Portalis
5310 Ballard Ave NW, 783-2007
Tue-Thu 3 pm-11 pm, Fri 3 pm-midnight, Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-5 pm.

This Ballard wine shop and bar tends toward rustic-chic, with glossy panels of abstract art juxtaposed with worn signage for Ford and the Yick Kee Laundry. That's about as far as that, thankfully, goes; the room is spacious and spare and a fine setting for what you're there to do, which is have a good glass of wine and a snack. When you're seated at the long bar, the bottles for sale are amassed at your back; if you are to have silent forces marshaled behind you, these are clearly the ones you want.

Wines by the glass range from a hopeful, entirely drinkable Spanish sparkling one for $4 (four dollars!) to a solid French Bordeaux ($8.25) to syrah from Walla Walla ($9). The middle-aged crowd evades wine-drinker stereotyping by actually seeming to enjoy themselves; the attention to detail--fine stemware, a cute little dish of excellent nuts--is squarely pleasurable without ever feeling oppressive. In a word, it's civilized, and you feel like a slightly better version of yourself for being here.

The best snack recently was tuna crostini ($6.50), the spread apparently made in the classic Italian manner with roughly equal parts olive oil-packed canned tuna and pure butter. It may sound odd, but it's smooth and fabulous (and pretty, too, with floppy roasted red pepper strips and capers on top). A ramekin of melted goat cheese swirled with marinara sauce ($6.50) didn't try anything fancy; on bits of bread, it was fully endorsable for tasting like a gourmet mini-pizza. Very green and quite delicious, a curried split pea and avocado soup ($4.50/ $6) approached the texture of pudding.

A couple simple, appropriately chocolate- based desserts are offered; a trip here for one of these and some red wine at the right moment could well make life worth living again.

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