The menu at David’s has the knack of pleasing. One nearby diner welcomed every course like a birthday present, as perhaps they were.

But some of the dishes are so large you need to keep your wits to avoid serious overindulgence. Most people don’t seem to mind; indeed they wouldn’t have it any other way. But huge portions seem to me to be unwise – if only because they are so hard to resist.

New bar stools and chairs, and new lighting that’s softer than what was here before complement the urban atmosphere in this business on Portland’s busiest square. In the back room I dined under a lighted glass ceiling, surrounded by oak trim and bottles of wine set around the room.

A large saucer of olive oil, grated cheese, garlic and herbs accompanies the hot bread, including some little oily rolls that already seem to have been dipped in it.

Light hors d’oeuvres and a free cheese and fruit platter accompany discounted drinks, beers and wines at the bar between 4 and 6.

I began with a snappy appetizer, a couple of crisp phyllo packets of warm goat cheese on grilled vegetables and ”frizzled” leeks ($7). Those leeks are crunchy strands of pure dried-out fiber, almost without flavor, more decoration than a pleasure to eat – I cast aside the second heap of them I encountered on top of my entrée.


The first small rectangle of goat cheese I tasted had a floury taste and wasn’t entirely crispy, but the second was, proving the first had been made with a few more layers of thin phyllo. The warm goat cheese in both was tart and rich, and the grilled vegetables beneath had a perfect edging of charcoal-grilled carbon, accenting the juicy flavors of zucchini and squash.

A garden salad ($5) couldn’t have been fresher, with crisp greens, thinly sliced carrots and cucumber to dress as you like from a little dish of balsamic vinaigrette.

Among the other appetizers are surefire favorites like fried calamari salad ($8) with feta, olives, tomato and chili-balsamic dressing, and lobster risotto ($10) with scallops. Shrimp cocktail ($10.50) and oysters, local Winterpoints, on the half shell ($2 each) fill the niche for classic seafood, and Prince Edward Island mussels ($8.50) come steamed with herb and garlic butter and chardonnay.

Sileni Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ($6.75 a glass, $27 a bottle) is ”very popular” according to our server; it’s also sweet, fruity and a little cloying. Ten reds and more whites are available by the glass, like Sonoma Cutrer’s also popular chardonnay ($8.75).

Ten half bottles of both white and red make another resource on the list for good wine; the Shug Pinot Noir ($24) brought a scent of chocolate to my mouth for a moment, before settling in to a tart yet smooth, light pleasure.

Plates as big as platters hold the dinners. One order of blackened chicken and sun-dried tomatoes ($16) filled up its plate with stunning quantities of fettuccini and pesto cream sauce. This meal is designed to feed four, or to be taken home, as indeed it was, but not before recoiling on my friend. The chicken was tender, the cream sauce rich and nicely flavored by the pesto, and the penne only slightly overcooked; it was a feast for the senses.


But a third as much would have been welcome.

Another large plate was less weighted down with pepper-crusted rare tuna ($22) cut in moderately thick slices, served with a Szechuan citrus dipping sauce that was spicy and delightfully salty. Sesame-coated asparagus were too few, for once, but each one was gratefully enjoyed. The only drawback was badly overcooked soba noodles in a sesame and peanut sauce, with a texture far too soft.

The long menu must have fans of every item, like the Pork Oscar ($19.50), center-cut pork wrapped in bacon with crabmeat, asparagus and white wine cream sauce, or roasted duck breast ($19) with spinach and a blueberry balsamic glaze. Those prices are modest for these large servings, and even a bistro steak is only $19, accompanied by brandy and peppercorn cream, spinach, mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes. In the ”simply prepared” list, mixed grill ($19) offers sirloin, grilled shrimp and scallops.

And a whole category of pizza includes such fascinating variations as ”Magna Graecia” ($9.50 for small, $16 for large), a pizza with tomato, spinach, garlic, sweet Italian sausage, Greek olives, feta, mozzarella and Parmesan.

Our choice for dessert, the apple and wild berry crisp ($5), didn’t have a chance of retaining any crispness under a dual assault of melting ice cream and drizzled fruit sauce. But aside from the stodgy coating, the hot fruit tasted good. Pumpkin bread pudding with bourbon sauce ($5) and white chocolate mousse almond cookie napoleon ($6) would cater to a love of richness another night – and so would the chocolate espresso torte ($6) served with cappuccino crème anglaise.

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