Quartet Sinks into the Willamette

Circling the DrainWillamette Week breaks the story that Quartet, the much maligned South Waterfront restaurant has closed. The restaurant which opened on Valentine’s Day 2013 wanted to bring fine dining into the space which had sat vacant for years, after the previous tenant, the über upscale restaurant Lucier closed in early 2009.

Since before it opened to the public, Quartet restaurant has been the source of controversy. Based on a press and friends dinner, the Portland Mercury raked them over the coals, criticizing just about every element of the restaurant –

Butternut squash and gorgonzola “raviolis” [sic] were half-cooked and splashed with a broken vincotto sauce. They were plated with more of the expired arugula, which this time was stirred together with…something like a tomato confit. Bone-in cajun ribeye was cooked perfectly, but had the marbling of something that just squeaked in to Choice. It was atop under-seasoned mashed potatoes and below cold, flavorless shoestring onions. Someone had hit the steak with a “1993” (squiggle) of white cream sauce. Dessert was a use-your-fork-like-a-maul pecan pie with some blueberries dropped onto the top of it—which then rolled around on the plate, presumably looking for their purpose—and a first draft of a rather outdated bacon ice cream on a decent roasted peach cobbler.

My own experience a month later, wasn’t much better – loud music, lousy food, and service brimming with attitude, all for a very high price. After a slough of bad reviews, you’d think the management would get the message and at the very least dump chef Adam Kekahuna, the hiring of whom raised many eyebrows in the first place. Instead, they managed to get themselves legally embroiled in several lawsuits. In August 2013, a lawsuit for fraud was filed by investor Ron Jay, saying mismanagement was causing it to “hemorrhage money”. In November Quartet was sued again after “a charity event featuring a performance by Stevie Wonder ended up being a net loss for the plaintiff non-profit because its partner in producing the event refused to share its portion of the $500 entry fees it collected”. In between the lawsuits, I received multiple emails from people claiming they were employees, saying that their paychecks were bouncing. As far as I know, the lawsuits have yet to be settled.

The future of the restaurant is uncertain. The space is quite nice, but in order to cover the premium rent for a large restaurant with such a great view, investors will have to be found who can shoulder the overhead while fighting to develop a following for a venue known more for failure than anything else. I can’t help but wonder whether this is possible.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. zumpie says

    Honestly, I’m stunned they lasted this long! Original odds didn’t expect them to make it to 6 months. And yeah, I’ve heard similar rumors from former employees, as well

  2. Jack Ryan says

    This does not come as a surprise to anyone. The so called manager Frank Taylor found out that he could not fool people in Portland for too long. Taylor and his partner Paul Keeler led people to believe that they had the expertise to run successful restaurants. When you pull back the skin, people now see the trail of disaster and bankruptcies in Detroit before Taylor landed in Portland. The stories of employees with bounced checks, small business vendors holding bad checks. If that is not enough. So called restaurant experts took a four star restaurant and turned it into a Denny’s or Applebees by offering every two for one, groupon or anything else that would bring a homeless person to the table. The service was terrible, bad reviews from every publication. Now you will find these guys hiding out at Portland Prime with the same attitude. Who would ever want to do business with them again. I understand that the newspapers are working on a bigger story about Taylor and Keelers backgrounds in this business.

  3. JandJ says

    It’s a shame, not because of the shoddy management and terrible food, but because the restaurant and setting is so beautiful. The right concept, right chef, and great execution could turn this into a real destination restaurant. Yet both attempts here have been poorly conceived, terribly executed, and run by exactly the wrong people. The original concept of Quartet was doomed from the get go, and yes, it’s truly amazing that it took this long for the inevitable to happen. It’s sad, but I think you’re right, FD. After this string of disasters, it seems unlikely that anyone would be willing to pony up what it will take to make this location sing. Yup… bloody shame.

  4. Jack Ryan says

    Did anyone ever look into this guys back ground in Detroit. Lots of unpaid bills. Just google Frank Taylor Detroit.
    How can you not pay employees, bounce checks to vendors and expect the city to support you. No wonder other restaurants were laughing at him under their breath. Anytime you take a potential four star restaurant and turn it into coupon city, tells everyone that management has no idea what the are doing. The ship was sinking almost from the second month from what I understand. My niece worked for this sleeze and her check bounced more than once. She finally got tired of it and threatened to go to BOLI. They immediately gave her a CASHIERS CHECK. When you start paying your business bills with cashiers checks, means that nobody in town trust you. Nothing but horror stories. Now he is still at Portland Prime trying to run the same scam. People in town are laying odds as to how long that one will remain open since the potential lawsuits are starting to happen and people are coming out of the woodwork. This guy was good for finger pointing and blaming everyone else for the restaurant problems, but I remember when me and some other doctors were at the bar a few times and we overheard him talking about how he owned the place and that other restaurants are coming over to see how a “real restaurant” is operated. What a frickin joke.. He was wearing what appeared to be a thousand dollar custom suit and then we saw him later that evening driving a Hyundai …

    • zumpie says

      TBF, driving a Hyundai might just indicate he’s not into fancy cars (though I tend to imagine he would be). And not everyone feels they “have” to drive a Mercedes. But the rest is quite true.

      I’m just amazed the Embassy Suites lets Portland Prime stay, guilt by association and all that. It’s a decent (albeit it not fabulous) space, too. You’d think they could find another tenant/partner

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