One of the many neat things about having a son for a sous chef (and, in the past, a second son in the same kitchen as a line/prep cook) is you never know what sort of goodie you just might get as a surprise when you go to the restaurant.
Sunday night when I watched our waiter bringing us a full-sized white dinner plate right after we'd ordered our appetizers and entrees, I wondered if Lamont had sent us a great big surprise--quenelles of wasabi, the bright green, extremely hot food he had me try years ago at Little Tokyo, a very popular Japanese restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi. I watched the plate come closer. I recognized a scallop beneath the quenelle. "Ah, scallops," I swooned, vividly remembering my first ever scallop, at Three Doors Down when we visited in the summer of 2005. Seconds later we knew what we had--from bottom to top--a slice of oven-roasted baby golden beet, a slice of oven-roasted cippolini onion, a pan-seared scallop, and a quenelle of green pea and truffle puree.
The four of us, Tony, Melissa, Danielle, and I, sat there, looking at the colorful, inviting dish for a moment. Then we each got one and took our first bites. Repeated "Ohs," and "Oohs," and "This is delicious," and "Wow," came from our mouths as we slowly devoured our first appetizer. Momentarily satiated, I completely forgot to photograph our second appetizer, dungeness crab cake, micro-greens salad and Mama Lil's Hungarian pepper tarter sauce. I don't eat crab, but the other three continued to repeat those same words as they made short work of it.
My turn to repeat those sounds and phrases came with our third shared appetizer, ricotta gnocchi with fava beans, shimeji mushrooms, paresan and black pepper. You can tell, though, that we all had a bite before I got the camera out for the photo. Three Doors Down is where I ate my first gnocchi.
Melissa's entree, from the risotto/pasta section of the menu, prawns, mussels, scallops in a traditional spicy fra diavolo sauce of plum tomatoes, chili flakes, kalamata olives, cherry peppers and fettuccine.
My entree, from the entree section of the menu, pan roasted sturgeon with smoked bacon, cippolini onions, fava beans, morel mushrooms and mashed potatoes.
Danielle and Tony's appetizer, from the risotta/pasta section of the menu, plum tomatoes, vodka, cream, chili flake and sweet Italian sausage with rigatoni. Three Doors Down's best-known dish.
All I can say is that every bite I ate was great and the three of them said the same about their food. I want you to understand, though, that I truly believe that even if my son, and at other times my two sons, didn't work there, I'd still have the same reaction to every bite I have ever enjoyed at Three Doors Down. Dave and Kathy, chef and owners, set high standards for food and drink and service and have held themselves and their staff to those standards since opening in 1994.
After a short wait to let our entrees settle a bit, we ordered dessert, four different ones. Tony grew up eating his mother's cannoli (description from the menu: a crisp pastry shell stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese, chocolate chips, citrus zest and crushed pistachios), so that's what he wanted. We three ladies shared a slice of banana cream pie (description from the menu: bananas layered with pastry cream in a graham cracker, brown sugar and banana crust topped with whipped cream, shaved chocolate and caramel sauce), a slice of bocca negra (description from the menu: chocolate bourbon torte with white chocolate bourbon cream), and a serving of creole bread pudding (description from the menu: white chocolate custard, cinnamon and raisins baked and served with a hard sauce). I confess, by the time the desserts arrived, my camera was the farthest thing from my mind.
Sunday evening at Three Doors Down Cafe, another wonderful memory made in Portland centered around family, friends and food.
UPDATED TO ADD: I remembered that I had a photo of the banana cream pie from 2004, taken with my Nikon CoolPix.