Amuse Bouche – 12/27/12

Toro Bravo Portland Basque Piperade

Basque Piperade with Duck Egg

Paulée, the restaurant in Dundee which opened to great fanfare last May, has parted ways with Chef Daniel Mondok. According to Eater, Sean Temple, his chef de cuisine, is stepping into his position.

When the restaurant opened, Daniel said, “we want to make this the next Napa Valley… Today, people come from all over the world to the Napa Valley to eat. Now they’re going to come from all over the world to Dundee to eat.”

Maybe they weren’t becoming the destination he had hoped. I don’t know anyone who has been, and the few reviews on Yelp have been mixed.

Somebody has to say this, and you know I’m the only one who is going to do it: Really? Another washout? He’s had the top position at Carlyle, Olea, Sel Gris, June, Genoa, Paulée. I have no idea why these restaurants haven’t worked out for him, but I have to wonder…

Here is a little more information on Quartet, set to open in the former Lucier location on Portland’s waterfront. The “gold ball” where the bartender station was has been removed. The front door is being replaced with a glass and wood version to make a more welcoming entrance. Next, a baby grand piano is being added – a very nice one, suitable for accomplished players. Word on the street is they’ve had some strong talent in the Portland area respond to their ads.

A surprise to me, Portland Monthly says the BridgePort Ale House has closed.

BridgePort gave Robles free reign to transform the brewpub menu into a playground of Asian-inspired comfort food with big flavors and a lot of wit, drawing rave reviews from regulars and destination diners alike. Dishes like Momofuku-inspired steamed buns with bulgogi beef and kimchee or pork belly and cucumber and the rice bowls with char siu pork and sesame carrots topped with a fried egg were a welcome departure from the burgers and wings at most beer joints.

People have been giving me crap for saying that I think the Portland food scene has plateaued, but in their continuing roundup of 2012, Eater polled “Food writers and experts on the best and most overrated dining cities of 2012”, in which Portland was called out several times, though only by Eater personnel:

Matt Buchanan, BuzzFeed FWD Editor: Seattle was my favorite non-native stop, though — there’s a maturity to what’s happening in food there that you don’t see in, say, Portland.

Lockhart Steele, Eater co-founder: A Tale of Two Pacific Northwests in my travels this year: Seattle, surprise win. Portland, totally played.

Amanda Kludt, Eater Editorial Director: I took my first trip to Portland this year for the wonderful Feast festival. While I would pay to have the chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai shipped to my apartment on a weekly basis, I didn’t discover a whole lot in that restaurant scene that doesn’t already exist in Brooklyn. The restaurants are solid, but, coming from New York, I’d rather be dining in Seattle, LA, and San Francisco.

It is good that no one else in the survey even mentioned us, right? All the haters now have my permission to bash me for this heresy.

In another surprise, Ping is closing for a remodeling and expansion. Portland Monthly Magazine:

After a remodel, the new Ping will house 80 to 85 seats in 2400 square feet, including a new lounge area and private dining room. The bar will move into the new side of the eatery, and the kitchen line will be extended to where the current bar sits. A bigger kitchen means more room for menu exploration: “Before, we just couldn’t explore certain cuisines because we didn’t have the space to do it,” according to Huffman. “In the future, types of food that just weren’t viable will become possible.”

Hand in hand with the remodel, Huffman and the Jays will bring on a new chef partner to transform the menu into something they can call their own. While the identity of the new chef is under wraps, expect a shift from the drinking food menu put in place by previous co-owner Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame.

Frankly, I didn’t know they drew much of a crowd. It’s time I gave them another try.

OpenTable has announced their “100 Best Restaurants in America”. The list was determined by the the number of positive reviews out of the 5 million submitted in the last year.

The only Oregon choice deemed good enough to make the list is The Painted Lady in Newberg. Seattle was named three times.

On another note, TripAdvisor named their “Users’ Favorite Restaurants of 2012”. I was worried about Oregon making the cut here, as other winners were Uchi in Austin, Chicago’s Alinea, and Le Cirque. Fortunately we had a restaurant that could stand up to them: The Screen Door.

And you wonder why I’m a bit sour. By the way, I’ll never review the Painted Lady, because I have a policy of never going to restaurants which play music on their websites. It’s an ABOMINATION! Scared me so bad I knocked over my eggnog! OK  I wasn’t going to bring this up, but after working on the New Year’s Eve and Christmas dining lists, I have to say it – once again. Why oh why do restaurants not put contact information on your front page? I am so sick of trying to figure out where you’ve hidden the damn address! Is it in the footer? No. On the “About” page? No. Contact page? Yes. Finally. Wait for it… the address/phone number are on a graphic, which I can’t paste into my phone map/dialer. Idiocy.


Del Inti has closed. According to their website, “We have much going on in our personal lives that has influenced this decision as well as the feeling that it is time to move on”. I’d post more of their statement, but it’s a graphic. Grr.

For all of you who like boxed wine because it lasts for weeks, take note. University of California, Davis researchers found that boxed wine is more vulnerable to warmer storage temperatures that traditional wine bottles. From The Sacramento Bee: (link now dead)

Researchers employed chemical analyses and a panel of trained tasters to analyze storing wine at three different temperatures and in different containers. California chardonnay was analyzed in glass bottles, with corks from trees, synthetic corks or screw caps and two kinds of bag-in-box containers.

Warmer temperatures made for changes in the wine – and bag-in-box wines changes were more pronounced, according to a university press release.

Box wine stored at 68 and 104 degrees aged significantly faster than bottled wine. It became “darker and developed sherry-like, dried fruit-like and vinegar-like attributes.”

Researchers discovered that all of the wines aged better when stored at 50 degrees.

“The way a wine looks, tastes and smells is affected by the way certain compounds react with oxygen,” said lead researcher Helene Hopfer. “Those reactions speed up at higher temperatures, so differences in the way packaging systems manage oxygen in the container become critically important to aging and stability of wine.”


The New Year’s Eve post has received the most traffic of anything I’ve posted in two years. Christmas day alone it got over 30,000 visitors. I’m updating the list every day, so if you have an event that hasn’t been posted, drop me a note and I’ll add it.

Finally, I wanted to say thanks to all of you who read this site. It is hard for me to believe that this all started way back in 2004 – an eternity in blogging years. In spite of my health issues, traffic has increased every single year. I appreciate those who have continued to follow me and my various contributors. A friend recently said that I’m still writing because I’m too stubborn to stop. I have to agree, but add, it gives me a reason to get out of bed every day, no matter how lousy I feel. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. glainie says

    The only chef in PDX I can think of with more shuffle-miles than Mondok is Scott Shampine. I’ve honestly lost track of how many gigs he’s had in town. I know there was Hurleys, Olea, A Cena, Davis Street Tavern, Gracies, Blue Hour…feel free to add the one’s I’ve forgotten.

  2. Justin says

    I can’t say that Amanda Kludt’s opinion matters to me much, if the first time she came to Portland was for Feast. Eesh. We certainly don’t need more of THAT food scene.

    I actually think you have a fair point regarding a “plateau” here. With rapid commercial and residential development, I’m curious to see whether Portland’s food cart culture survives the increase in land values. And with every city in the country focusing on local sourcing and farm-to-table cuisine, I wonder if Portland can carve a niche for itself that reflects the bounty of its foodshed. Certainly, the Portland coffee roasters and brewers continue to innovate, so I see no reason why restauranteurs can’t follow suit. But it’s certainly a challenge.

  3. pdxyogi says

    How can anyone claim to know about PDX food just from attending Feast?

    Agree totally about bad restaurant sites. If I want to hear music I’ll go to a site that’s about music. And place the contact info/hours on every page, in the same place, and simply with no graphic! How hard is that?

    Thanks FD for all you do. Happy New Year.

  4. psp2pdx says

    It does seem that Portland has reached its zenith and now appears to be flat-lining. The difference between Portland and Seattle (in my humble opinion) is what I call the ‘hipster’ vib. Loud music and and even louder conversation.
    Eating out has become an effort….finding a spot where one can carry on a conversation has become nonexistent.

    Feast was a disappointment for many……part economy, part poorly run. Left the locals floundering a bit and gasping at the price tag.
    Seattle is more refined…let’s face in PDX’ers are grunge in comparison. Time to grow up.

    Just when I was planing a trip to Dundee you had to burst my bubble. Maybe Daniel will land back her or get wooed away to some distant land.

    Trip advisor for meals is not a reliable reference point, surprised at their round-up, I think not!!

    Oh and one more thing……waxed boxes and wine is just wrong!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR FD and thanks for being our go to for food notes.

    • tyleman says

      Kudos to you, psp2pdx, for speaking up about the music and general loudness of PDX restaurants. It strikes me that almost all restaurants think that both the volume level and the choice of music is of no interest to the customers. Maybe it isn’t to some people, but some people are not ALL people.

      And your comment about the “hipster vibe” is spot-on, too.

  5. Dick Gozinia says

    As hard as it is for Portlanders to believe, a real professional works at a place and can consistently deliver over, and over again. While he may be able to pull a rabbit out, Mondok is a dilettante—like the vast majority of the Portland food “professionals.”

    All sizzle—-no steak.


  6. Daniel says

    Bad news about Paulee. We had been there twice. 1st meal was one of the best I have ever had in Oregon and one of the best last year. 2nd visit was fabulous as well. It was worth the drive to Dundee for dinner.

  7. Rachel Schoening says

    One does have to wonder- What do these wandering chefs say when interviewed & asked that all important question, “Where do you see yourself in a year?”. I understand that Chef Mondok’s food is delicious, but I am getting tired of diners being expected to follow them around like mindless cattle. On the other hand, we are doing it, aren’t we?

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