LE PIGEON

IN THE YEAR SINCE WE DUBBED the young, exuberant Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon our inaugural Chef of the Year, the culinary wunderkind has transformed his tiny E Burnside St kitchen into a nationally recognized gastronomic haven. His food has been featured in Gourmet magazine, and in July Food & Wine voted him one of the 10 best new chefs in America. Luckily, all that attention hasn’t gone to his head—or his food. Rucker and his talented team still love to take risks, and they do so to delightfully refined effect.

The trio of pillowy cream puffs is filled with foie gras ice cream.

Or how else would you characterize smart desserts like foie gras profiteroles that comprise a trio of pillowy cream puffs filled with a sweet and smooth foie gras ice cream? Rucker perfected the ice cream over the course of many trials and errors before getting it just right—right as in enveloping the barely discernible richness of foie gras within the creamy, icy, golden sweetness of vanilla and cream. Other revelations include the light-as-air sweetbreads (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?), accompanied by a whimsical pickled watermelon salad, and a fluffy aioli that’s subtly flavored with uni (sea urchin).

In fact, one could spend an entire evening here deconstructing the unorthodox genius of Rucker’s flavor pairings in just about every dish—from the beef cheek bourguignon to the seared duck with pancetta vinaigrette. But if doing so means you fail to notice that the dining room is practically bursting at the seams with its own energy, abuzz with diners whose glowing faces register the same wide-eyed giddiness and gusto for Rucker’s cult of culinary devotion that yours does, that, alas, would be a grave mistake. 738 E Burnside, 503-546-8796