Thursday, May 10, 2012
A Trip to Portland Part 2: Le Pigeon
This is the second entry in my three-part installment about a field trip to Portland, OR. I hope you continue to enjoy. Fuckfaces.
Next up on our 2-day culinary tour of Portland was Le Pigeon. Consistently ranked among Portland’s best restaurants, Le Pigeon has accrued accolades and James Beard awards the way African warlords accumulate medals and mirrored sunglasses and epaulets. I was very excited to eat in this legendary dining room. Much more excited than I’ve ever been with your mom.
We started with an arugula salad ($10), which was basically a pile of arugula, draped in a hazy goat cheese dressing, laced through with crispy fried fennel shards, and garnished with a couple plump candied figs which were dusted in fennel pollen. On the very bottom was a melted round of goat cheese. The candied figs and dressing were tragically salty, but for the most part this was an acceptable, if pricey, green salad.
A whole quail ($15) was dusted with 5-spice powder then grilled. This miniscule game bird was served atop a silken dollop of a very literal “pine nut risotto.” We thought it would be a risotto with a couple toasted pine nuts thrown in for texture, but no: it was made ENTIRELY of pine nuts, used as the grain in place of Arborio rice, slowly cooked until they took on a texture as creamy as a debutante’s décolletage.
Pork tenderloin ($25) was braised in butter, then seared, sliced into medallions with of puns: “pretzel spatezle” and “Brussels kraut.” The Brussels kraut was pretty tasty: Brussels sprout leaves were tender and salty, with the fermented twang of classic sauerkraut. The pretzel spaetzle was similar to regular spatezle in that it was a big pile of squiggly dough, but it had been boiled in water made caustic with the addition of baking soda, then (I presume) baked so that the spaetzle sported a glossy, mahogany crust… just like… A PRETZEL! Thus the clever name.
Unfortunately, the pretzel spaetzle was better in theory than in practice because it was just too leathery. I can certainly sympathize, though, since many of my own ideas seemed cool at the time but didn’t pan out: people couldn’t bring themselves to actually eat the Turducken Centipede, choosing instead to vomit uncontrollably. And the Shitzfrei, the dog who never needs to be walked, tended to irritate pet owners when it inevitably died in a fiery poosplosion. The Foliautomaton, the robot which detects fall foliage, seemed to work well at first, until I took it to Vermont, when its circuits overloaded and it went on a Westworld-style rampage, pointing at every tree in sight, claxons sounding. Why, God? Why? Why did I have to install so many claxons?
Still, all in all the tenderloin was juicy and delicious, served with a piquant mustard seed sauce, which of course couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Blanquette de lapin ($28) was interesting: a rabbit roulade had been cooked sous vide, then served atop a vivid green nettle puree with sauteed black trumpet mushrooms, fried nettle leaves and some big cross-sections of sliced garlic. Accompanying this was a very interesting and delicious take on lasagna: in place of pasta sheets, this lasagna was constructed of crepes, whisper thin and laminated with a delicate béchamel sauce. I could’ve eaten a giant plate of this lasagna, the size of a tarp, and been completely satisfied.
Unfortunately, the sous vide roulade was the worst part of this dish. A good blanquette manages to be tender and moist, but the rabbit roulade just seemed pallid and cadaverous. I blame the sous vide method. It might have seemed like a good idea, at first, to make a blanquette in a sous vide machine. After all, blanquette traditionally must be painstakingly simmered, without letting the stew come to a boil, and what better way to control the temperature than with a water bath? Yet just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. I really wish someone had told me that when I met your mom.
Foie gras profiteroles ($10) were pretty full of themselves. Pate a choux pastry balls, flaky like your mom outside but tender and creamy inside, like sex with your mom, were split and filled with ice cream, dusted in confectioner’s sugar, then draped with a sticky stripe of caramel sauce.
Le Pigeon invented these things, which of course started the worldwide trend of cramming as much cruelty into every dish as possible. I wholeheartedly support this trend, but I wish they would figure out a way to make rice cakes, or tofu, or some other chaste diet food more decadent, instead of an already highly caloric dessert such as profiteroles. EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT of the profiteroles contains goose liver: the pate a choux is made with foie in lieu of butter. The ice cream is flavored with foie. The caramel sauce, like the pate a choux, replaces butter with foie. And the powdered sugar is somehow inexplicably ALSO associated with goose liver in some manner. If you were a goose, I advise you to STAY THE FUCK AWAY from Le Pigeon, lest your self be cooked!
Le Pigeon is a strange showcase of wonky technique, combined with reckless abandon. This is a kitchen that’s very clearly doing exactly what the fuck it wants to do, and damn the torpedoes. They’re cooking their asses off at Le Pigeon. This is the Iron Maiden of cooking. Sometimes they overreach, as with the pretzel spaetzle and the blanquette, but the talent in the room is enormous, and without risk there can be no reward. After all, even Iron Maiden wrote "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter."
Rating: 8 profiteroles out of 10
Le Pigeon is located at 738 East Burnside Street in Portland, OR
For reservations call 503-546-8796