Chef Musical Chairs: Troy McLarty left Hula Hands in April of this year and spent some time as part of the Laurelhurst Market team. Now comes word that he has left Laurelhurst Market for Ned Ludd.
From my review when he was chef at Lovely Hula Hands,
Troy MacLarty worked at at Alice Water’s famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, before being lured to Portland by the much maligned Michael Hebberoy. As things began to melt down in the Hebberoy empire, he left, reappearing later at Simpatica, and finally at Lovely Hula Hands which had just moved into a much larger space. Under his capable hands, LHH rose to to the point where it was my Restaurant of the Year for 2007. In my last review I wrote, “Salads are inspired and perfectly executed; in my opinion, some of the best in the city. On my second visit I had the radicchio with pear butter vinaigrette, brie, and glistening candied pecans. It was like a brie butter fog had settled over the leaves. I wanted to lie down in it. This was an exceptional effort that shows just how much you can do with a salad.” To this day, I think it’s the best salad I’ve ever had.
I’ve never been thrilled with the food at Ned Ludd, and am greatly encouraged to hear he will be heading over there. As a master of salads, and now with even more experience at Laurelhurst, this is great news.
Dude, while I generally admire your writing and agree with your taste in restaurants (right on about Ringside, btw), I have to say I’m shocked SHOCKED that you don’t like Ned Ludd. Not only is it within walking distance from my house, but the staff is friendly, attentive and welcoming. And the food—while I’ll resist using the word “swooning” about our response to the dishes that emerge from the wood-fired oven—is really great (sorry, my food vocabulary doesn’t go much beyond “delicious” and “yum”). And it’s not just us…we’ve taken friends there and they’re totally impressed. Even (chef) Ivy Manning is swooning (I have written evidence). And she’s a pro! Anyway, please reconsider. We love the Ned!
I had one meal each at Ned Ludd, Laurelhurst, and Lovely Hula Hands and they were all sub-par which makes me very sad. (Yes Troy was the chef at LHH at the time.) Someone please tell me what to order at these places and I’ll try them again.
Steve Wino says
It’s so interesting comparing notes with others and seeing how differently others view their experiences at different restaurants. I never know whether it is due to different tastes, the vagaries of the day or gremlins lurking about in the kitchen. I enjoyed LHH on a semi-regular basis while McLarty was there and always found it spot on with technique, ingredients, concept and execution. I expected to be in cow heaven at Laurelhurst on our one visit and was somewhat underwhelmed. It may have been due to the hype and my overinflated expectations so I left it on my list of places to return later. At my one meal at Ned Ludd, we shared three dishes, one a definite clunker, a salad swimming in dressing, almost inedible, the second a “nothing,” no taste, nothing memorable, something I would have been disappointed in had I made it at home, and the third a very nice vegetarian entree that sounded less than thrilling on the menu but was my wife’s choice, which turned out to be very good. I have seen the love showered on Ned Ludd by others but haven’t really had it very high on the list of places I wanted to return. I will have to reconsider that with McLarty there. I know the grass is always greener on the other side but I envy the professional reviewer (or independently wealthy) who can go out and really give restaurants the second and third try to get a real read on the day to day quality.
I loved my meal at Ned Ludd…the green beans…the trout salad, the dessert was the only thing we were not swooning over.
Ned Ludd is one of the best new restaurants in Portland. Locally sourced, straight forward creative food.
Humble Pie says
Well put Steve. While we are envious of those with the time and resources to give restaurants a second and third (and beyond) try for the sake of a fair shake, we can also take an offhand comment as just that. FD hasn’t reviewed Ned Ludd, he just said he’s never been thrilled. Though that would imply more than one visit, it doesn’t mean he tried several things or attempted to get a better read on it. It’s just an impression, and it’s more about the anticipated change in the kitchen. I’m excited to try it again, too.
Food Dude says
Sorry I haven’t responded on this thread sooner. Humble Pie, you are pretty much correct. I’ve been three times since they opened, two of the times were within the first six months. To me, the food has never been anything more than so so, and one time, the service was terrible. I’ve been encourage to hear more positive reports lately, and plan to go back. I like Troy, and am looking forward to it.
Steve Wino says
I think you misinterpreted my comment wishfully thinking about the life of a professional reviewer. I was simply stating that, as a consumer, I have to make a judgment about where to spend my future dollars without the luxury of multiple restaurant visits. I wasn’t commenting on the basis for FD’s comments.
Interestingly, the herd opinion sometimes works the other way. I just came back from NYC where we on vacation and thought we would go to a couple of celebrity chef restaurants. Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles was nearby. The website I was looking at contained 80% negative reviews, many saying “I used to love it but . . . ” Since it was within walking distance, we decided to give it a chance. I have no idea what the bad reviews were all about but it didn’t match our experience.
Had a beautiful dinner last night at Ned Ludd – it was Troy’s first night on the line. Standouts include the always lovely assortment of charcuterie (the pickled olives will be in my mind for weeks – reminded me more of pickled grapes – the delicata squash with chunks of bacon and a deep rich grape molasses, and a ham steak that had come off the smoker that morning, atop greens with an apple sauce on top. Really great flavors. They know their pork. It was fun to hear about the 100 year old sourdough starter used for the flatbread that came from the day manager’s grandmother. Hope you like it there soon Dude, as they really care deeply about food and what they’re doing.
His name is MacLarty. Just thought I’d help.
Jay MacLarty says
Ms. Higgins, Jay MacLarty here (father of Troy MacLarty).
I started to write this in early November when Google first announced it’s presense on the web; but that effort was interrupted by an unexpected bout of brain cancer.
After 5 months of hospitals and rebab, I’m finally back at my desk trying to catch up on a thousand old e-mails and projects. As a full-time novelist, what struck me was your very poetic (and atypical use of language in your review:
“A salad of autumn greens was just what I’d expect, though better than most restaurants. It is a refreshing palate cleanser with slightly bitter greens as a counterpoint to the herb vinaigrette, sprinkled with crunchy hazelnuts and a pungent blue cheese ($7.25, +cheese $2).
“Salads are inspired and perfectly executed; in my opinion, some of the best in the city. On my second visit I had the radicchio with pear butter vinaigrette, brie, and glistening candied pecans. It was like a brie butter fog had settled over the leaves. I wanted to lie down in it. This was an exceptional effort that shows just how much you can do with a salad.” To this day, I think it’s the best salad I’ve ever had.”
YUMMY, that does sound good! . . . made me want to jump up and catch the next flight to Portland. Best wishes, from one scribbler to another. . . . Jay MacLarty.
Food Dude says
Wow, that is good! I wonder who wrote that?
Best wishes to you. I’m glad you are feeling better.