Chef John Taboada always has harebrained ideas going, and most of them work. Taboada was ahead of the curve in 2001 when he helped pioneer Portland’s do-it-yourself Eastside food scene at Navarre, an icon of farm-to-city eating. Luce, a reimaged Italian mom-and-pop shop run with his wife Giovanna Parolari, is humming along to happy reviews on East Burnside since opening in late fall. (Read our review here)
But Taboada had long dreamed of a four-table bar serving his beloved Europeans sips—aperitifs and digestifs—when Navarre neighbor Chin Yen recently shuttered. “I’ve been sandwiched between Starbucks and Chin Yen for ten years,” says Taboada. “I couldn’t resist.”
Game on. Taboada is starting the build-out for a new and as-yet-unnamed bar; what Taboada calls “a kindred spirit to Navarre, but not the same thing.” The plan, so far: a menu of appetizers and desserts only, to pair with drinks meant to be sipped before and after meals. A “secret dining room” is in the works, to house small groups and spontaneous parties. Meanwhile, a large prep kitchen means Navarre can expand beyond the nano-batch limits of its closet-sized kitchen. More charcuterie is on the table, and no one makes a pate like John Taboada. ETA is three to six months.
The new project occupies roughly one-third of the vast space held for decades by Chin Yen. According to Taboada, the landlord agreed to break the space into three spots rather than one large restaurant, opening up possibilities in a neighborhood of small businesses.
Is Parolari on board? The style maven and scavenger supreme is busy relocating her popular Una boutique to SE Ankeny St. “Oh, I don’t know, but I hope so” Taboada says. “She’s so busy right now I can’t even ask her. I’m just going to say yes!”
10 NE 28th Ave
2138-2140 E Burnside St