Every month or so we travel down to Oregon to meet with friends and visit our favorite places to dine. On this trip we headed out to the coast to meet with the Sam Kam group for a bit of camping on the coast, but on the way back home we stopped for a night’s stay in Portland to drop off a completed wedding book with a new bride. Since we were in town we figured it was time to take advantage of a very sweet gift from a family of close friends and clients. The Gronewold family had given us a gift certificate redeemable at either of two of Portland’s finest restaurants owned by the same company and located in the same building.
The Sage Restaurant Group owns both Departure and the Urban Farmer restaurants located at 525 SW Morrison in downtown Portland. The two eateries are distinctly different in their approaches to fine dining. Departure is located on the top floor of the skyscraper and has a distinctly hip Pan Asian flair, touting it’s traditional cooking techniques learned in the Far East, while the Urban Farmer prides itself on redefining the modern steakhouse concept using local Northwest ingredients to create a sustainable connection between the diner and local farmers, ranchers, and distillers. Faced with the choice, we decided to try out the Urban Farmer for the evening.
Located about midway through the skyscraper, elevator doors opened to an inviting open air dining area where we felt immediately welcome. The seating areas have very subtle partitions that give the illusion of privacy in an otherwise open space. The serving staff was attentive, conversational and knowledgeable about the menu, while flawlessly presenting each item.
Natasha feels that the reputation of any establishment rises and falls with the bread service, and in this regard the Farmer started out superbly. The yeasty rolls, combined with the extremely cool cornbread baked and served in a can were delicious.
We started with a subtle yet flavorful chicken soup that featured crispy corn dumplings. How does Urban Farmer keep the dumplings crispy? They wait to add the broth to the bowl in a table top presentation that signifies their dedication to preparing food in the freshest possible manner. The soup was light and delicious.
For the main course, we went with steaks and a few sides. Here in the PNW, mac & cheese is pretty much an entree unto itself, and it rarely escapes inclusion at our table when trying out new restaurants. The baked mac & cheese, with cherry tomato and brioche crumbs, was exactly what anyone could desire in this iconic dish.
We also went with the twice baked fingerling potato tart with aged cheddar cheese, bacon, and chives. Yes, we ran the risk of a cardiac arrest, but sometimes it’s too difficult to decide. The tart was heavy, loaded with a little too much creamy, and the potatoes got lost in the fray. It was tasty, but nowhere near as good as the mac.
Of course the real reason we chose the Urban Farmer was the wide range of local beef choices. We couldn’t go wrong with a wonderful Montana, Oregon, or California select cuts. The strip steaks were flawless. The preparation, seasoning, and presentation in the sizzling skillet combined to make this the best steak dinner I have ever had in Oregon.
The comfortable seating, friendly professional staff, and superb menu make this a must-stop the next time you are visiting Portland. Thank you to the Gronewolds for the recommendation and opportunity to enjoy this splendid steakhouse.