738 E Burnside St; 503-546-8796?
At 29, Gabriel Rucker is a Portland original whose ideas have crackled into something electric. Working off-the-cuff in his own world of complex flavor combinations, Rucker goes gaga for guts, toys with French bistro, and reboots American classics—sometimes all in the same dish. Shaved beef hearts with broccoli struts to the table like a steak-house wild child fresh from a roll in a pile of salt, pepper, and red onions. Foie gras, a house obsession, rides out on a raft of brioche toast with a long-fingered, crispy-crunchy pigeon claw reaching out to greet you like a voodoo charm. The voltage extends to the softly lit, Parisian side street atmosphere, where the staff is infectiously excited about the food and wine they serve. Le Pigeon embodies Portland’s rise on the national scene in a single, sharply focused snapshot.
What’s next? Little Bird, a lunch-dinner bistro opening this winter at 219 SW Sixth Ave. Expect Rucker and his merry band of Le Pigeon regulars—wine maestro Andy Fortgang and side-cook Erik Van Kley—to twist the homey French classics and make Le Pigeon’s vaunted limited-edition burger a regular. Fortgang’s pastry-chef wife, Lauren Fortgang, hung up her respected rolling pin at Paley’s Place to join in. This is the place to watch. ?
10 NE 28th Ave; 503-232-3555
John Taboada pioneered a new east-side indie food style with this 33-seat eatery in 2001. He hand-built the interior for the price of a used car, then filled it with a local-farm gestalt, scholarly European village recipes, and his own definition of how a restaurant could be run—freewheeling, food-focused, and tenderly priced. In a city that prides itself on a farm-to-table ethos, nobody embraces the philosophy more completely: 90 percent of the produce is grown within the city limits. You won’t find a more original seasonal menu anywhere. Pear chocolate pie, candied fennel stems, lamb ham—if it’s on the list, it was made in the kitchen. A lawlessness hovers in the air, and that’s part of the magic.
?What’s new? Luce (2140 E Burnside St; 503-236-7195), a still-evolving project from Taboada and his wife, Giovanna Parolari, opened this fall with a burst of one-off farm dinners and plans for an Italian eatery up front. But Tuesday’s “Eating With Juan”—a one-plate Mexican village meal created by a trusted Navarre cook—already tastes bold and delicious. Drop by from 5 p.m. “until the food runs out.” ?