Daniel Mondok, Portland’s notable chef-drifter, has touched down once again. Since his lauded Sel Gris (literally) went up in flames in 2009, Mondok has slipped from kitchen to kitchen, putting his modernist, sometimes-Asian-influenced touch on places like Genoa, Paulee, and Block & Tackle for a few months before moving on. Now he’s back in action at Swank & Swine, a dual-restaurant concept inside Downtown’s Paramount Hotel, right next to Director Park.
First, a note: Swank and Swine are two separate restaurants. Swine hunkers on one side of the hotel lobby, looking like a whiskey-heavy sports pub with a menu that pimps hot wings, pigs in a blanket, and tater skins, all under $15. Across the hall sits Swank, a formal, 84-seat fine dining room with deep black banquettes, garish crystal chandeliers, and hotel restaurant prices where Mondok is free to flex his culinary muscle.
A few of his signatures from past gigs grace the menu: spicy Salt and Pepper Calamari (still good, but not quite as crisp as it was five years ago) and a breakfast-for-dinner plate of sweetbreads, fried aebleskiver balls with runny egg yolks, and bacon-maple syrup from his Sel Gris days. Early tastes of Mondok’s new plates aren’t as winning. A salad of apricots, green strawberries and black olives is a discordant mix of a salt and acid. Meanwhile, the Hamachi “pho,” with grilled wedges of dry yellowtail collar on a bed of squid-ink pasta in cream sauce, needs to head back to the drawing board.
Credit must be given to Mondok, who maintains his brand of creativity even in the hotel setting, where hospitality-industry bureaucracy has the final word. Diehard fans will want to stop in for another taste of his addictive, fish-sauce-spiked calamari rings; for everyone else, the kitchen still has some work to do. Can Mondok stick around long enough to make Swank (& Swine) a hotel-dining destination?
808 SW Taylor St.