Nipping at the heels of The Golden Dish review, I also had an opportunity to dine at Ebb & Flow during its inaugural week. With Angelo Ciocca and chef William D’Auvray at the helm, perhaps 100 Commercial Street is finally ready to leave its distinguishing mark on the food map. Over the past few years this spot seemed to struggle with finding a long-term identity. Its previous incarnation was Spread and before that it was a Brazilian steakhouse. I only had a couple of dining experiences during its days as Spread and while the food was super tasty (duh, Fred Eliot was in the kitchen), service was seriously lacking. This came at less of a surprise once I discovered the owners have a hand in Fuji, one of the only restaurants in Portland I will go out of my way to dissuade people from trying due to an egregious lack of hospitality. This is particularly unfortunate because the food is quite good, but the service issues I experienced time after time are unforgivable. For the record, the only other place I’ve blacklisted (and for food quality instead of service) is the now-obsolete Mesa Verde, due to become Lazzari though I haven’t noticed any sign of life within the space since it was announced, but I digress…
Under its new ownership, Ebb & Flow does seem to have a warmer and streamlined atmosphere, much less cavern-like though it doesn’t appear the massive square footage has been reduced in any way. Trivial as it may be, my only observation about decor had to do with the seat cushion along the wall. I kept thinking I left pita crumbs all over it and was trying to brush them off, but whatever the material was had a granular texture on the surface. I know that’s such a bizarre thing to pick up on, but it was totally messing with my head. Anyway, on to the food!
The za’atar-spiced pita was the perfect vessel for the cold eggplant salad. I was definitely still tearing away at the flatbread after the salad was long gone. Click on the pita picture below to see the magic from within the Ebb & Flow oven! The cauliflower soup took savory to another level with the inclusion of rock crab and chorizo. The server who delivered my lamb keftedakia declared it “the king of dishes.” I may have to try a few more items for comparison, but I’m a pretty happy camper with lamb meatballs especially with such a nice char on them. I always think it’s cool when waitstaff can pick out a personal favorite on the menu and not necessarily recommend based on what’s trending. In that same vein, I still had some room left, but wasn’t ready to take on a main without putting the prospect of dessert at risk. One of the other servers suggested the Portland Roll, but I felt the ingredients were somewhat repetitious between my soup and pita. Instead they pointed me towards the croquetas, which were bursting with truffle flavor, The richness of this dish (hint: use the lemon wedge, it’s there for a reason) may only have Five Fifty-Five’s mac & cheese as a rival. I finished out the meal with a phyllo-based dessert. It was reminiscent of an oversized frosted Mini-Wheat and akin to the cereal, it had just the right amount of sweetness to it.
I am very optimistic about what Chef D’Auvray and his team are putting out so far. I commend them for breaking the ‘tourist trap’ mold that seems to plague much of Commercial Street. I consider that to be a major step in the right direction. I sincerely hope they manage to shake off whatever ‘bad juju’ is leftover from the two previous tenants and I promise to get a main course under my belt next time around!