If, like me, you’re a frequent visitor to Portland and are always on the lookout for good new places to eat, you may want to check out these two spacious new spots.
The Irving Street Kitchen opened four months ago in the heart of the Pearl District, at 13th and Irving. It’s the enterprise of a trio of restaurateurs from San Francisco (owners of Town Hall, Salt House and Anchor & Hope) who chose Portland as the location for their first venture outside the Bay Area.
Charcuterie is one of the specialties. There’s even a charcuterie bar (replacing the sushi bar of Bay 13, ISK’s short-lived predecessor) where happy-hour visitors are encouraged to sit and nosh. For dinner patrons, the charcuterie platter makes a killer appetizer. Ours was composed mainly of preserved pork — pork-belly rillette, pork-brandy pate, coppa (dry-cured shoulder) and salami secce — along with merguez, a spicy lamb sausage in an intestinal casing. Clearly, the Irving Street Kitchen has a close working relationship with farm-to-table providers.
The menu prepared by executive chef Sarah Schafer has a distinctly Deep South flair. There are dishes like blackened steak with crispy grits, herb-roasted bone marrow with pastrami marmalade, charred sturgeon with crawfish. I was especially impressed with Schafer’s take on Southern fried chicken. Moist and tender, and offered with collard greens, “smashed” (with skins on) potatoes and country gravy, this bird was a revelation.
The Irving Street Kitchen is located at 701 N.W. 13th Ave.. Call 503-343-9440 for reservations, or surf to http://www.irvingstreetkitchen.com. Dinner is served beginning at 5:30 nightly; the Kitchen also offers weekday barbecue lunches on its spacious porch and weekend brunches.
Open for just six weeks, the Pinot American Brasserie is Bill King’s baby. For 24 years, King was the head of culinary development for the McCormick & Schmick’s group of more than 90 restaurants. But he craved a return to his hands-on kitchen skills, and Pinot affords him that opportunity. This new restaurant allows King to apply his knowledge of French culinary techniques to mainly Pacific Northwest ingredients.
We opened our dinner with a plate of house-made mozzarella cheese, topped with tomato salsa and an olive oil-balsamic vinaigrette. We shared a salad of Dungeness crab layered atop finely chopped mango and served on a tangy falafel patty with guacamole and a light citrus sauce.
We moved on to our entrees. A double-cut pork chop was cooked medium rare in a mouth-watering bacon-apricot glaze. Duck was perfectly prepared as a trio: one plate, three ways. There was sliced, seared breast meat, melt-in-your-mouth tender. There was a duck-and-hazelnut sausage, and a smoked leg served atop couscous. For dessert, we shared a remarkably light peach-cornbread pudding. I’m not a big dessert eater, but this I could consume daily.
Like any good brasserie, Pinot is open for three meals every day of the week. Having now devoured dinner, I’m going to return for breakfast. Bacon and eggs — that’s crispy pork belly, a poached duck egg, and an almond-brulee brioche with maple syrup — sounds like a great way to start the day. Pinot is located downtown at 1205 S.W. Washington St.; 503-719-5506, http://www.pinotpdx.com.