was given a gift certificate around the holidays and have been saving it for a special occasion. The other night, my fiancé and I decided to go out for a quiet romantic dinner together and determined that we could accomplish just that at Natasha's.
I made a reservation just to be on the safe side it being a Saturday night and all. We were able to call in at 6:45 and hold a 7:30 reservation in the same evening. We left a bit early knowing ahead of time that parking in that area is difficult but luckily we did not have a problem finding a space on a neighboring side street.
The restaurant was quite crowded with mostly middle-aged couples contrasting with the young age of the servers and kitchen staff. The warm ambience in the restaurant can be attributed to the dark red walls, dim lighting, and small white candles adorning each table. The actual climate was a bit warmer than comfortable which I assumed was due to the fact that a large section of the kitchen opens up onto the dining room.
We decided to order a nice bottle of 1996 red wine, Chateau Saint-Andre Corbin ($25) to start our meal. Our waitress served our wine along with a small basket of delicious crusty bread and a dish of flavor infused olive oil dashed with black pepper. We quickly finished our bread before we even decided what to order for dinner. The menu was a one-page card with a moderate amount of selections for appetizers and entrees in addition to the three or four specials for the evening. I chose the Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Belgian olives, tomato, puff pastry crouton and a balsamic vinaigrette ($7.50) while my fiancé opted for the Merlot Braised Apple Medallion wrapped in a grape leaf and broiled with brie ($5.95) to start. My salad consisted of a few large whole pieces of romaine, four tiny slices of fresh mozzarella, three thin slices of tomato, five fresh black olives and lots of balsamic vinaigrette. Unfortunately they left out the crouton, which I spied on someone else's salad later in the evening, which I may have used to soak up the excess dressing. This was a perfect sized salad with just enough variety of flavors and not too much of any one ingredient. My fiancé 's appetizer was a fascinating concoction of a large slice of warm apple with sweet red sauce and melted brie. Normally he avoids fruits at all costs but he savored every bite of his apple medallion.
For dinner I decided upon the Fired Garlicky Chicken marinated in herbs dé provence and flame grilled, served over roasted garlic mashed potatoes with a creamed spinach and vine tomato caponato ($13.95). Everything was excellent. There was no creamed spinach to be found, which I didn't mind, but someone looking forward to that aspect of the entrée may have missed it. The two pieces of boneless chicken were perfectly grilled so that the marinade blackened onto the moist chicken giving it a sweet, garlic flavor. The mashed potatoes were deliciously rich and the tomato caponato, similar to stewed tomatoes, was a great vegetable counterpart. Normally I am able to stop eating when I feel satiated but this meal was just so addicting that I was absolutely stuffed when I was through. My dining companion was enjoying his entrée equally as I relished every morsel on my plate. He had ordered the Crispy Peanut Tofu ($13.50), quick fried tofu tossed in peanut sauce of Pad Thai seasoning and served over sushi rice with red pepper, bean sprouts and a side of kim chi. The entrée came with a pair of chopsticks for those sticklers on eating Asian style food with the correct utensils. The sushi rice came in tiny balls dipped in a sticky sweet batter and then fried.
One particular aspect I especially enjoyed about Natasha's was that the menu, even with it's unique meal descriptions, did not disclose every detail and we were both happily amazed by the ultimate meal presentation. The actual didn't veer at all from the expectations we had from reading the menu, there were just a few additional creative surprises.
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Needles to say, neither one of us had room for dessert after finishing our bottle of wine, two baskets of bread, appetizers and main courses. The final bill came to $70.51 plus tip, reasonable considering that the wine covered a good portion of the price. The overall atmosphere was slightly casual, quiet, and intimate, just as we were hoping for.
Tracy B. Wheeler is a classical flutist and freelance writer who lives in Portland.