The name refers to the two elements that the restaurant hopes to capitalize on – oven, for wood fired “Neapolitan style” pizzas, and shaker, for interesting cocktails. This partnership between a local 4 time nominated James Beard candidate and a local renowned drinksmith held great promise when announced, but in my opinion, succeeds at the bar level, but fails in the kitchen.
Our party of four arrived on a late Saturday afternoon, and there were plenty of seats available inside; the smattering of tables on the sidewalk were all taken by Portlandians taking advantageous of an unseasonably hot and dry day.
A bottle of tepid water and four glasses were produced instantly, and our drink orders taken. Cocktails ranged from $9- $12, outrageous in my mind, but on the low price point side for ‘uptown’ mixed drinks these days. (Curmudgeon sidebar, when I started drinking, mixed drinks were 40 cents at the bar I popped my cocktail cherry at). I went with the Pimms “Rangoon’ a variation on a Pimms Cup, a refreshing cocktail I fell in love with living in England, basically Pimms #1 Cup, ginger ale, cucumber and lemon.
Oven and Shaker adds their own local, house twists to their cocktails, like manufacturing fresh mixes in-house. It’s a great drink. In my salad days, I could have slammed back a half-dozen, and not given it a thought. These days, I’m the designated driver, so I just had the one, and then switched to coffee, which they serve French press style at $4 a cup.
In addition to the pizzas, a lot of the food is fried, and we went with fried chickpeas for one appetizer, which were fun, as well as “Rosemary nuts’, a ramekin of herb flavored assorted nuts, and some garlic toast. No complaints on that score.
We ordered a variety of pizzas, which clock in at about 12″ and $14-$18 each. One is probably enough to share between two average appetites, but the four of us ordered one each, and had plenty to take home.
I won’t argue the fact that the restaurant uses quality ingredients for the pies; the ‘wild fennel sausage’ topping on the Margharita I ordered was some of the best flavored pork sausage I have had in Portland. The cheese is more than adequate (and you can substitute other cheeses for additional money), and the tomato sauce fresh and on the sweet side.
It’s the dough and the baking where the concept falls apart. The crust is chewy, doughy, and underbaked in my opinion, making slices very limp with a high moisture content.
Examination of the underside reveals very little charring, usually a signature of a well-baked wood-fired pie. A couple hours later in the evening, trying to make my way through left-overs, a true test of good pie in my world, the crust is best described as “soggy” and while sometimes with pizza this is indicative of the presence of fatty meat toppings, in the case of Oven and Shaker, to me, it represents a failure in the area of dough prep.
Four pizzas, three appetizers, 6 cocktails, 1 coffee, over $200.
Ouch. As Mrs Burgerdogboy commented walking around the Pearl after dinner, “OK, been there, done that, don’t have to return.”
Sad, but true.