Reviewed: Summer, 2000
With a name like "Bibo's Madd Apple Café" I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this small restaurant situated on Forest Avenue.I had peeked in the windows adorned with white curtains a couple of times to see a very small room, usually a few people eating, but had somehow gotten it in the back of my mind that it was a "Café" that served muffins, coffee and the like. It was not until I was lucky enough to sample some of their fine cuisine at Ingraham's Spring Thing this year that I realized Bibo's Madd Apple Café was not a corner coffee shop at all but an incredible gourmet restaurant. The following week, I found myself seated in the very same window I had peered into so many times, eating the most delicious food I have yet to taste in Portland.
The inside of Bibo's Madd Apple Café, painted a bright Caribbean orange, is divided into two small separate rooms from which you cannot easily see into the other. We made a reservation and arrived to find a fairly full restaurant but as the evening progressed, the other diners slowly filtered out leaving us all alone as if it was our own private restaurant. We figured out that the majority of the other patrons were going to the theater next door and had to dine and dash to make the show time. While we perused the menu, the hostess lifted the transparent tinted blinds next to our window table that had been shielding the intense late afternoon sunlight so that we could catch a glimpse of the evening sun setting.
After selecting two bottles of wine from the list, Benzinger Fume Blanc ($18) and Perrin Domines ($20), our waiter delivered a basket of sliced bread and a plate with four small bowls of spices and olive oil for dipping. The idea, our waiter explained, was to dip the bread in oil then into your choice of black pepper, chunky salt, or a delicious concoction of spices of Mediterranean origin called "dukka" composed of cumin, cayenne pepper, black sesame seeds, almonds, coriander, and Chinese five spice. This was an interesting twist on the usual which we all found to be quite tasty and quickly devoured.
I had a very difficult time deciding what to order for my appetizer. Everything sounded so good! I passed on the Duck and Caramelized Onion Tart ($7.95) which was extremely tempting and ended up trying the Mixed Green Salad with Spicy Walnuts ($4.95). The salad had a simple sweet balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing and was comprised of mixed baby greens and walnuts coated in cayenne, chili powder and cumin to give them a slight bite. It was a perfect light appetizer before my heavier entrée. Another diner in our party fortunately did order the Duck Tart and it turned out to be just as amazing as I had anticipated. Moist pieces of duck and the sweet onions wrapped in flaky phyllo dough served on a bed of mixed greens. Two others tried the Wild Mushroom and Artichoke Salad which I had tasted at the Spring Thing. The oyster mushrooms and artichokes were marinated in a slightly sour dressing and served on a bed of greens with a crispy cake of goat cheese. They both loved the salad as much as I did when I first tried it. The creamy goat cheese immediately counteracts the dressing on the tender vegetables to create a wonderful texture and flavor in your mouth.
For my entrée I chose the BBQ Rubbed Black Angus Sirloin Hangar Steak, cooked medium well, which was served with Onion Whipped Potatoes, Veggie Slaw, and Macque Chou ($16.95). Since hangar steak is the new thing in all the restaurants I figured it was about time to try it. Although I am not usually a big fan of regular steak, I enjoyed the hangar steak immensely. The six strips of thin, tender steak were cooked just as I had ordered with the slightest bit of pink in the center and every bite was full of delicious flavor enhanced by the BBQ rub. Everything was just delightful! The steak was served on top of deliciously rich mashed potatoes augmented with bits of sweet onion. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again. The Macque Chou, a cold Cajun side dish of crunchy sweet corn in a slightly creamy dressing, was a wonderful treat with the BBQ steak and creamy mashed potatoes. The serving sizes were great, not too much nor too little and I was wonderfully satiated with the entire meal.
Everyone else in our party that night had the same reaction to their respective entrees at Bibo's. Our vegetarian diner tried Bibo's Veggie Pad Thai ($14.95) which our waiter warned us was a little on the spicy side so of course, was ordered extra spicy. The dish was full of oyster mushrooms, vegetables, and many dried red chilis all mixed together with the flat noodles and peanut sauce. The extra spice was way too
much for me, but greatly enjoyed by our fellow diner. Our duck connosieur tried and delighted in every bite of his Duck Two Ways and another in our party ordered the Thai Sweet Chili Shrimp and Scallops ($18.95) served with bok choy and baby corn over basmati rice.
The exceptional meal fortunately didn't end there. Even though we were all quite full from our delicious appetizers and delectable entrees, we had to order dessert because we knew it would be just as phenomenal. As it was. Reluctantly skipping over the Creme Brulee, Chocolate Banana Coconut Springroll with bittersweet chocolate sauce, and Chocolate Brioche English Toffee Pudding served with a bittersweet chocolate sauce and crème Anglaise, we chose to order and share the Individual Rum Cheesecake Brulee with Strawberry Sambuca Sauce, the Chocolate Macadamia Stout Pate, and the Chocolate Espresso Pound Cake (all $5.50). Each exquisite dessert was beautifully served in the center of a large white plate and encircled by decorative designs painted with various flavor and color sauces. The Chocolate Macadamia Pate a.k.a. "Fudge with an Attitude" was the most astounding. Two small ice cream-shaped scoops of the unbelievably rich fudge were delicately placed on the plate while chocolate, red and green sauces formed a beautiful flower almost like a stained glass window beneath. It was almost too perfect to eat had it not been so amazingly scrumptious. The Cheesecake Brulee consisted of a small round of graham cracker crust base, a layer of cheesecake and a layer of vanilla custard topped with caramelized sugar to give a delightful crispy brown coating to the soft custard and cake innards. The dessert was swimming in the thin strawberry sambuca sauce and the side of the plate was garnished with fresh strawberries and yet another attractive green and red decorative pattern. Every aspect of the melange complemented one another impeccably from the light strawberry juice to the rich cheesecake middle. The light and fluffy chocolate espresso cake although not quite as rich was equally delicious and according to our fellow diner balanced nicely with his double espresso.
After dining at Bibo's Madd Apple Café, I feel confident enough to boldly state that it is by far my favorite restaurant in Portland. The courses were each unique and exquisite, completely flawless and perfectly satiating. Every delicious ingredient complemented one another to pure perfection and the more extraordinary the concoction the more delicious flavor resulted. The chef of Bibo's has a commendable talent for combining just the right ingredients to form amazing combinations that leave the diner craving for more. Although the bill was above average ($200+ for five adults), I thought it was well worth it for the high quality of the food, service, and atmosphere that we encountered.
|most credit cards accepted|
Bibo's is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 until closing and Sunday from 4:00 until closing, for lunch Wednesday through Friday from 11:30-2:00 and for brunch Sunday from 11:00 to 3:00 serving eggs benedict, omelets, apple cinnamon pancakes and brunch burritos among other items.
Tracy B. Wheeler is a classical flutist and freelance writer who lives in Portland.