Trattoria Athena Communal Dinner
I've been talking a lot about focusing on doing more special events and tastings to keep myself excited and to provide a better service to all my customers, but I by no means have a monopoly on excitement. Plenty of restaurants and shops are already playing around presenting food and wine in different ways. I decided I ought to go and see what some other restaurants are already doing before I leapt in.
Although Trattoria Athena is a customer of mine and I've heard a lot of great feed back about them, I haven't had a chance to eat there, so when I heard they were doing communal suppers every Sunday I leapt at the chance. The restaurant is a small, but beautiful space so they just push all the tables together into one long arrangement and write the menu up on a chalk board at the far end. The only seating is at 4 and we were greeted with fresh bread, olives, and olive oil on the table. My friend and I had time to look over the wine list and order a competitor's wine, Domaine Sigalas Santorini. Just like excitement, I don't have a monopoly on good wine, and I would get bored if I exclusively drank my own. The Sigalas was excellent; rich, full, dry, with good acidity and minerality.
The first dish was a soup of chicken stock, rice, and lemon juice. It was delicious and totally new to me. I never would have thought of this combination of flavors on my own; that alone made it a good experience for me by expanding my horizons. The lemon was perfectly in balance with the rich chicken stock and it ended up being hearty and bright at the same time.
Second course was roasted lamb and tomatoes served with orzo. The lamb was great; I mean where can you go wrong with this preparation? I guess if you were determined to screw it up you could over cook the lamb and dry it out. They certainly didn't! It was tender enough I barely used my knife. The fresh gamey taste of the lamb was very springy and was counterbalanced nicely by the white Santorini.
After the lamb, dishes of rainbow chard were brought out, followed by platters of pan roasted skate wing mixed with grilled sword and monkfish. All were again well executed, perfectly cooked and paired with a nice tzatziki sauce as well as a sauce made of potatoes that I have forgotten the name of. My Fail. It was a tasty mix of potato, vinegar, and horseradish and an excellent pair to the fish. The sword and monkfish had a nice touch of char that was a good balance to the refreshing sauces.
Dessert was a little syrup soaked polenta cake with scoops of delicate house made ice cream on top. I was distracted at this point by a dessert wine from the isle of Samos and a French press of coffee, so I didn't pay as much attention to it as I should have.
Overall it was a great meal. Having it in a communal setting was great (although I was caught up talking business with my friend and didn't do much communing with the people around me). I really enjoyed the straight forward purity of the food and it's cleanly expressed flavors. Trattoria Athena is totally worth the drive. Particularly considering the whole dinner was just $30 per person! $30 for four courses of great food is quite a deal. I honestly couldn't have prepared a similar meal as well at home for that cost. If you're looking for tasty, satisfying, authentic Mediterranean food and want a change from Portland I strongly recommend them.
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