Monday, January 30, 2012


Ed Schoenfield is a most unlikely looking master of all thing Sino-centric.  His expertise is no secret though, and alongside his partner, chef Joey Ng from Chinatown Brasserie, comes their new West Village hot-spot, RedFarm.    To the best of my knowledge, this is the first casual Chinese restaurant doing the local/seasonal thing, and they do it with no holds barred.  Schoenfield doesn't take things too seriously, so tweaking traditional dishes and adding unexpected elements to classics is completely fair in his game, whilst all along retaining true Asian flavors in every dish.

We began with a good example of this with the grilled vegetable salad, a madly unpredictable hodgepodge that looks like a kitchen craft project of a miniature forest.  Enoki mushrooms spring like crazy electrodes on the periphery, encircling a mass of soy-drizzled arugula and two odd blackberries plunked in the middle.  Underneath the mess of salad lie myriad fragments of grilled peppers, eggplant and squash bedded in a thick layer of wasabi hummus-like dip.  There are crunchy little sesame crackers provided to scoop up any of that dip that remains.  The main components are shared by both Chinese and Mediterranean cuisines, and the melange amalgamates the two in an outstanding EurAsian partnership.   It's as fun to look at as it is to eat.  Likewise, the infamous PacMan Shrimp Dumplings.  These are the best shrimp dumplings I've had, virtually nothing but a pristine, meaty shrimp swathed in a thin wrapper, tinted to evoke memories of the ghosts of PacMan past.  A circle of acorn squash, lightly breaded and fried, is cut out in PacMan's shape, as if ready to gobble the ghosts if we didn't get them first (this wasn't going to happen).

I usually skip vegetarian entrees in favor of a little protein, but the Five Different Mushrooms with Yellow Leeks was a brawny mix of mushrooms, and while I probably could've done with it as a side (and then I would've order the Sauteed Black Cod, too), it had a unique flavor I couldn't quite put my finger on.  It may have been asoefetida, or perhaps some other unfamiliar seasoning, but teamed up with little heads of baby bok choy made a wonderful plate.  Even my dining companion who "doesn't like mushrooms" wouldn't keep his chopsticks out of my 'shrooms.  Not a problem, because there was more than plenty.  And to recapture any dearth of protein, we got an order of Spicy Crispy Beef.   It's three types of crispy:  fresh matchsticks of crunchy tart apple, crispy fried chips, and the beef itself, tender as all get out and soy sauce salty-sweet.

Now, unlike most Chinese restaurants that give you orange wedges or maybe fortune cookies (or a weird Asian pudding or something else skippable), RedFarm has DESSERT.  Okay, nothing too fancy, but options, the best of which is Ed's own chocolate pudding.  It's a charming little dish of humble, cocoa-rich pudding topped with chantilly and fresh raspberries.  And just as anomalous as chocolate pudding would seem in a Chinese restaurant, here, it totally fits.  Like the rest of the menu's untraditional quirks, here they seem natural and unforced.  Whether or not the food is necessarily authentic to any particular cuisine, it is true to itself.  And the food at RedFarm is great.


Glomming on to the recent no-reservations trend for parties less than six, Seamus Mullen's Tertulia pretty much requires an hour + wait unless you get there at 5 o'clock.  This place is bumping, inside and out, and truth be told, it's worth it.  Worth it to get there that early, if a drink at the packed bar and waiting that long is unappealing, or in endeavoring upon those latter pastimes if you wanna get the full experience.

Much like Boqueria (Flatiron and Downtown), Mullen's former successes, Tertulia is a celebration of Spanish tapas, this time with a Basque focus.  The name derives from a Spanish term for a literary salon, and has evolved into its modern usage of a place where people can enjoy great conversation, drinks and food.  Given the cacophonous noise levels here, I don't know if the first prerequisite holds true, but the food and drink definitely live up to the title.

Squeezing past the sardine-packed bar, we joined two other parties at the far end of a communal table.  My chair was so lofty I felt like a child in a highchair, but any conspicuousness quickly ebbed as the relaxed, convivial atmosphere began to affect its charm.   Our server was chipper and savvy, and we didn't need a lot of time to start ordering.   The tempting aromas wafting from the kitchen were incentive enough to get food on our plates as quickly as possible.  Fresh from Toro Bravo (see review/12-23-11), I was anxious to try the tosta setas to compare.  It, unfortunately, couldn't hold a candle to Gorham's version, although for fairness's sake, they were drastically different: this one was a cold crouton smeared with smoky ricotta and topped with a vinegary melange of small mushrooms spritzed with spicy little pepper flakes.  Toro's is hot and saucy, which I vastly preferred, and even think warming up Tertulia's version would've improved it as well.

Croquetas de jamon iberico, though, initiated Tertulia's real momentum: crispy orbs oozing a sweet, mild bechamel studded with tender chunks of ham are served over daubs of quince paste.  Delicious.  One of my favorite things ever, fried pimientos de Padron, sparkle with flakes of salt- " lots of salt" states the menu, and they're not yanking your chain.  But they are perfect.  If you have blood pressure issues, well, just shake some of it off.  Personally, I could eat a bowl of that salt alone, impregnated with the flavor of the peppers.  Another vegetable success is the coles de bruselas: an original take on the crucifer, cooking them long and hot 'til their leaves are crisp and their hearts have melted, then seasoned intensely with a zesty, garlicky mojo picon.  Who says Spanish food is all about the meat?  That said, there is a full array of embutidos, but more the focus here is food from the kitchen, rather than Boqueria's market-based simplicity.

I was pretty excited for our last plate, and proudly experimental, too.  But the plate that arrived tested me a little more than I'd bargained for:  the Zamburinas y Mollejas was exponentially more sweetbreads, scallops and mushrooms than scallops, mushroom and sweetbreads as described on the menu.   An earthy-sweet parsnip puree rounds out the meaty offal and delicate crustaceans.  But it was an exquisite dish, subtly and richly flavored, and while the paucity of scallops left my dining companion finishing off a surplus of glands, he did look pretty content doing so.

We closed out with a crumbly, caramelly apple cake, sticky sweet with a buttery caramel and thick, rum ice cream, if a little scarce of actual apples.  Like the dinner menu, minimalist descriptions belie enormous pleasures.  Small portions work well at this place, because flavors are so amplified as to render bigger doses excessive.  Everything at Tertulia works, from the anticipation created by the no-reservations policy and the festive atmosphere of communal dining, to the robustly Spanish flourish and happy, gracious, and helpful waitstaff.  It is, it seems, just exactly what you would expect of a tertulia.

359 6th Avenue (corner of Washington Place)
tel. (646) 559-9900


That's Morini.  Not Morandi.  As in, Morandi, where I actually MADE the 7:30pm reservation for two but showed up where I intended to have done so, at Morini, Michael White's only NYC restaurant to which, at that point, I had not yet dined.  So I waited for my dining companion, who was happily slinging back cocktails waiting for ME at Keith McNally's similarly named establishment.  Thanks to the absolutely gracious and charming and uber-accomodating waitstaff at Morini, we were seated briskly after  my friend hightailed the cross-town commute: a fine example of White's omnipresent excellence of staff.  Also suits the name, as "osteria" derives from hospitality.  Here, though, it is the service that elevates the experience, rather than then food.

WHICH, I must say, was across-the-board fine.  But of White, I've come to expect an almost magical quality, and perhaps I overshot my expectations for this much more humble, rustic of his establishments.  But cozy it is, and the rough-hewn woodwork and glowy lighting create a perfect ambiance for blustery winter eves.  Our server presented menus with a dazzling smile, and when I screwed up ordering the artichoke fritelle, he swiftly brought a replacement arugula salad without blinking an eye.  The fritelle, to be fair, were perfectly serviceable fritters, but the artichoke in them was indetectable, instead tasting only of chickpea and red bell pepper, aided by a zippy nepitella crema- a rare Tuscan herb with a pronounced minty-herby flavor.  But since starving-me ordered them errantly expecting carciofi alla romagna (this IS a Roman-style osteria, after all), they weren't at all what I had my taste buds set on.  The arugula, on the other hand, was a bountiful, predictable salad of peppery greens, a strange paucity of sliced mushrooms and thinly sliced parmesan, but perfectly edible.  The insalata mista, however, was almost embarrassing ... as if White was trying to dissuade one from ordering anything so banal as a green salad.  Romaine and raddichio with a forgettable vinaigrette, and looked a lot like a generic side salad at some mall food court.

But things improved a little with the entrees: my monkfish was the star of the night.  And as if to make up for ordering something so "dietetic" as a white fish in this burly eatery, two enormous medallions arrived perched on a savory bed of lentils and lardons, garnished with the current chef's darling: baby celery leaves.  Literally, one of those pieces of fish was bigger than what you'd find 
in most any upscale-ish restaurant in Manhattan, in total weighing over 10 ounces.  

They dwarfed the grilled lamb blade, blanketed in strips of fried peppers and gently reminiscent of Mulberry Street.  They were perfectly cooked and just gamey enough, but not much more than good lamb with peppers and onions.  It just seemed a little simple...  to a fault.  And despite the enormity of my entree, I am physically incapable of turning down brussels sprouts if they present themselves, and these were welcome specimens.  Their brilliant green inspired fear of under-cooking, but instead, emerged tender and flavorful, mingling with a meaty cubes of pancetta and soft bits of onion, resulting in no leftover sprouts to accompany the monkfish that would doggy-bag its way home with me.  

We couldn't leave without at least dabbling in dessert. The charming maitre d' settled our decision between the meringa with blood orange and pistachio, a classic affogato, and our ultimate choice, the gianduja budino, a heavenly little custard sporting a jaunty chocolate wafer chapeau over cherry lambrusco sorbetto nestled in coffee cream, and bejeweled with plump miniature amarena cherries cascading down its sides.

Now, while I'm glad I ended up at Morini instead of Morandi (don't even get me STARTED with Morsini and Marea), I didn't find it profoundly better than Morandi, which is a restaurant that is totally fine... but it's no Michael White place.  Morini is better, yes, but not profoundly better.  Truth be told, the finest treasure I found at Morini was the maitre d', Damon Kornhauser, who I hear is soon departing.  Because it was his hospitality that set Morini apart from any other solid Italian joint.  If it's true, I hope the food returns to its original worthiness when he exits, if only just to make up for his absence.

218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012
Telephone: 212.965.8777


"Spuntino" means snack, and while the hearty portions at Frankie's are anything but snack-sized, they are every bit as soul-satisfying and appetite-sating as any snack ever even wished it could be.  It's the third of the franchise, but the Frankies, Castronovo and Falcinelli, have got their chops: they can spread themselves around without getting too thin.

You won't get thin on their food, either, but that's not to say it's heavy or gluttonous.  This is simple, rustic Italian food, plated generously and seasoned accordingly, but still refined.  Everybody raved over the shaved brussels sprouts salad, but frankly (pun intended) I thought it could use a little more salt.  It's still a healthy, virtuous salad, crucifers shaved thinly enough to render their raw state chewable, and studded with Castelrosso cheese, lemon and olive oil.  A spritz of Maldon would've made it exceptional.  The roasted vegetable salad bypasssed that traditional eggplant/zucchini/pepper plate in favor of a more seasonal melange of rapini, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots and beets.  There's something for everyone, and everything was devoured.  A trio of (poorly photographed crostini consisted of avocado, ricotta and the best, a truffled cremini mushroom mountain that inspired hoarding tendencies.

Big plates are big, almost shareably so, if you can fend off those tendencies aforementioned.  You might want it all for yourself, even if something like the ruby red shrimp alla piastra arrives head-on with, like, seven twin siblings, hulking crustaceans simply seared and salted, with a sprinkle of minced herbs and olive oil.  You can taste the ocean... and see it in their eyes.  Moving down the face, pork cheeks swim in a rich, zesty sugo atop blissfully smooth pureed celery root.  The meat needs but the pressure of a fork to deconstruct into tender, ropey bites.  Handmade, love-created meatballs nestle into a hearty tomato sauce- not as Americans might serve as a topping for spaghetti, but in a well-deserved spotlight all their own.  Lots of things come in threes: the crostini, the cheeks, the meatballs.  Maybe it's so you could eat two (wholly sufficient) and take one home for lunch.  At any rate, the meatballs were smart to stand alone, as the one pasta we tried, tagliatelle with mushrooms,  was a bit mooshy and overcooked, although the cavatelli with Faicco's hot sausage and sage was text-book perfect.  Branzino might have been the best I've ever had: the fish firm of flesh and flavorful enough not to even need its equally tasty lentils and bright, tangy red onion marmalata.

I thought desserts might fall off a bit, but Frankie's is even superlative on the sweet side of things.  The only one I didn't like was the ricotta cheesecake; it was dry and spongey.  But my table of Italians kept beckoning it back to their side, so what do I know?  Well, I DO know that the red wine poached prunes with mascarpone- a most un-sexy sounding dessert, turned out to be THE most seductive thing at the table (aside from, perhaps, the devilishly handsome Fiorentino next to me).  These silky plums literally melted in your mouth, spiked with cinnamon and wine and nestled into a creamy bed of whipped mascarpone.  I would never have imagined a sensation like this possible coming from a prune.  Eliminate all affiliations you might harbor with SunSweet; these are of another universe.  The vanilla creme brulee was gorgeous, too.  Notably warm the rich, vanilla custard was, underneath its crisp crust of melted sugar, better than most I've ever had and maybe better than any.  Maxed out, I bypassed the chocolate tart, but it must've been great because all that was left of it was an empty plate as I began pushing my chair away from the table.

I read a few reviews online of Frankie's before arriving, and they seemed notably sour, for the most part.  Which I cannot fathom, given the food, service, and cozy, boisterous little space that makes up this third Frankie's.  Then again, why would you trust some anonymous Yelper?  Trust ME, instead.  Fiducia in me.... AND in the Italians.  They, and the Frankies, won't let you down.



Monday, January 23, 2012


Against every shred of my better judgment, I was convinced to partake in a dinner at Buttermilk Channel... not because of what I am supposed to be doing by following chefs.  No, because, as my friend had sleuthed.... Beyonce and Jay-Z had dined there not long before she gave birth.  Personally, I couldn't've cared less.  In fact, it made we want to go there even less, but sometimes there is the curiosity of the hype.  I played into it, and all I can say is: more for Beyonce.

Okay, the fried chicken was great.  And 92% of the people there seemed to be ordering it.  It wasn't as good as Brian Bistrong's at the old, now-closed Braeburn, but it was pretty delicious.  And a maple-pecan sundae was as good as any old fashioned soda counter could've doled out.  But everything else was pretty lackluster, and sometimes even a little disjointed.

A tender, aromatic popover welcomed us, and its light eggy crustiness is definitely worth the indulgence.  Oysters were fresh, the barbecued much more interesting than the raw with mignonette, but both good.   In a salad of grilled kale & endive, only the kale was lucky enough to hit the grill; the endive remained raw and slivered, tossed in a slightly overabundant, caesary dressing, and paired with THE hardest, soft-boiled eggs I've ever seen- the yolk stayed put and didn't lend anything to the salty dressing and floppy bacon, so they all remained disparate parts of the whole.  Caputo's housemade mozzarella was a heck of lot more greasy crouton than cheese, and its warm anchovy sauce provided alarmingly big chunks of anchovy that weren't quite well enough integrated into the dressing.

Then our hulking order of buttermilk fried chicken arrived (along with everyone else's... literally, there wasn't a table without at least one order).  Comes with some slaw- a decent dressed cabbage, but the cheddar waffle, great in theory, was not exceptionally cheddary, although it  was noticeably tough.  The little silver pitcher of syrup - a delicious concoction of maple and balsamic-  easily redeemed some of its flaws. My entree, a parsley crusted filet of hake was a perfectly cooked piece of fish, but those crusts cry 1990's and the broth was sweet and acidic, spiked with little bits of bitter green olive and tinny chili that tasted much like those little plastic packets in take-out Vietnamese.  The butter beans beneath were undercooked and tasteless.   I was happy with the menu description of the brussels sprouts with mustard: a refreshing deviation from the standard pork-centric treatment, but these didn't have much of a mustard kick, although they were properly cooked.    Roasted mushrooms were just that, not too soggy or dry, but nothing more than a nice little tumble of mixed fungus.

Dessert earned a measure of redemption though, and a joyous element of nostalgia.  Sitting at the bar like we did, we were presented with a huge glass coupe of Doug's pecan pie sundae.  Hunks of caramelized pecan and chewy pie crust bits commiserated in really excellent vanilla ice cream, served with long spoons and a cloud of creamy whipped.  You feel like a kid at the soda fountain, in the best possible way.  Along those lines, the rootbeer float and chocolate bread pudding looked just as delicious.   But don't let your inner child keep you  from a postprandial coffee: theirs is Gimme!, brewed strong and smooth.

I guess there's a reason this place is called Buttermilk Channel: aside from the dairy trade route between Brooklyn and Governor's Island, it seems like all the traffic this spot enjoys is by the grace of the buttermilk fried chicken.  So if that's what you're appetite is craving, you could definitely do worse, and in terms of sundaes, it'd be hard to do much better.

524 Court Street


Finding  Hudson Clearwater is a little tricky, most of all because although the address is Hudson,  the entrance isn't.   It's on Perry instead, where you'll  wind your way under a arched entry through the garden, up some stairs and into the restaurant.  Most disappointingly, that might be the most intriguing part about the restaurant.  Clearwater Hudson is  a year old restaurant in a bi-level space that fails to escape its prior incarnation as a realty office.  The menu itself looked classy and promising, but at this apparently popular neighborhood newbie, we couldn't get it to live up to the hype.  

A cozy glow comes from the open kitchen, but still there remains an impersonal starkness to the bi-level room.  The chairs aren't that comfortable, and seem organized sort of office-like- and this I noticed before I found out what it used to be.  The young chef, Wes Long, has an admirable pedigree, coming from the esteemed Applewood in Brooklyn.  He's brought with him their seasonal locavore aesthetic, but none of the finesse.  Although we started off deceptively strong with a hot appetizer of butter clams, kale and gnocchi in a rich and buttery bouillon, that was by far the best dish of the night.  And a tiny crock of one, at that.  I took some roasted beets off the sides menu for an appetizer, but they were no more than the ruby tuber, steamed, with some julienned endive and crowned with a single chunk of orange, a couple candied walnuts thrown on top.  Nothing really tied it together, so they just sat there together on the plate, inoffensively, but yawn.....

 Entrees scored the same as the beets- uninventive and a somewhat disappointing.  Even the special (or maybe especially the special) was uninspired:  basically just a slab of steak, spinach and mushrooms on a potato puree.  Plain like a steakhouse entree, it accomplished nothing beyond meat-and-potatoes.  The Atlantic black seabass was just as mediocre.  Balanced against some bland, smooshed rutabaga and leafed-out brussels sprouts, the decently crispy skin was topped with an odd mishmash of apples, radishes and almond pesto, ingredients which had little to do each other, let alone anything else on the plate.  

Speaking of brussels sprouts, their menu description gave them hope.  Albeit shaved, they were prepared with sun-dried tomatoes, Honeycrisp apple and caramel.  Instead, they were excessively sweet and sodden, an experiment in a potentially interesting flavor combination gone tragically awry.   A sassy ragout of melted leeks, mushrooms and watercress were the next bright spot after the clam app., but not nearly enough to salvage the meal.

Why we took the dessert recommendation from our quasi-vegan, rail-skinny waitress is a fantastic question, except for that obviously we weren't doing any better by ourselves.  Thus, we shared that standard, run-of-the-mill molten chocolate cake-ette, labeled a brownie on the menu, but most likely that was just because instead of "Desserts", they called their sweets "Pastries", and maybe a cake doesn't qualify as well as a pastry.  Anyways, it paired with some more (third cameo on this menu) Honeycrisp apple, some pomegranate seeds and creamy-cream drizzled with a red wine jus.  Thumbs sideways.

Nothing at Clearwater is offensive; it's just no better than what I could cook myself with a little elbow grease.  The flavors don't appeal greater than just their ingredients, and the room feels the same, uninspired way.  And it's a little cumbersome to get to... off the beaten path.  I kinda say don't bother.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


The Blue Hour is back.  Or did it really fade?  I don't know: it was good when I was first there, but that was awhile ago.  Now it has recaptured its original popularity with a buzzy new chef, Thomas Boyce, if not surpassed it.  The room remains its twinkly/shadowy self, becoming more beautiful as skies darken and the light casts graceful silhouettes through branches and glass, reflecting off white and  mirrors.  The food has been reenergized, and while some classics remain, Boyce offers his touch on new ones to a delicious end.

The service that everyone raved about, however, was blatantly absent.  More acurately, it is exclusive to larger tables.  I saw the convivial, nimble gentleman navigate the floor deftly, recognizable on reputation and confirmed later by the physical description of his lovely head of silvery grey hair.  Our server, on the other hand, was lackluster at best, a bit distracted in attitude and of a haughty disposition.  But she brought our food, and simply put, the food is very, very good.

Yaquinta Bay oysters were impeccably fresh, with a champagne mignonette and fragrant lemon wedges, served on that classic icy bistro stand.  A salad of mixed greens studded with impossibly juicy grapefruit (citrus seems to be having a most excellent season this year) and pungent shards of shaved pecorino.  A simple enough salad, done exquisitely well.  Hamachi sashimi was a smart hold-over from Kenny Giambalvo's reign, studded with floral pink peppercorns and crisp slivered fennel, giving it a festive flair.

We both opted for pescatory entrees: a sauteed golden trout stuffed with Dungneness (we're in Oregon... would they use any lesser crab??) and fennel arrived with a crisp skinned crust encasing its tender meat and the luxurious filling.  Plates are spare, but side dishes at a mere $4 each are well worth crowding the table with as many of them as you fancy.  Roasted turnips were crisp, salty and juicy, and brussels sprouts were roasted perfectly, flavored with big bricks of smoky guanciale.  A puree of Yukon golds was perhaps a bit redundant since both entrees we took were bedded in creamy purees, but nonetheless velvety-smooth and buttery-delicious for it.    My scallops, four golden-crusted specimens nestled with nubs of caramelized cauliflorettes and a sweet and salty-sour nod to Sicily with tiny currants and plush capers.

 A classic chilly rain, more forceful perhaps than a typical Oregon drizzle, pattered against the ceiling-high window panes, begging for some rustic, oven-warmed wintry dessert that refused to appear on the menu.  We instead took our server's recommendation of a beet financier, and on this, at least, she earned her stripes.  A just-moist enough cake redolent of almond was topped with thin slices of fried, candied beets, deliciously novel with a playful earthy sweetness and noticeable chew.  Passion fruit curd smeared a path between the cake and a lovely turret of goat yogurt panna cotta, incised with another disc of beet.  Coffee... well, let's just say it was no Stumptown.  Opt instead for a after-dinner tipple off their extensive list of grappas, cognacs and dessert wines, or one of their fanciful teas from Steven Smith.

The chef passed through the dining room on several occasions, and shouldn't have found much to take issue with, instead finding tables full of smiling, contented guests.  The blue hour is defined on their homepage twilight, or any moment that elicits heightened emotion.  The Blue Hour lives up to its name.

250 NW 13th Avenue, at Everett Street 

Phone: 503-226-3394 


THIS is a chef I follow.  This is Joh Gorham's Toro Bravo.  And this may be my favorite restaurant... in the world.  The aesthetic, the vibe, the service, the space, the seating... okay NOT the no-reservations policy, but the food, the food, the food.  The stuff that's been on the menu since its opening is ethereal, and the new additions are as good and better. There's something on this menu for everyone... except for those fearful of life-altering deliciousness.

The menu is broken down into pinchos (appetizers), tapas (small plates), charcutaria, raciones (entrees), and I just noticed there is a $30 tasting menu which will definitely be my plan-of-action for a next visit.  I recommend sitting at the bar if possible, as it's usually quicker, AND you have the added benefit of enjoying the zippy, addictive nut-and-seed melange offered- without delaying your dinner at all.  For table seating, you may have your wait cut out for you, as this restaurant's excellence is no secret.  But once you're seated, the adventure begins.  Although they weren't on the menu this time, I remember Toro's as my first introduction to fried shishitos: an oily and salty roulette of intermittently mild and spicy-hot peppers, never knowing which might be which, but all the more exciting as a result.  In their stead we ordered a perfect salad of Groundwork's Greens, with pickled beets and roasty hazelnuts and smeary daubs of fromage blanc.

Arriving next (plates present as they are ready, which may or may not be in order in which you prefer to consume them) were sauteed brussels sprouts with bacon sherry cream and griddled shrimp with chiles, both of which we plowed into so rapidly I forgot to snap a picture before we were 75% done.  Finally, though, a guy getting his brussels sprouts right: the leaves nutty and crisped, the centers meltingly tender, all wallowing in a bacony bath.  The shrimp were monstrous, head-on jobbers, not as transcendent as the sprouts, perhaps, but inimitably fresh and perfectly cooked, with nice bit of heat from the chilies.  Salsify in lemon bacon cream arrived just in time to divert our gluttony long enough for me to photograph the remainder of the shrimp and sprouts (now conjoined on a single plate to make room), and despite its rich ingredients, had a lovely, lighter feel and milder flavor, the earthy tuber soft and succulent in smooth lemony cream, studded with hammy chunks of smoky bacon.

Then came the dish I forgot I'd had before, but immediately recalled once I saw (and smelled) it: hedgehog mushrooms on griddled bread, with a sherry-spiked cream... like they most idyllic vegetarian s.o.s. imagineable.  The salty sauce saturated the crusty loaf of  Ken's Artisan, beneath a drool-worthy tumble of toothsome mushrooms.  This could be a meal in itself.  With a scrambled egg, a brunch to end all brunches.  For a lumberjack, an rib-sticking afternoon snack.  For anyone with a tastebud, a must-eat experience.

But we didn't stop there.  A terra cotta ramekin of braised pork with collard greens joined cornmeal dumplings, redolent of cheese, in a sumptuous stew hearty enough to cut any Portland-caliber chill.  Lucky to have tried this one, too, as it was not one of chef/owner (/genius) John Gorham's doings, but his new head chef, Kasey Mills.  With it, he proved he can not only propagate Gorham's talent, but foster his own as well.  

The only thing wrong with dinner that night is that NEXT time I come to Toro I need to remember NOT to stuff myself silly, so I can sample a few offerings off that dessert menu:  bourbon date pudding with sweet cream (John's got a thing for bourbon: see his latest venture, Interurban), baked apples and pears with ice cream, and churros, cakes, crepes, and creams of every nature.  Stumptown coffee accompanies, of course, and that is honestly dessert in and of itself- or at least a worthy meal-terminating treat. And I'm talking about a meal of this caliber, where of the fifty+ item menu, there's nary a runt in the bunch. Bravo, Toro, bravo.

    Toro Bravo | Portland | Reservations

Toro Bravo

120 NE Russell St. Portland, OR 97212

Open d


120 NE Russell St, 
Portland, OR 97209 

503 281.4464