|A view out the front window.|
The dining room is pale and soothing, in creamy tones of ivory and moss, with a muted soundtrack played perhaps even too softly. This palette provides a perfect neutral backdrop for Woodward's food, which often comes bedecked in vivid edible flowers or whorls of brilliantly hued herb reductions. The owner, Monique Siu, keeps a keen eye over the scene, but the waitstaff themselves hardly need guidance. Their synchronized pacings flow like they were choreographed, with ready answers and grace, and are seemingly as content to be there as you are.
Castagna offers and a la carte menu, but I opted the ten course (plus, with Woodward's compliments) chef's menu (also available vegetarian with 24 hours notice), an experience I couldn't recommend more. You will not suffer, of course, by going the traditional app/dinner/dessert route, but there is such whimsy and levity in Woodward's dishes that trying as many of them as possible seems the most rewarding tactic. I was tempted by the Wine Pairing option, but, flying solo, and thus driving myself home, one glass would have to suffice. It was a spectacular Rioja Blanco (who knew?), lush, crisp and clear.
A series of snacks began my repast, my favorite of which was an ethereal button of buttermilk meringue which dissolved like an evanescent dairy cloud to reveal an unctuous tarragon emulsion within. Next, a mild shock of deja vu eventually subsided from the savory disc of granola: apparently this is one of the dishes Matt adopted from Justin to use at Atera. It was identical but for a jewel-like droplet of rosehip puree atop.
Two delicate caraway crackers perched akimbo shielded a rich smear of duck liver puree underneath a flounce of crisp clover sprouts, perhaps a nod to a duck's natural forage. A crisp furl of bright green, tart apple spooned around a creamy dollop of dense yogurt, a refreshing interval that bridged sweet and savory.
|Cucumbers with yogurt and nasturtiums|
|Shrimp, radish, lime, melon|
|Parmesan water being poured a table.|
|Corn puree, Iberico|
Next, a surprise addition of a small puddle of sweet corn puree heartened with dried Iberico ham arrived cool and opulent, acting as a an introduction to the rest of the dishes, which were more entree-formulaic.
|The contents of that new onion...|
|Sole, spot prawn, geranium, onion|
|Chicken, squash, duck cracker|
|Beef, various peppers, marrow|
|Raspberries, olive, licorice, hibiscus|
|Chocolate, Praline, coffee, date|
|Cherries, almond ice cream, birch|
I left Portland for New York before I developed much of a nose, ear and tongue for the whole restaurant scene. Atera was the first place that literally titillated all the above, and now I see where his reputation began. Dish for dish, I think Woodward's artistry appeals more to my taste, although this could just have to do with timing: I benefitted from the full force of a Pacific Northwest peak harvest.
In any case, the magic and brilliance that began with Lightner is holding steady with Chef Woodward. Apparently chestnuts grow in Wonderland as well.
Wed - Sat for dinner at 5:30pmReservations recommended