Thursday, August 26, 2010

A second look at Departure

525 SW Morrison Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM

We arrived at Departure promptly at four to find that the best of the outdoor seating had already been taken. Apparently you have to get there super early to get the good seats. With the temperature in the nineties, we opted to sit inside after spending just a few minutes out on the balcony overlooking the buildings of downtown Portland. It's a great view from the fifteenth floor of the old Meier and Frank building (and the new Nines Hotel)...but it's not worth the heat or the potential sunburn. Thankfully this place offers a late night menu as well, which has more to it than the happy hour menu. We'll have to try it again when we can enjoy a cool night and the sparkle of the city lights.

The theme at Departure is done fairly well. The servers all matched in their flight attendant style. (It really did remind me of the signature blue skirt suits worn by the KLM flight attendants.) The hallways were even narrow like that of a plane, and I swear I had to step over other people's feet to get to the restroom.

We had ordered drinks while sitting out in the heat. Moving inside caused a bit of a setback with servers, it seemed. Our original server brought our drinks but we were left for quite a while before anyone asked if we would be interested in ordering something to eat as well. I attributed this to our moving, but noticed that the service following our move wasn't what it could have been. There were plenty of servers in all, and they seemed quite knowledgeable when delivering our food (they announce every little thing) but they weren't as quick to check up on us when our glasses emptied or when it was obvious that we were ready for the bill.

The happy hour menu includes both discounts on drinks and food. There are five dollar glasses of wine--both red and white--as well as a bubbly option, and they've got one specialty cocktail of the day for the same price. Today's cocktail was a mix of gin, something fruity that I thought was Framboise when it was first described to us but heard something totally different when it was said a second time by a second server, and lemon and lime juices. (I might be missing something. It's much easier to share when I see it on a menu rather than just hear it from the server.) I do know--with confidence--that it was very similar to a sweet tart. It was part fruit and part fizz. It was refreshing and I saw a lot more go out on trays so I'm guessing it was well-liked by others as well.

The happy hour menu had just a couple of vegetarian options but I was pleased to learn that the Maki Sushi roll of the day was something I could eat. It was a roll of asparagus, cucumber and daikon radish with a mustard sauce. Like all sushi, it was presented nicely with the cutest little pot of soy sauce on the side. I was apparently too hungry to remember to take a picture and am now almost too embarrassed to show you the half-eaten plate in an excessively cropped picture. (Yikes! How could I forget, this is business...not dinner.) The sushi was fresh and the vegetables had a great crunch to them but I'm afraid that the mustard completely overpowered the other flavors and ruined the overall flavor quality. I was disappointed with this but also with the price. Seven dollars would seem appropriate for a roll that included tuna or salmon but was a bit steep for a few veggies rolled together with rice. Even considering the mark up for being in a classy place with a beautiful view, this was a bit excessive.

I also ordered a dish of Wok Fired Mushrooms. It was a mix of mushrooms and green onions and was obviously cooked with a whole lotta soy sauce. I love salty things but this was almost over the top.

In the end, I spent too much for too little. I am always really impressed when I can go out for happy hour in the afternoon and not show any signs of hunger for the remainder of the evening. After happy hour at Departure, I was ready for dinner. I would like to give it a second chance but will go in after a full meal for fancy drinks, a great view, and time spent with friends.

Food: Nearly Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Nearly Meets
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Nearly Meets



  1. One thing I didn't mention in my review but meant to was that their website really needs to be updated/revised. It is really difficult to navigate and isn't up to date (nothing I ordered was on the website). When I go to a company website that isn't very good it makes me think the product may not be very good either.