Fans of Scott Dolich's Northwestern cuisine are set to receive a late holiday present. Early next year, the lauded Park Kitchen chef will return to day-to-day operations at The Bent Brick—after years of handing over culinary control at his two restaurants to talented chefs like David Padberg, Ethan Snyder, and the soon-to-depart Will Preisch.
News of Dolich's return to menu control came late last week, when The Oregonian reported Preisch's modernist-leaning menu had failed to capture fans at the Bent Brick. Priesch will remain at the helm of the year-and-a-half-old Bent Brick until a new, truly tavern-style menu launches in February, after which he'll depart for a series of traveling kitchen gigs across the nation and abroad.
After the news broke, I sat down with Dolich to get his take on the Bent Brick's new direction, a rebooted protein-focused menu, and the lessons he learned from Bent Brick 1.0.
Can you explain a but more about the disconnect between what diners expected the space to be and what they found on the menu?
"The Bent Brick is a cool spot, it's quirky, but it's not upscale...and Will's food had an aura of being upscale. His plating style is very exact and beautiful, but it's not very warm. It's so difficult to make food that's truly embraceable, and we gave it our best shot. When Will gave his notice, I knew that I had the knowledge and experience to continue with the modern direction, but my heart wasn't in it. The lesson I've learned is that, for a restaurant to be successful, everything has to match up. You can't just have great food and a pretty space, it has to be great food that belongs in that pretty space."
How will your role change at the Bent Brick?
"For a long time, I was working so hard on trying to market the Bent Brick as a whole package, and get our message out there, but now that I have the opportunity to start fresh I really want to focus on the food and the service. I know I have a special spot, and I know what I want the menu to be. Now I just want to put my head down and make the food delicious. A part of me feels like I short-changed the Bent Brick by not being in the kitchen from the beginning. We have dug ourselves into a bit of a hole, reaching for the audience for 'advanced' cooking, so now we have an uphill climb. But I'm good at that, that's what I do."
Give us a bit of a sneak peek of the new Bent Brick menu.
"The new menu will be protein focused. Park Kitchen has earned a reputation for being primarily about vegetables, so you could say the Bent Brick will be my meat-and-seafood spot. The menu will be steakhouse-style, with the emphasis on a la carte large meat cuts, sausages, shellfish (like crabs and clams), and a great selection of sides, salads, and soups diners can choose from. There will be no tasting menu, no extreme chef control. Will's plates at the Bent Brick were so composed, even more so than the dishes at Park Kitchen, and now I want to give people the choice to construct their own meals. That's what people want."
At the end of the day, do you think there's a place for modern cuisine in Portland?
"Modernist cuisine might not be what you eat every day, but it's so important that it exists. Without the risk-taking of these forward-thinking chefs, you're stuck with a sameness that is stifling Sometimes it feels like the trickle-down from modernist approaches is so slow, but the developments do find their way onto comfort food, street food, and farm-to-fork plates and push us to another level."
The Bent Brick
1639 NW Marshall Street