PDX: Park Kitchen
I only made one reservation for a restaurant in Portland. I chose Park Kitchen. Carina asked me how did I come up with this particular restaurant. Considering we had over 50 things we wanted to do, why was Park Kitchen a must?
Well, it was a process of reading reviews and elimination. There were also proximity factors. I wanted to eat before embarking on our craft cocktails crawl. After we looked over the menu, there was not one thing we wouldn’t have eaten. We decided then to let the kitchen decide and ordered the small and large plates tasting. Since it was just the two of us, we got two small cold plates, two small hot plates, two entrees and two desserts. At $50 a person, this was an incredible deal. We shared everything.
Knowing we were cocktailing it later, we decided to stick to one cocktail per bar. After some consultation with our server, I chose the Slight Variation. She said while the other cocktails I was looking at were great, there was something special about this one, with it evoking a time and place for everyone. My time and place was that very moment though. Carina said right before we fell asleep our first night, “How did we end up in Portland?” Well, it all started two years before where I loved my time in PDX. And I’ve been trying to get back there ever since.
We were given the prawn salad to start which was a nice salad. James Beard was from Portland and I think this trend towards local, sustainable, humanely raised, organic and all the other words that just means better for you would have made him proud. I’ve been finding menus that note the origins of food somewhat amusing though the intention is of course to emphasize the pedigree or in some cases, locality of the foodstuff. What I liked about Park Kitchen was it wasn’t in your face but you knew the menus changed frequently because of availability. The greens of the salad were so fresh, you almost wondered if they were picked that same week, maybe even that morning.
Next up were the chickpea fritters with an intriguing housemade squash ketchup. I found these a little greasy and thought the version I had at Frances in San Francisco were better. I think it would have helped if the fries weren’t so long.
Our favorite of the small plates turned out to be the radicchio salad. I’m not even a fan of this particular lettuce but the simple preparation and dressing was outstanding.
We also enjoyed the pork meatballs. With a touch of sweetness, the savoy cabbage were a perfect foil for the pork.
Before we had decided to do the small and large plate tasting, Carina and I had decided on our entrees. She really wanted the black cod and I wanted to try either the pork or lamb. We were quite happy that the cod and the lamb came out (but the odds were in our favor since there were 4 or 5 entrees that night). The black cod was so delicate and full of buttery rich flavor. I liked the beans that it came with. The lamb was a little tougher than I would have liked but it just showed how lean it was which my heart thanks Park Kitchen for. It was tapenade encrusted and came with a variety of white winter veggies. The best were the parsnips.
Our server explained to us that medlars were related to apples. I couldn’t really tell the difference between the medlar bits and the apples.
Our favorite dessert though was the date cake. The sesame seed crisps went so well with everything and the texture of lighter-than-air whipped yogurt was great.
Although Park Kitchen is a smallish restaurant where the open kitchen dominates one of the dining rooms, there were at least three large tables near us. Carina and I found it hilarious there were a couple of women seated next to us also from L.A. I wonder what brought them out to PDX? We know we came for the food and the drinks. Our Eatcation was off to a great start.
422 Northwest 8th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209