Perched atop the Nines Hotel in the historic Meier & Frank Building, the nine-month-old Departure could not have been more aptly named. The atmosphere in the 9,000-square-foot space is equal parts sleek cocktail lounge and izakaya-in-the-clouds. Courtesy of its multimillion-dollar design by Portland’s Skylab Architecture, eating here feels a bit like dining aboard the Starship Enterprise. Two outdoor patios flaunt 270-degree views that encompass both the downtown skyline and distant snowcapped peaks, creating a dinner setting unrivaled in all of Portland.
The menu offers trendy renditions of Asian-influenced small plates, such as a trio of diminutive panko-crusted kobe meatballs stuffed with morsels of foie gras and lightly fried, or more substantial entrées like the ishiyaki steak: succulent strips of wagyu beef grilled on a hot stone, then drizzled with a yuzu-and-cilantro pesto. You’ll find many kushayaki (grilled meat) items as well, including pork belly and sweet Korean beef ribs. Wash it all down with a pick from one of the city’s largest selections of handcrafted sakes, or with an exotic cocktail like the A.E. Doyle ($9), Departure’s modern take on the manhattan, made with yamazaki (a Japanese whiskey), shochu (a rice liquor), and orange bitters. Drinks are no pricier than they are at any upscale downtown bar, but here, you’ll also get a million-dollar view—for free.