We were, it seemed, the last people in the Portland Metro area to dine at La Provence. While I’m sure that isn’t true, it felt that way. We’d been getting recommendations from friends to try it for a year or two, and we’d been picking up bread and pastries from one of the restaurant’s farmers’ market stands for quite some time. Anytime I would mention the establishment to a coworker or acquaintance, typically in the process of raving about their baked goods, I would get the apparently obligatory, “You haven’t been to the restaurant in Lake Oswego yet?!” Well, after going to the theater to see “The Hundred Foot Journey” a month or so ago, Chels and I were desperately craving some French food, and we happened to be at theater down the street from the restaurant, so we went.
French restaurants are not particularly common in Portland, and La Provence’s take on the dining experience is not particularly common either. The local company has two “La Provence” locations, as well as four “Petite Provence” bistros (also the name used for the farmers’ market stands) in the Portland area. As of this writing, we’ve only been to the original Lake Oswego location, but we have now visited twice – we simply couldn’t get our first visit out of our minds, and had to go back!
I’m sure you can tell what my opinion of this marvelous little Pacific Northwest French outpost is going to be.
Simply put, on our first visit for dinner, Chels and I were absolutely blown away. We requested a change of tables (there’re a grouping of tables on one side of the patio that provide very little privacy – you’re perhaps a foot or two from the next table) to a bit further out on the patio, and we asked for the same table when we returned the second time. It’s out toward the end of the patio, next to a small wall, and gives a relaxing view of the surrounding neighborhood, which is residential, actually. We haven’t yet eaten inside, though I anticipate that will change soon.
Our server was fantastic, very excited to discover it was our first time visiting, and provided some helpful guidance on how to order from the petite entrees dinner menu. While La Provence generally does serve one full dinner meal each night (a rotating special of sorts), the petite entrees menu is relatively static, and provides a fascinating way to eat dinner. Each of the petite entrees are either $5.95 or $6.95, and there are probably about twenty to choose from. For our first time out, we chose five of them. As they come to the table, we shared each one, creating an interactive, varied, and delightful dining experience. I snapped a few pictures with my phone (I hate making a scene with the DSLR in a restaurant) the second time we went, and I’ll share some of those with you below.
The photo at the beginning of this post is of the Artichoke Risotto Croquettes, probably our favorite dish so far. We ordered it both times, and it was amazing both times.
These are the Pommes Frites à la Truffe. Ordering French fries at a French restaurant? Oh, yes, tossed in truffle oil, with a roasted garlic aioli, you better believe it. These were an outstanding way to start the meal. The best part about ordering them, though, was when the waiter, with an almost painful look on his face, asked, “Now…you don’t want…ketchup…do you?” Rest easy, my friend, we won’t defile these marvelous little treats with something so common as ketchup.
This was the incredible part – zero grease. Fries with no grease. This it the bottom of the serving dish, and you can see the paper is completely dry!
This is the Porc Amore. Asparagus spears in the center of a slice of pork tenderloin, surrounded by a delicious citrus sauce? Yes, please.
The bread – can’t forget the bread. Apparently served upon request (they brought it to us the first time right away, but the second time only after we asked for it), it is garnished with a fantastic herbed butter. In many ways, it’s as much a treat as the entrees!
For dessert, the number of choices is almost embarrassing, and they all sound like things you would probably be quite willing to actually fly to Paris for. We had the Versaille both times, though we also did a bit of a sampler on our first visit (called the La Provence Dessert Flight). I’m not sure how to describe it other than to say that if you live nearby, you must eat it to understand. If you don’t – your life may never be complete, and I feel badly about that.
A tiny cup of espresso is offered with dessert, and for a moment, all seems right in the world.
A couple of other entrees we would strongly recommend if you go: the cheese plate is out of this world, and the Seared Scallops with Summer Coulis will absolutely transport your tastebuds to paradise. Yes, they have escargot, and, no, we haven’t worked up the courage to try it.
What else? They have a full coffee bar inside, wine is served from the barrel, and the bakery offers a wide variety of divine-looking concoctions to go, including cakes. The restaurant is apparently best known for it’s breakfast and lunch, but the opportunity to eat French food for dinner is so rare and exquisite here, it seems like too good a chance to pass up. Here are a few shots of the bakery I snapped on our way out.
So, our recommendation? Stop everything you are doing, and go. You won’t regret it.
16350 Boones Ferry Rd.
Lake Oswego, OR 97035