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Dinner & Cirque du Soleil, An Evening in Portland

I shall cut to the chase; my husband and I have a new favorite restaurant in Portland, OR.  It’s called Tabla Mediterranean Bistro.  I found it under a “Fit for Foodies” search of Portland on Open Table.  Located on 28th Ave., it took us about 15 minute drive from The Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland.

We arrived promptly for our 5:30 reservation and it didn’t take long for the restaurant to fill.  We were lucky enough to have a spot in the back next to the open kitchen.  I had previewed the menu on line prior to our trip and was aware of the pre-fix menu option of three courses (appetizer, pasta, and entrée) for $28.  I had read that their pasta was amazing, so I wanted to concentrate on a full pasta order instead of a smaller pasta course and an entrée with the pre-fix.

For an appetizer Michael had the Roasted Parsnip + Black Kale with yellow carrot puree and sunflower seeds.  I had the Spring Vegetable Salad with radish greens, feta, and market vegetables.  First, these dishes were visually stunning.  Real care and delicate placement went into the arrangement of each component on the plate.  Colorful and artistic, they were edible works of art.  Michael’s plate was smeared with a beautifully deep orange carrot puree and my plate was jeweled with colorful dots of different flavored sauces.  The flavor and eating experience didn’t disappoint either.  Both salads were simply wonderful.  It was then, that we realized we were in for a special dining experience.

For an entrée, Michael had the Mar y Montana with Spanish octopus, pork, beets and almonds.  I had the Tabla Ravioli with chard, ricotta, poached farm egg and poppy seed butter.  Once again both plates were gorgeous.  The most wonderful surprise came after my second folk slice into the large ravioli and egg yolk came slowly oozing out.  It was a real food porn moment, hence the photo.  Michael offered me small morsels of the pork, octopus and beet.  Eating them separately, each was wonderful on it’s own.  What surprised me the most was the unbelievably smooth and soft texture of the octopus.  It didn’t have the traditional slightly rubbery toothsomeness to it.

For dessert, we opted for the house made salted caramel gelato.  They also brought us a sample of blue cheese gelato.  Yes, you heard me right and it was such a unique experience.  The salted caramel was as you’d expect – pretty flippin good!  But the blue cheese really blew me away.  It was creamy, refreshing and blue cheese was not overpowering at all.  It simply worked, wonderfully.  I deemed it would have won the judges over on Top Chef for sure.

Overall, this restaurant is indeed “fit for foodies”.  The plates are crafted with a great deal of thought, care and skill.  The artisticness didn’t feel stuffy or pretentious as often “foodie” restaurants can, with the head chef saying loud and clear “Hey, look what I can do!” on the plate.  These dishes were creative, unique and truly a mindful pairing of ingredients.

Now it’s off to the circus.  Cirque du Soleil’s Big Top is on a tour with OVO (meaning egg in Portuguese).  The Big Top is for all Cirques shows that are non-resident IE touring shows.  Resident or permanent shows are for example any of the seven in Las Vegas such as O, Ka, Love, etc.

It really gets the excitement going to see the big blue & yellow striped tents, you know you are in for something special.  I have had a love affair with Cirque since first seeing O in Las Vegas many years ago.  Resident or touring show, Cirque is NOT to be missed!  Save the money, eat ramen for a month, go without cable, do what you have to do, but if they come to your town, you need to go!

Ovo is the story of a bug’s life – no not the Disney story.  But Cirque’s creative take on bugs and insects.  A story is woven around an egg appearing in an outside patch and how the surrounding bugs deal with it.  As with all Cirque shows, one never knows where to look.  Its sensory overload with music, lighting, sets, costumes, colors, textures, make-up, staging, not to mention the characters & acts.  I’m always in awe, wonder and absolute amazement.

Audience participation is almost mandatory, but who wouldn’t want to?  The characters enjoy teasing the patrons and that’s what makes the show special.  Unlike anything else I have ever experienced, Cirque makes the brilliant choice to involve its audience members, often calling them onto the stage.  Case in point, the last time we saw O in Las Vegas, two clowns took Michael and his stepfather up to center stage and danced with them in front of a packed house.  After seeing a Cirque show, you have a wonderful sense of community.  You, the other audience members and the cast were on this really special journey together – something you will never forget.

I shall conclude with the warm and fuzzy feeling one has after having an amazing weekend.  What an incredible journey – fantastic food, an amazing show, great digs for a night and I wouldn’t want to have experienced it with anyone else.

Bon Appétit!

http://www.tmbistro.com/

http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/ovo/show/about.aspx

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