Monday, July 5, 2010

Smokin' Hash

Abbe and Jebby are at it again and this time they have conquered Hash on SE 17th.

Abbe’s Meal: Corned Beef Hash
So, in our previous post you may have read how I’m a big advocate for big breakfasts…well, Hash sort of disappointed me in this aspect. Perhaps I’m just a pig, which is a complete possibility if not a fact, but the portions here were less than exhilarating. They came to us on tiny little rectangular plates, I don’t know if this is in some attempt to make the meal look more sophisticated than it actually is, but whatever. I chose my meal after a long duration of looking over their limited menu numerous times, not wanting anything, and then finally just picking something out of boredom.

My Corned Beef came with potatoes, two poached eggs, and toast. I ordered a side of bacon with
my meal because A) I'm a pig and B) breakfast should just include bacon. The eggs were delicious, they were prepared perfectly and I’m not even a huge fan of poached eggs so there is something to be said about Hash’s poaching capabilities. The Corned Beef was tender, a bit on the dry side, which creates a chewy experience that isn’t so pleasant. The potatoes were well made, they weren’t too dry, which again I will stress is a difficult feat. Potatoes are practically innately dry objects so there is another thing to be said about well cooked potatoes that aren’t the consistency of sand. The bacon was excellent, so hats off to Hash and their bacon grilling talents behind the oven. The toast was unremarkable and not memorable.

I have to be honest about this meal. Although my eggs were good, my potatoes weren’t mini sand castles and my bacon was delicious, my overall opinion of the food isn’t the most positive. I don’t know if it was a combination of the overly contemporary atmosphere mixed with my uncomfortable 5 foot high bar stool chair at a tiny table, and the fact that I just wasn’t super excited about what I ordered, but I have to say I’m not a fan. The food was good, I'm not going to lie, but I couldn't help but feel slightly like I'd purchased overpriced petroleum jelly so the people at Hash could bend me over and shake down the remainder of the change in my already parched wallet.

Jebby's Meal: Beni Gone Wild

I'm a sucker for a good eggs benedict. There is nothing finer than cutting into a perfectly poached egg, the gooey lifeblood of it comingling with a sublime hollandaise, finding every nook and cranny of a crisp english muffin. I am also a fan of benedict variations. Along with a classic benedict (which I did not try), Hash offered an enticing sounding benedict variant with wild mushrooms, spinach, and a manchego biscuit. The menu wasn't very clear, but in my mind, I pictured a heaping pile of sliced wild mushrooms, perhaps in some sort of dark, rich sauce. The menu proclaimed cheerfully that my meal would come with "seasonal fruit," and as I looked up at the chalk specials menu, the price of ala carte seasonal fruit made my mouth water with the promise of what was to come. The meal was more expensive than what I'm used to ordering, and I was expecting something... well, something "BLIM BLAM," as Abbe and I are wont to say.

To be fair,
the meal was good. It was quite tasty. I was surprised at how small our portions were, especially when I gazed upon my "seasonal fruit." It was half of an apple, sliced into a fan, with a dark caramel sauce shot through with nuts. Are apples really even in season right now? I pondered this as I popped a slice of the apple into my mouth. It was cold and clammy. Probably a Granny Smith or a McIntosh, something tart. It also had a spongy quality I didn't like. But the caramel sauce? The caramel sauce was divine. When I turned to the meat 'n potatoes of my meal, I was surprised to find no mushrooms anywhere on my plate. Asking the waitress, she informed me that the mushrooms were baked into the biscuit. "Oh," I replied dejectedly, and cut into my egg. It was clearly poached by the hand of a master. Looking at the strata of the yolk, you could see rings of cookedness radiating out from the molten core. There was a healthy portion of (cheap) spinach on my beni, and the biscuit was crisp and cheesy, but I missed the mushrooms. I couldn't help but conclude that my biscuit contained mushroom dust. Not wild mushrooms, not meaty slices of fungus, but wild mushroom leavings. This was an intense disappointment considering the price of the meal, especially a few days later when I encountered a wedge of Manchego at the store and remarked that it was clearly not made of solid gold. When you get down to brass tacks, the food at Hash is good. Nothing to write home about, but solidly good. But after your meal, you feel a little bit like there's a little man in the back room, greedily counting the heap of dollars you forked over and laughing at your stupidity.

Our Overall Review of Hash:
To say that our first meal at Hash was a long time coming is the understatement of the year. Hash opened three short blocks away from my house in September of 2008, and I always passed by longingly, telling myself "Someday! Someday I'll eat there." That someday didn't come until Abbe moved into a duplex six blocks away from me and we vowed to try and review all of Portland's restaurants. And the rest is history, as they say. So a few weeks ago, we ate at Hash.

The space is small but remarkably open. We were greeted by a welcoming coffee stand and a waiting area full of very posh whiskey-brown leather chairs. As we sipped our coffee and waited for a table we observed the layout of the restaurant. There was a long, curved bar that enclosed the kitchen, with a smattering of abnormally tall bistro-style tables surrounded by matching abnormally tall ladderback chairs. Abbe and I nursed our coffees and a shadow of doubt passed over my mind like a dark, ominous thunderhead. How would I propel my fat tukus up on to that lofty seat with my stumpy legs? Would I fall off and make a fool of myself? Would all the chic diners snicker into their apple fans as I broke my tailbone reaching for my purse?

Here is the birds eye view from atop our skyscraper chairs.
My thoughts came back to reality as Abbe turned my attention to the art decorating the walls. The pieces were showcased without frames, a few dozen smeary canvasses adorned with wavy lines. I felt like maybe I wasn't cool enough to understand why these paintings were so expensive. And apparently, I was't the only one. "I could paint something better than that with my butt," Abbe proclaimed, indicating a painting of a streaky, misshapen lotus flower. I breathed a sigh of relief. After a brief wait, a friendly waitress showed us to our table. I gulped and waited for her to leave before I began grappling with the chair. In the end, I came out on top.

The menu at Hash is sparse, containing just three food categories - hashes, house specialties (think benedicts, pancakes and french toast), and two-egg omelettes. Though the menu was short, neither Abbe or I had ever had such a difficult time deciding what to eat at a restaurant. We had to send our patient waitress away several times before finally coming to a decision about what we wanted. Our food arrived in short order and was piping hot and tasted good, but both of us were surprised how little sustenance came on our stylish square plates. Perhaps we are too used to "American-sized" portions, but long after we'd paid our bill and gone home to our respective houses, we couldn't shake the feeling that we'd had the wool pulled over our eyes.

When all's said and done, Hash is selling style, not substance. When you eat there, the price on your bill isn't just for a modestly-sized but well made meal made from sustainable, cruelty-free, local ingredients. You pay for the privilege of sitting at a skyscraping bistro chair, you pay for art you can't understand, you pay to be able to say that you've eaten at A Restaurant Like Hash. In the end, it's all about appearances. Hash seems more concerned with selling the image of an exclusive, high-class restaurant than in making their patrons feel comfortable and well-fed. Abbe and I are happy to shell out the big bucks for a great dining experience, but eating at Hash sort of feels like paying for air. Quality food can and should be accessible and unpretentious. There is a way to serve a meal made from sustainable local food without looking down your nose at the world, and in this most important way, Hash misses the mark.
To see Hash's entire menu go to


  1. Hmm, the pictures don't make the place look very exciting! I would like to try some of that caramel though...

  2. How disappointing. A lot of restaurants seem to fall into this trap. I would add that there's also a way to do class and chic without alienating your patrons or making them feel stiffed.