Posted 28 September 2012 - 08:25 AM
We had an absoulutely amazing experience at Racion last week. It was so good, that Sue made a reservation for tomorrow night (this time her treat!)...while we were still eating dinner there last Friday. It is a pop-up, only Fri and Sat. dinner, multi-course, molecular gastronomy bent (but focused on flavor/texture/etc. of the food itself - no foams for the sake of foams or just to be cool - it all makes sense and it is all delicious), wine pairings/hors d'oeuvres before dinner included (gratuity not included) - all for $75pp. Only 20 seats per night. They prepare it all in front of you and explain each dish and technique.
Last week we had about 3 types of snacks with a cocktail at the bar before being seated and then a 9-course (with about 5 or so wines paired over the courses) progression of small plates. They do acknowledge special needs so let them know when you make the reservation. The courses were small enough so that I did not feel like I was going to explode at the end, but I definitely was slowing down a bit by course 7... ;o)
The chef is Anthony Cafiero (who recently left Tabla to do just this) and he is awesome - he's trying out dishes for the real version of this restaurant and having a ball doing it. It is in a restaurant space that had a high profile place not make it after only about 2 months (Corazon), so the setting is a bit odd, but who cares. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
These dinners are only going to happen through Oct. 6th - so make a reservation now...or wait for the 'real' restaurant version of this pop-up to open...
They have dialed in the service - and though they aren't going to do coktails before anymore (last week's jamon manhattan was delicious, too bad) - they are offering an aperitif instead. It's a great deal. There is no corkage, so you can bring as much wine as you want, and they will serve and keep it chilled for you, if it needs to be.
I'm not usually a fan of communal seating, but we had a great time with our new friends on either side of us...it was a super-fun night.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 09:34 AM
Glad for the review. We're going next Friday.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 10:16 AM
We were going to bring a couple of bottles last week, and we forgot them (did you grab the wine out of the fridge? no, I thought you had it! ;o) and we both had plenty to drink. (OK, maybe a smidge more than that, even.) But, we were the last dinner at the $60pp price where the plans were a bit different, and I don't know if they were trying to finish up what they had in stock or not. I don't know if the dinners this week are going to be substantially different in any way... And, to be fair, I am familiar (not close friends, just know them by going to Tabla over the years and to events where he has cooked and she has also been there) with the chef and his GF (who was also serving), and I do not know how much that influenced how much wine ended up in our glasses...in other words, it is possible that YMMV. Still, looking around me, it did not appear that anyone was lacking for wine.
Our plan is to bring a bottle or two with us and if we want more wine, we'll open them, if we don't feel we need more wine, we won't.
Worth noting that they are a block down from Vinopolis (open until 7pm on Fri, 6pm on Sat), where you can score a great bottle at a great price - and if you buy/bring a white/rose and ask them to chill it when you walk in at 7pm, I am sure that they will do so for you.
Really folks, snag a seat and go...I'll report back after Sat. to let you know what, if anything was different. (The food will be different, that much, I already know.)
Posted 28 September 2012 - 11:53 AM
We had a different prep of the sous vide egg last week - it was a top 3 dish for me.
I requested the octopus for this week (hey, he asked!) - he makes some of the best octopus dishes in town.
I am even more excited for dinner tomorrow!!
Posted 02 October 2012 - 12:27 PM
We started in the bar with two delicious drinks. The first was an annatto infused rum mojito, where mint water was carbonated as it was added. Delicious, refreshing, and a gorgeous shade of orange. The second was a margarita where the tequila was infused with chorizo and there was a salted foam topping (instead of a salted rim). It was also delicious - it was savory without being meaty, and I loved the foam, it was a much more delicate way of adding salt, and I liked how I could control how much of it I got as I sipped...Sue, who likes salt a lot more than I (I think she considers it a food group ;o), didn't like the foam as much, it didn't provide as salty a kick as salting the rim. DIfferent strokes...
The snacks with the cocktails were great start: fried chickpeas with curry (I love snack-y chickpea things!), mustard crepe/rabbit/caper relish (rolled up, sliced, and skewered on long picks), and porcini pudding with lamb confit, tarragon powder and preserved lemon. I liked the salty/pickly caper flavors which complement the very rich rabbit. And the porocini pudding was awesome - earthy and silky pudding (which I am guessing was helped along by a bit of truffle), crunchy lamb confit bits, bright lemony accent...yum.
Dinner was a 9-course extravaganza with a palate cleanser and four different wines.
The "bread course" were crackers (two kinds, one made from blue potatoes and another made from, I think, chickpeas) along with an awesome "umami" butter - butter that Anthony had churned himself (yes, churn/bonnet jokes were made...but he used a food processor, OK? ;o), rolled in seaweed. I loved that butter/seaweed combo.
Next was bacalao chicharron with salmon pil-pil and paprika. Yes, he made chicharron out of bacalao (salt cod) by soaking it several times and processing it fine and adding who knows what and then frying it up into airy, crispy, and greaseless perfection. It was slightly fishy in flavor, but texture-wise it was as perfect a chicharron as I have ever had. I am guessing that shrimp chips aspire to be something like this, as opposed to the kind of packing material they mimic. This was a wow.
Cauliflower soup with Italian plums and candied pistachio was next. Nice sweet notes that were juicy and crunchy in a rich, creamy, silky cauliflower soup. Nicely done.
Poured with the above was Avinyo Cava Riserva, a nice light sparkler.
Smoked Sea Scallop with nameko mushroom, almond and anise hyssop came covered with a glass that was holding smoke (from a smoke gun) around the scallops. I like that it gave the sliced scallop a bit of smoke without that flavor overpowering it. I had never had nameko mushrooms, and these were yummy - meaty and earthy, perfectly cooked to bring out those flavors. A very nice dish...
One of the best dishes of the night was the Citrus-cured albacore tuna with heirloom melon, pickled cucumber and both truffle pearls and OJ pearls. It was gorgeous to behold, for sure, but the flavors and textures were so interesting (sweet/salty/fishy/crunchy/juicy/rich/soft) and the whole plate so tasty. It was really one of those plates where you get how talented Anthony is, and how awesome it is to have him be able to do dishes that excite him (c'mon, I loved the pastas at Tabla, but how many orders of tajarin can a man plate before losing his mind?!).
The next dish was a variation on one we had the previous week - sous-vide egg. This week it was served with a shredded chicken chorizo, broccoli buds and crispy guanciale. LOVE eggs prepared sous-vide...it is reason enough to get an immersion circulator...seriously. Perfect fluffy white surrounding a creamy soft yet barely runny yolk...wow. The crispy shard of salty guanciale was great, I liked the broccoli buds too (just the very tops of broccoli, dressed)...but the chicken chorizo was so salty and unpleasant, it was kind of inedible. That's OK, this isn't about perfection, especially at this stage of the game, it's about experimentation. I forgive it. ;o) (Last week the egg was served with pork cheek, arugula and tangerine/clove vinegar and crumbs - a tastier prep, IMO, but YMMV.)
The previous three courses had Punta Crena Pettirosso poured along with them - a frizzante of a rose' - 50% Sangiovese/50% Rossese. Not my thing, nor Sue's, and we were glad we brought a bottle of a fabulous Alsatian dry Gewurztraminer. It was stellar with the tuna, and darn good with everything else.
Another stand-outof the night, not surprisingly, was Spanish octopus (pulpo) with potato sald, sherry gelee, fennel and dill. It was another amazing looking plate: a nice pile of cubed/composed potato salad surrounded by jewels of sherry and topped with a couple of the most tender tentacles of octopus in a paprika-y coating...and then all of this was topped with a mat of fennel and dill fronds - this mat of fronds was fried and crispy and green and was an awesome turf-y topper. Very cool.
I think that here (or maybe I am off a course?) is where we had a lovely spoon of a pomegranate ice as a palate cleanser...so refreshing!
Next was another great course: T&T pork cheek with a 'salad' of pickled mustard seeds, farro and kale in an anchovy dressing. OMG, the pork cheek was pork-strami like, tender and so freaking good. The toothsome farro salad had the wonderful crunch of the mustard seeds, whose flavor cut through some of the richness, backed by the subtle anchovy flavor...This was the 8th course and I don't think anyone left any of it behind on their plate. I know I didn't.
These last 2 courses had pours of Tami' Frappato 2011. I really liked this wine. It was so velvety and easy to drink...and very reasonable if you wish to make it an everyday wine at home. Liner & Elsen is selling it for around $15/bottle...or you can pay $9/glass at Woodsman, I suppose.
Dessert was great. A not too sweet but rich lemon curd cheesecake with sesame crumble and burnt sugar instead of a crust and mint/grapes...and I can't for the life of me remember how it all came together, other than it being a great ending to a fabulous meal.
Dessert pour was a Hidalgo Cream Sherry...mmmmmm....
We brought two bottles of wine, the Gewurztraminer and a rose' and we shared it with folks around us and the kitchen. We were offered several pours of each of the paired wines...and we all drank our fill around the table - there was definitely enough...so earlier issues of enough wine to go around seemed to be resolved.
There are only two more chances to go here for a meal before the space is renovated and it turns into a 20 chef's bar/table spot (with other tasty options for other parts of the space...sorry, I promised not to post that info...but westsiders will, I am sure, be happy about it). Book a dinner while pairings are included, corkage is $0, and the whole deal is $75 + tip...and while it is not a real restaurant so drinking and profanity are encouraged. ;o)
There were only 14 people at our dinner, so 6 more folks could have gone, and didn't...if you were one of them, make a damn reservation and go this coming weekend!
Posted 06 December 2012 - 11:11 AM
Monday, December 10 at Boke Bowl (tickets)
Monday, December 17 at PaaDee
Tentative menu for the first pop-up at Boke Bowl (from their facebook):
S N A C K S
-poppy seed, kumquat gel
Gilda: boquerones, red kuri squash, sherry olives
Red Beet Taretare
-orange yolk, chive
D I N N E R
-pork consommé, belly, crispy Serrano ham, grelos, heirloom beans
-green apple, sour cream, black sesame
Black and White Paella
-forbidden rice, Monterey bay squid, smoked steelhead roe, Ossau-Iraty cheese
-porcini cream, umami crumbs, Brussels sprouts, nori
Rib Eye Steak
-chanterelle flan, horseradish, smoked apple, chorizo oil
-mint marshmallow, yuzu gastrique, pine
Posted 04 March 2013 - 12:06 PM
Went to their last soft-opening dinner on Saturday...they open this week!
We had a really nice dinner - delicious and interesting.
The $25 wine pairings were a great deal, and they also had non-alcoholic pairings (I tried the root beer on that list, and it was fantastic! The Jamaica Jamaica (pronounced first as the country then as the spanish word for hibiscus) sounded good too - so neat to have pairings that are non-alcoholic...they are also looking toward a cocktail pairing list as well. They started us out with a choice of 2 cocktails and a few bites, tapas style.
Of the five courses, I loved the halibut cheek dish best - a poached cheek that was pulled (making it similar in texture to crab) mixed with some green apple strips that were lightly pickled, sprinkled with black saesame and a scoop of sour cream ice cream - very rich and delicious. My next fave was a great cauliflower panna cotta with trout roe, salad and shaved foie gras torchon that was a standout. There was also some delicious leg of lamb (sous vide and seared so it was very tender - and it wasn't gamey - so I liked it because I don't like that gamey flavor of lamb, and my GF wasn't as thrilled because she loves the gamey flavor of lamb...;o) and starter of smoked pork shoulder soup and a wonderful square of chocolate ganache with kumquats for dessert. FIve very nice courses, not a dud in the lot - although some were definitely better then others. Liked the space a lot - upscale but it still feels casual to me.
This is really good food - great ingredients, thoughtful preps, great play of textures - and it is also interesting. It's not using modern techniques to call attention to itself as such, it's using those techniques to bring something extra to the dishes that make them something more than the sum of their parts. (For example, he didn't sousvide the lamb to say "hey, I've got an immersion circulator and you don't!" - he did it to provide a velvety texture to a cut that is usually way more tough...and it was awesome.) It's not pretentious, and the chefs aren't either...and I think that Portland is the right place to pull it off. Anthony Cafiero is a great chef, and he has put together a great team...I am very excited for Racion and what it can bring to our restaurant offerings here in Portland.
Kurt Huffman has made a silk purse out of the sows ear that was Corazon. And there will soon be a third restaurant - one in the space between Lardo and Racion...I won't be surprised if it is a big hit too.