FOR EVERY PORTLANDER who just can’t get enough of the experimental Pearl District bistro known as Park Kitchen, there is an equal number of Portlanders who “just don’t get it.” But perhaps not “getting” Park Kitchen has to do with the fact that it’s a restaurant whose style and influences are often incredibly hard to pin down.

Lately a Japanese influence has suffused many of the plates, and occasionally diners can discern something vaguely Greek or Italian or Spanish about the food in front of them. But more essentially, the menu here has traveled to the table straight from the quirky, playful and often remote regions of chef Scott Dolich and chef de cuisine David Padberg’s creative minds. A meal at Park Kitchen means you’re submitting to their culinary winks and nods—and therein lies the attraction.

A meal here means you’re submitting to the chef’s culinary winks and nods.

Order the “poached plums, fennel and goat cheese” off the small cold plates portion of the menu, and a trio of poached greengage plums perched atop thick slices of Spanish goat cheese that float above a pool of bright green fennel purée will arrive. “Fried green beans and bacon” translates to battered and fried green beans, served upright in a glass cup lined with butcher paper, alongside decadently battered bacon that’s been dipped into the hot vat. And while the pork belly is just that, it’s served in a bowl of fragrant, meaty apple and matsutake broth that tastes at once like the Vietnamese noodle soup pho and also something more complex than that.

No matter what you choose, however, it’s obvious that, back in the kitchen, the chefs are having unadulterated fun—a rare quality in chefs who are in the business for the long haul, and one that practically ensures there will always be something new under the heat lamps. 422 NW Eighth Ave, 503-223-7275