It isn’t often that a hotel restaurant has found itself in my blog. A lot of that is due to the fact that I’m staying at the business traveler version of the Hiltons and the Marriotts of the world, and the food is meant to be just palatable enough to provide sustenance without inducing illness. I could ramble on about how not good so much of it has been, but that’s not interesting, and so I just don’t do it. So when a hotel restaurant does make my blog, it means that they are doing something right. Places like the Omni Parker House in Boston (Boston Cream Pie) and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas (home of the Mesa Grill) were about the only ones to receive positive reviews. That was until breakfast at Nel Centro; the hotel restaurant for the Hotel Modera in Portland.
Normally when I travel for work, I stick to one of the major chains as there is a deal negotiated and they are cheaper, etc. Every now and then I’ll get myself up early enough to go find a fun place for breakfast like in Boston or Austin, and that was my plan in Portland (Voodoo Doughnuts was only about a half mile away). But my colleague Jane convinced me that we needed to do breakfast on site, and that the food was really good. So I acquiesced and agreed to meet her for breakfast at the hotel.
When I got to the restaurant at 7 in the morning, I was pretty much the only one there. Not usually a good sign in a restaurant. But, I took a seat, waited for Jane, and took a look at the menu after ordering a cup of coffee. One thing about the Northwest is that as long as you are at a place that is not a seedy dive, you get yourself a darn good cup of coffee. Nel Centro happened to use Caffe Vita which is actually a Seattle roast and one that I very much enjoy. I perused the menu, and even though Jane had recommended the Brioche French Toast with fresh berries (not something you see on a lot of Hilton and Marriott menus), I couldn’t stop myself from ordering the corned beef hash. It has become my go to breakfast, especially when traveling. There is nothing like loading up on protein before heading out for a full day of work.
When the plate arrived, it was unlike any corned beef hash I’d seen before. Rather than the small, ground up has that most people are used to, this was full on chopped corned beef brisket with nice large chunks. The corned beef was mixed in with some home fries, caramelized onions, and peppers. And the whole thing was topped with two poached eggs. Needless to say, as soon as I saw it, a smile creased my face. I cut into the egg and let the yolk run into the dish; creating that wonderful creaminess and richness that I enjoy. Then I took a bite, and was won over. The corned beef was so tender, yet added a nice saltiness to the overall dish. The onions were wonderful and the peppers added a nice crunch. And the potatoes were perfectly cooked with just a hint of rosemary. Everything worked so well together, and was delicious. Normally I put a little bit of Tobasco, salt and pepper on my hash after a couple bites, but this was so flavorful, and so well seasoned that it didn’t need any of it.
I have to say, as I sit back and think about it, this was probably the best corned beef hash that I’ve ever had. Now, I’ve heard that the corned pork hash at Toulouse Petit is amazing, and if the corned duck I had was turned into hash I don’t know if there would be anything better, but this may have just become my breakfast staple in Portland. That’s not to say that I won’t make it to Voodoo Doughnut (a must on my list), or try the Brioche French Toast the next time I’m in town, but I’m going to be hard pressed to stay anywhere else and have anything else for breakfast. This was exceptionally, and surprisingly, well done!