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
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
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.
Think of it as the Taj Mahal morphed into a Pacific Northwest
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.
– About eight entrees.
– 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.
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.
– Expensive, entrees $15.95 - $24.95
223 – 2995
852 S.W. 21st Ave.