Portland Dining Month - The Departure @ the Nines Review
Updated: Mar 15
This month I found out about the annual Portland Dining Month. In March every year in Portland, Oregon a group of renowned restaurants known for Portland's most coveted dining experiences create a special three course menu that they offer at $33 a person. These menus are masterminded by the chefs of each restaurant and reflect expert pairing and presentation.
I am on my first year of this experience, and know very little about the history or purpose of it. All I really know is that it is organized through and sponsored by Travel Portland. Knowing next to nothing about what to expect or what I was getting myself into, I took a simple approach and looked at the list of the participating restaurants and chose the closest restaurant to me. I was in Pioneer Square, so the Departure Restaurant at the Nines Hotel won.
The Departure Restaurant @ the Nines Luxury Hotel in Downtown Portland
525 SW MORRISON STREET PORTLAND, OR 97204
CUhl Rating (out of 5 stars)
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I called to make my reservation for one and they got me in right away. When you enter the Nines there are bellman and front desk agents surrounding the entry to open the door and answer any questions. They politely directed me to the elevators in order to head to the 15th floor. Everything was well thought out down to the very last detail. The theme seemed to create a feeling of being in a luxury airplane in the sky. There were private lounges, multiple dining areas and a cozy bar. The hosts were very welcoming and kind.
I got a little table on a bench with multiple tables right in front of a large window overlooking the city and the Willamette River. My server was incredible at her job. She found out that it was my first time there and was very good at explaining the exact information I needed. I decided for the Portland Dining Month Menu and I had two options for first course and two options for my second course with a set dessert for either.
She recommended a cocktail that wound up being one of the best flavor combinations I had experienced since I was at the infusion bar back home. It was called Issun-Boshi and the menu described it as Azunia reposado tequila, PX Sherry, Montelobos mezcal, liquid Koji; bright, soft, smokey. It was the perfect amount of smoke and sweet and the chili rim added a small little kick that complimented the the bright tones in the beverage perfectly. The presentation included a large cube that had an Asian writing character built into it.
For course one I let my server choose for me and ended up getting the Shaved Collards and Roots. It was delicious and was similar to a tossed salad, The collard greens were crisp and fresh and the roots were a nice crispy crunch. The peanut dressing was the perfect compliment to the shaved nori and sesame seeds that came on top. It was healthy portion for a first course and I ate every last bite.
For the main course I chose the Wok Fired Mussels. The mussels came in a bowl on a plate with a side bowl of rice, so naturally I dumped the rice on the plate and poured the mussels and all the broth over the rice. Mmm Mmm this was a delicious dish. The mussels were plump and healthy. The sauce had a delicious spice to it and the basil undertone gave a fresh note at the end of each bite. The rice added a perfect amount of starch to make it nice and filling.
As a self proclaimed sweet tooth, the dessert was my favorite part. It was a delicate chocolate custard topped with toasted marshmallow, peanut coconut milk ice cream, edible flowers, and "nibs" which were a salty and crunchy blend of seeds, nuts, and a perfectly prominent amount of salt. It was a flavor medley I have certainly not experienced anywhere else. This course was also very pleasantly a generous size, and in my mind, superb in every way.
Just before I got my third course, the couple next to me was presented with their dessert which was a soup; yup you read that right. Not only was this meal and this dining experience impressive and memorable, but it definitely left me wanting to come back and try the other options on the menu. I am definitely gonna check this place out again on a warm summer day because the only part I didn't get to see was their award winning patio where they keep the bees that make all the honey they use in house.
Portland Dining Month is a great idea and a stellar deal. It's by far the most affordable way to see what Portland's most amazing chefs have to offer. If food is important to your travel, then you should absolutely choose March as the time to visit Portland and take advantage of the impressive list of wonderful restaurants that participate in Portland Dining Month.