Archive for January, 2012

January 26, 2012

Restaurant Review – Le Pigeon Portland, OR.

Last week, Margie and I made a reservation to go to one of our most favorite restaurants in Portland; Le Pigeon.  Chef Gabe Rucker has created a uniquely Portland restaurant, with it’s small dining area, open kitchen, reservations made long in advance, communal table, mismatched tableware, and amazing good, simple food.  I have had the pleasure of eating here five or six times over the years and can honestly say I have never had anything I did not like.  I don’t know of many restaurants I can say that about.

On this particular night, we got a seat at the counter overlooking the open kitchen.  This is a great spot to sit and just watch all the work that goes into each creation.  Every order is made to order, one at a time with at least three people checking it over before it goes to the table.  The attention to detail is something to behold.  If you get seated at one of the longer communal tables, I think you will find it a fun experience eating next to strangers.  You never know what you might over hear and you might even make some new friends by the end of the night.

We stared at the small menu for about 10 minutes, not being able to decide just what to have.  I found at least three entrees that I really wanted that night, but between the two of us, we had to formulate our plan to order the top two we liked best.

Once we had the entrée portion figured out, we had to find an hors d’oeuvres to try as well.  We chose the Gnocchi with Pheasant, Pears and Parsnips, as gnocchi is a favorite of both of us.

After a short while, the beautifully plated gnocchi was presented in front of us.  It smelled amazing.  There was a nice earthy aroma that came from it and we dug in.  The mix of the creamy gnocchi with the pulled pheasant meat was delicious and the pear and parsnip added a nice contrast of taste and texture.  If this dish is on the menu, it is a must have.

I usually end up ordering the classic Rucker inspired Beef Cheek Bourguignon, but tonight I promised I would try something new.  Before moving along to what we actually ordered, I thought this dish deserved a little praise.  The Bourguignon is a dish I have had here a couple of times before and it is just hard not to love this dish.  It is a wonderful take on a classic French dish that has the pieces of beef cheek melting in your mouth.  There is a good smoky richness to the meat and vegetables that just feels so comforting.  It’s awesome.  There’s no denying it.

On this particular night the Beef Duo had called my name.  The pairing of a Rib Eye and a Short Rib with Celery Root and Hedgehog Mushrooms was too much to pass over.  The dish came out and I was surprised at the immensity of the portion.  Exactly what I like to see with a good cut of meat!  The mushroom sauce was very earthy and rich and suited the beef very well.  Margie asked me what I thought of it and all I could say was “this is one beefy sauce!”  It’s complexity and depth of flavor really enhanced the cuts of meat and were a perfect fit for a rainy Portland winter night.

Margie decided on a very interesting dish for her entrée; one that I was eyeing as well.  The Chicken with Spätzle, Truffle, and Turnips was also delicious as we both heartily approved.  The dis had a nice rustic flavor and was beautifully plated as are nearly every dish they serve.  The chicken was perfectly cooked and very moist.  Spätzle is a fun little accompaniment that you don’t see often.  I have had it a couple of times and it is a nice change of pace for a starch component to a dish.

We managed to get persuaded to try dessert and settled on a Smoked Almond Cake with S’mores, Huckleberry, and Chocolate Mousse.  It was a very tasty dessert to finish the meal with and was just right as I finished up my glass of Oregon Pinot Noir.

This is easily one of the best restaurants in Portland, in my opinion and is one you should definitely try if you are ever in town.  If you do live in Portland and haven’t been here, you are really missing out.  The food is beautifully superb.  The atmosphere is bustling and unique.  It’s truly a great culinary experience.



Le Pigeon


also try their sister restaurant, Little Bird

January 16, 2012

Restaurant review – Smokehouse 21, Portland, OR

There’s no denying it. We are spoiled when it comes to the myriad of dining options just outside our front door. One of the few types of cuisine we’ve been needing to round things out magically appeared around the corner (literally) on 21st Street a month or so ago. BBQ. The addition of this tiny neighborhood BBQ joint is the perfect complement to the even tinier establishment next door – M Bar. Mike, who seems to suffer frequent cravings for BBQ (which is odd since he’s mainly a California and Oregon boy) was also eager to try it out. We have now been there twice.

To me, a good sauce is one of the most important things about BBQ. When I was growing up, there was a public service announcement that featured animated foods and warned kids about “not drowning your food.” I never bought into that doctrine and am a proud and frequent food drowner. So I am very happy to report that Smokehouse 21 rated highly with both of us on the sauce front. And all four of their delightful sauces are perched on every table: classic, spicy, vinegar and mustard. According to Mike (since I won’t touch it), the only sauce not to get top marks was their spicy. And it’ll be interesting to see what our Carolina BBQ-lovin’ friend says about their mustard sauce.

Now for the meats. The pulled pork sandwich is the way to go with their menu. The meat is tender and pairs well with the mustard and the vinegar sauces. It is served on a brioche bun from Ken’s Bakery (across the street). Mike tried the pulled pork platter the second time we visited and he was disappointed by the fact that he paid a bit more for it and there didn’t seem to be any more meat than was on the sandwich. However, you do get a second side when you order the platter. Since we tried a combo platter the first time we visited, we can report on the spare ribs and brisket as well. I thought the spare ribs were nicely smoked but could’ve been a little more tender.  The classic bbq sauce tasted wonderful on them though. The brisket looked tough to me and Mike confirmed my assessment more than once. The second time I visited, I ordered the smoked lamb rib special. They were relatively inexpensive for lamb and it had just the right amount of smoky flavor to it, but Mike observed that the meat wasn’t cleaned of its tough silver skin.

As for the sides, we sampled the mac ‘n cheese, baked beans, and fingerling potato salad. The potato salad was decent but we probably won’t feel compelled to order it again. The baked beans are pretty good with big hunks of meat mixed in. Just be careful in case you chomp down on a bone fragment in the beans like Mike did. Both the beans and the mac ‘n cheese are topped with a sweet crumbled corn bread. I liked this addition to both sides. The mac ‘n cheese really hit the spot with a good blend of cheese and bacon pieces mixed in.

Will we be back? Most definitely, but we’ll go mainly for the pulled pork sandwich, the sauces, the convenience factor, and the neighborhood feel. I’m definitely more excited about the place than Mike is. Mike was disappointed with the ratio of meat to cost for the three platters we tried on our 2 visits as well as the tenderness (or lack thereof) of the brisket and ribs.

Link to Smokehouse 21’s website: