Review: Ned Ludd

Ned Ludd Portland - Ling Cod

Oven-poached ling cod with leeks, chanterelles & currants
Photo ©CJ French

The Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans, who violently protested against the machinery introduced during the Industrial Revolution. Chef Jason French pays homage to their mascot, Ned Ludd, for whom the movement was named, and cooks everything from a wood-fired oven. No other source of heat is used; it’s all very Portland.

The kitchen is tightly focused on a few items that they can do very well; simple preparations and combinations, heightened with an unusual ingredient here and there. A charcuterie board is always on the menu, paired with a dense bread, terrific house-pickled cucumbers, mushrooms and celery. The last time I ordered one it came with herbed copa di testa, duck bacon, warm lamb rillettes, thin strips of ham, and smooth, creamy liverwurst.

Try the flatbreads, warm from the oven, and brushed with olive oil. Caraway seeds give unexpected bursts of flavor and create interest. Follow it with a salad fairly singing of summer, with heirloom and cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, fresh basil and black olives.  Over several visits, every vegetable dish I’ve had here has been good. The ingredients, of course, change with whatever is available in the markets. In August, I browsed my way through the menu, trying their smoky roasted squash with basil, lemon and pimènton, still with a slight crunch, a light sheen of olive oil, and the bit of acid to set it all up. Another simple winner, is their classic combination of sweet melon, marinated cucumber, yogurt and honey.

Trout plays a featured role at Ned Ludd; one evening stuffed with fennel and radish, more recently with charred green onions, cucumber and fennel salad. The trout is always crispy and smokey from the wood oven, but the flesh remains moist, the fennel playing a nice counterpoint to the fish.

Brunch is available, with the menu following along the same lines as dinner. I like the vegetable hash with eggs, smoked trout and toast. If they haven’t run out, the meat pie with mustard sauce is not to be missed. Another popular item, “Bird in the Nest”, which is available multiple ways, but is basically twice cooked polenta with a hole in the center, filled with a variety of ingredients, like duck ragu, creamed greens, or my favorite, baked eggs, bacon, crimini mushrooms, cream and toast.

The cooking here is top-notch, but not for everyone. It’s a restaurant that succeeds despite their efforts to come across as oh-so-clever. You’ll either love it or hate it; there’s no in between. Obviously PFD readers like it! Go early and beat the crowds for a more intimate experience. Pay attention to the dishes, and think about what Jason is trying to do. Most likely you will understand.

  • Address: 3925 Northeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard Portland, OR 97212  Map
  • Phone: (503) 288-6900
  • Hours: Daily 5pm – close. Brunch Sat-Sun 10am-3pm
  • Happy Hour:
  • Reservation Policy: Open Table or call (503) 288-6900
  • Noise Level: moderate, can be loud when the restaurant is full
  • Price: Moderate
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