Saturday night at one of the hottest restaurants in Portland? Usually that's a hell no. But, I was dining with the lovely folks from Portland Food who had kindly arranged a reservation for our party of 6. I had driven by Le Pigeon many times, but had never looked inside. It's teeny. There are 3 community tables seating eight or ten, and an L-shaped bar that seats another eight, perhaps. I really didn't get a sense of decor if there is any to speak of, just a lot of....people. It's like a seated rock concert, with Gabe Rucker headlining night after night.
Shared: Asparagus with fingerling potato and pigeon aioli, Butter Lettuce salad with bacon & blue cheese, Pickled Pig's Ear with fettucini and artichoke, and Crispy Frog Legs with Picked Garlic Remoulade. The salad and asparagus were tasty if not earth-shattering. I did not care for the pig's ear or frog legs. I commented at the time that the frog legs tasted like nothing, not even chicken. The pig's ear was mixed with a bunch of fettucini (not my favorite) and tasted strongly of vinegar. The artichoke was good, though. For my entree, I ordered Scallops & Swine - 2 rich marshmallow-sized scallops, crusty on the outside and med. rare on the inside paired with a generous slab of pork belly with oyster mushrooms and asparagus tips on the side. Oh yeah, and smoked pork fat hollandaise. Swoon. Words can't do justice to the combination of sweet scallops and smoky pork belly. I wanted to lick the plate. I tried a bit of Beef Cheek Bourguignon - stewy, meaty beef cheeks rich with Burgundy wine. Lamb looked great atop a white bean puree, and the sweetbreads were that perfect mix of crispy and creamy.
The dessert options were scrawled on a big chalkboard on the East wall. Our choices included Creme Brulee, Espresso Pot de Creme, Foie Gras Profiteroles, and the famous Apricot-Bacon Cornbread with Maple Ice Cream. (All of which we ordered for the table.) I'm not a very big dessert person, but I deigned to have a bite or two. As expected, the Cornbread was a hit! Salty, smoky and sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and the cornbread itself had a very rustic texture with a large crumb. The ice cream's creamy smoothness set it off wonderfully. I can't wait to go back just for this dessert.
No wonder Gabe was named one of the Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine.
Speaking of the Chef, he was there in full-force, busting it out in the tiny open kitchen. He came personally to deliver a course to our table; I noticed him doing the same throughout the restaurant. What a great touch. Tattoos of the namesake bird play on his forearm, and he's quite good looking in a David Arquette kind of way. The next time I go, I want to sit at the bar and watch the action.
738 E. Burnside
Portland, OR 97214
Open 7 days a week for dinner beginning July 8th.