Sunday, September 20, 2009
In addition to downing large quantities of Deschutes beer, perking up with Stumptown coffee and exploring the famed synergy of maple and bacon at Voodoo Doughnuts, one of my anticipated Portland food highlights was a dinner at Le Pigeon in the city's trendy section of East Burnside.
Chef Gabriel Rucker has received lots of praise in the past few years, with nods from both local food critics and those based across the country stating that his restaurant is a must visit for anyone in Portland. Incidentally, one of my co-workers was the one who first recommended that I get to Le Pigeon ("if you can get in," he said). Well, maybe it was luck, but we managed to sneak in without a reservation on a Sunday night. Mononatalie and I waited 30 minutes and headed over to B Side for a pint of beer, where we loved the undeniably awesome behind the bar decorations like the Ted Nugent clock and a framed, crocheted piece which read "cunt." Clever. It's a cool spot provided you're not with people who have touchy sensibilities.
We returned and were seated at the bar, which is the best way to go so that you can check out the action in the small, simply laid out open kitchen. The dining room is intimate, an elegant but casual vibe with a touch of whimsy added from the beautiful portrait of three staff members woven with yarn. To start we ordered a half bottle of 2004 Von Kesselstat Piesporter Goldtrofchen Riesling Spatlese - love those 04 Rieslings for their acidity and cooler, less ripe fruit profiles. The wine was good with my hamachi nicoise - a few slices of barely seared yellowtail, surrounded by a few small morsels of black olive tapenade, sauteed tomato, and hard boiled egg slices. However, it really was killer with Natalie's pork belly, green tomato and pickles.
For entrees, Natalie had the poussin - an adolescent chicken with shell beans, corn and chanterelles. It's earthy and satisfying, perhaps a bit monochromatic for some palates but tasty nonetheless, and an awful lot of food. I preferred my main, the beef cheeks bourguignon, which I later learned is something of a signature dish at Le Pigeon. Very slowly braised, they were intensely flavored, meaty, and incredibly tender. Great dish, and again, a very sizeable portion.
I had ordered an underwhelming bottle of 2002 Jacky Blot Bourgeuil, not realizing that this is a modernist Loire Cabernet Franc that tastes middle aged, overoaked, and heavy.
We had stuffed ourselves so much that dessert was out of the question, though the all northern Italian cheese plate piqued my curiosity. Piedmont's famous La Tur, a Lombardian cheese similar to tomme de savoie, and one other cheese made for an exciting regional focus on what is typically an assortment of cheeses from all over.
Overall, we had a wonderful experience at this well respected Portland institution. Go there if you're in Portland; just come hungry as you will be very well fed.
738 E. Burnside St
Portland, OR 97214