Gresham Street, Ashland, July 25, 2012—IT TURNS OUT that most of the restaurants in this town are owned by a single family. Well, "most" is an exaggeration: but most of the ones we've been gravitating toward: Pasta Piatti, Mix, Sesame, Amuse…
This interests us because it's an interesting process, finding a restaurant that 1) four couples can agree on 2) can accommodate eight diners at a table 3) and serve them dinner by eight o'clock. (We generally have a play to get to after dinner.)
Tonight we settled on one of the high-end, white-tablecloth restaurants in town. I've mulled over that "white-tablecloth" description before. It's not completely satisfactory; lots of places have white linen these days (whether linen, cotton, or polyester being another matter). I mean by the category a restaurant with a certain standard of service, a certain knowledgeability about food, a certain attention to finish.
We began, for example, with a choice of still or sparkling water. Amuse-gueules appeared once our orders had been taken, introduced discreetly lest there be among us a diner or two unfamiliar with the concept. (I quite recommend the Wikipedia entry on the subject.) There was none, of course. We'd expect a restaurant called Amuse to offer amuse-gueules. Mine was a small cup of quite nice tomato-red pepper soup.
I started with a salad: shaved fennel, narrow-leaf arugula, a gently hard-boiled egg halved, with Meyer lemon dressing and a little bit of pickled onion; a nice salad that I'd have preferred tossed rather than layered.
Then an enormous pork chop grilled over wood, with flageolets, collard greens, a very nice piperade, garnished with some thick pieces of tasty bacon. A chop this size is hard to grill to my taste; this one seemed a little dry, cooked perhaps too slowly. The flavor was first-rate, judiciously salted, and the vegetables very nicely done. This is, to my awareness, the best upscale restaurant within the city limits.
Sauvignon blanc, Kriselle Cellars (Oregon), 2010 (light, undistinguished); Côtes du Rhône, Clos du Caillou "Vielles Vignes," 2009 (rich and deep)• Amuse Restaurant, 15 N. First Street, Ashland, Oregon; 541.488.9000