of mustard sauce - there should have been more for dipping - next to a big yellow lemon wedge.
A smoked trout appetizer was very generous. The trout was smoky and firm, and chunks of it were heaped onto fresh brown bread which was a tad too sweet for the smoky fish, although it was tempered by crème fraiche, watercress, and matchstick slices of green apple.
A side of broccolini was the highlight of an entree of deep fried Cornish game hen. No offense to the hen - it was flavorful, but just slightly overcooked. A pile of fresh watercress in vinaigrette set off the savory portions of the plate, which included a big, bland potato cake and the broccolini, bright green and shiny with herbed butter.
The menu listed Dover sole with lemon and butter, but it had been replaced with fried Dover sole, a somewhat rough treatment for delicate fish. The thin filet was overwhelmed by crunchy breading. It was served with fried diced potatoes and sautéed spinach. As a whole, the plate was a bit too greasy, and the potatoes made it seem like breakfast.
For dessert we had 'a simple chocolate trifle,' which was indeed simple, although rather than trifling, its large size spoke of abiding affection. It was heaped messily on the plate, reminding me of the unfortunate birthday cake incident of 1978. But as my mother said at the time, it tastes just as good that way. With more than enough to share, it seemed as if we could have kept spooning fluffy drifts of cream and deep lodes of chocolate into our mouths forever.
Of course I have to give Roost an extra star for serving DiStefano by the glass. It's a cabernet sauvignon from Washington state, and one of about 10 wines available by the glass and bottle.
As nice as it was to walk in on a Thursday night and have our pick of tables, I'm sure the management would have preferred a waiting list. Maybe Roost just hasn't quite caught the mood of the neighborhood yet. As boring as it sounds, pretty much everyone wants an affordable bistro burger these days, and this may not be the right time and place for a $14 burger wrapped in caul, the lacy, fatty membrane that encases the intestines of cows, sheep and pigs.
Roost, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday, 1403 S.E. Belmont St., 971-544-7136, www.roostpdx.com , entrees $14-$22