A RETURN TO VISION – The Oregonian

Plainfield’s Mayur has scored a number of local firsts through the years. Back in the 1980s, it was first to use the authentic heat-blasted tandoori oven, creating distinctive dishes that simply can’t be produced in a regular oven. At the same time, the owners moved Indian cuisine beyond simple dishes from the subcontinent to elegant – and expensive – regal feasts in a beautiful Victorian house filled with ornate Indian artifacts and pristine tables.
But in the early 90s, Plainfield’s stumbled on its own groundbreaking format, developing a deadly reputation for snooty service and overpriced dishes that lacked the original spark.
Judging by several recent visits, it’s clear that Plainfield’s is back and ready to be a serious player again. The kitchen has regained a firm footing, producing dynamite dishes of tender meats cradled in complex sauces, plus an impressive selection of creative appetizers and vegetarian dishes.
And while the servers still sport elite-looking black ties and cummerbunds, all other traces of snobbery have vanished. Plainfield’s crew seems genuinely glad to have you back into their fold – and would you like another spot of chai tea to go with that goodwill?
The feeling goes a long way, but not nearly as far as the usually knock-out food.
Appetizers are interesting and strong. Dahi wada kicks meals off with one of the kitchen’s most –interesting sauces: golf ball sized bits of nutty lentils are fried, then doused in a yogurt sauce rich with ginger and coriander. They pair nicely with vegetarian samosas, flaky triangles pf pastry filled with soft bits of potato and spices, or spice-coated prawns sautéed in butter and coated with a slightly sweet masala sauce.

From there, things get even more interesting, with dished like a yogurt marinaded tandoori rack of lamb, duck breast in almond sauce or a velvet butter chicken with smoky overtones competing for attention. All are worth knowing, as are two shellfish standouts: masala malai pairs silver dollor sized scallops with mushroom caps in a thick sauce rich with onions, cream and garlic; jhinga malia teams sautéed prawns and onions with a sauce fueled by coconut milk, raisins and almonds.
Vegetarians will find many options, too, from balls of Indian cheese stuffed with raisins and pistachios, to spicy fried okra in a delicate sesame sauce. But with meatless options running $14.95-$17.95, they won’t find any bargains, either.

But what a wine list it is, ranking among the city’s finest: several hundred bottles are drawn from respected vintners, with particular emphasis on California and Northwest cabernets. Its an impressive collection – well worth studying while waiting for appetizers to arrive – and reflects the personal tastes of the owner. But it may not match the tastes of most diners. Lighter German and Australian wines, not heavy reds, are a better match for the fire and spice of the Indian cuisine and white varieties from these regions get only small representation here. With prices ranging from around $25 to $750, servers should offer specific recommendations on which vintages pair best with ordered entrees, but little guidance is given. Ordering wine blindly is an expensive gamble.

Plainfield’s after-dinner wine list is where the fruits of the vine most shine. A strong list of sherries and ports is outdone only by a world class selection of Madeiras, some vintages dating back to the 18th century. Glasses are poured by the ounce, and most one – ounce pours are priced around $15. For Madeira newcomers, it sounds like a lot to pay for an experiment, but given the quality of the list, its one that can be done with great confidence.
And what better way to toast Plainfield’s return as one of the Portland’s most distinctive restaurants that with a glass of something at once rich, rare and rarefied. Like its tasty masalas and choice sips, this is a place to be savored.


Style of cooking – Upscale Indian.
Atmosphere – Think of it as the Taj Mahal morphed into a Pacific Northwest Victorian.
Must have dishes – Startes of Dahi wada, fried lentil balls and vegetarian samosas; light and chewy naan, an oven baked flatbread; scallops in a spicy cream sauce; prawns in saffron and almond sauce; ginger and mint-scented tandoori rack of lamb; creamy spiced okra; mango cheese cake and a rose scented ice cream.
Vegetarian options – About eight entrees.
Strength – Complex seasonings in sauces give dishes distinctive richness; ambitious entrees you won’t find at other Indian restaurants; the selection of Madeira dessert wine is the best in town.
Flaw – Serious checks – dinner for two with an in-expensive bottle of wine easily can top $100; the wine list; while impressive, offers few bargains, and server’s don’t always offer clear advice on pairing wines by Indian cuisine.
Price Range – Expensive, entrees $15.95 - $24.95
Hours – 5.30-10.00pm daily
Phone – 223 – 2995
Address – 852 S.W. 21st Ave.

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