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THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED Esplanade Restaurant Review: Esplanade is the dining room at the River Place Hotel, and floor-to-ceiling windows give onto beautiful views of the harbor and marina on the Willamette River. For some time the cooking at Esplanade has lacked excitement. But Pascal Sauton, one of the few French chefs in Portland, is beginning to turn things around. Esplanades menu now has focus and some fine new dishes. A small casserole of chanterelles and shallots is bubbly and delectable; a beautifully poached egg rests atop it in a very French touch, and it arrives with a round of toast laden with chèvre. For lighter tastes a thinly sliced heirloom tomato is beautifully dressed, served with aged Tomme cheese from Oregons Juniper Grove artisan cheesemakers, and mounded with fresh, sweet, crunchy roasted beets. Cote de boeuf, sliced and served with a rich sauce of Madeira and demi-glace, presents a gorgeous serving of beef, and the green onion whipped potatoes are of cumulus lightness. My only complaint was that the halibut cheeks in a fennel risotto tasted slightly over the hill. A bombe of bittersweet chocolate with white chocolate crème anglaise was an ambrosial conclusion to the meal. With new art on the sponge-painted walls, the setting is serene, but we hope the new regime in the kitchen will inspire a more general face lift, and that the crowds will return to create a buzz.