Friday, June 28, 2013


Finally, I made it to Le Pigeon's globally acclaimed Little Bird, the one everyone always asks me if I've been to... but hadn't until now.  I do wonder if Portlandia didn't filch the avian theme from Gabriel Rucker's restaurants when they came up with the lark of "putting a bird on it".  First came Le Pigeon, and more recently Little Bird.  It's not new, but as his restaurants seem to follow a European holiday schedule, every time I was "home" in Portland either late summer or Christmas, they were closed.  This European feel carries over in ambiance and menu as well; this is Little Bird Bistro, after all.  A French bistro with an avalanche of Portlandness that creates its uniqueness.

Here is much more casual than the Pigeon, its room spacious and airy  with high ceilings covered in hammered tin, the decor following an obvious avian theme with multi-colored birds painted on the walls and decorative bird cafes aloft.  Ironically, (or perhaps subconsciously) we didn't order any poultry.

    Two sizable salads were worthy starters, and while perhaps they lacked a bit in differentiation
between the two (greens with cheese), they were both abundant and balanced.  Mixed greens were gently anointed with a zippy banyuls vinaigrette and dusted with shavings of goaty Le Chevrot.  Even better for me was the mountain of sweet butter lettuce tossed with a saucy mustard dressing, glass-thin slices of radish and wispy peashoots.  Spring produce had yet to burgeon full-force in Oregon, so this was a nice seasonal nod despite the chilly, nor'easter-type cloudburst that was pummeling down outside.  Perfectly apt for the weather, another
 starter was easily big enough to serve as an entree.  Big, plush mussels rose above a rich and zesty pernod-inflected tomato broth, deeply redolent of fennel, of salt and sea, and swathed with two tender lobster claws,  liberated from their shells.  Use the mussels shells, however... or a spoon, or the crusty baguette provided to each table - whatever you can find to sop up every droplet of the broth that really can be described as nothing less than profound.  This comes with a quaint red-and-white checked paper cone of kettle cooked potato chips: hearty, thick cut chips that I didn't quite feel with the soup.  A nice tender hunk of bread is more useful.

Entrees held all that momentum, hearty enough coming off of a late-to-arrive spring but with elements of the warmer season just around the corner.  A juicy hunk of pork shoulder was glazed in tangy sherry, served with tender young kale atop kernels of roasted corn and fingerlings smothered in manchego.  A handful of mild seared padron peppers crowned the affair, comforting enough to cut any
 of winter's residual chill with the lightness of summer summer produce additions.  Chicken-
fried trout was a close as we came to eating bird, this hefty specimen's flaky flesh almost as meaty as poultry.  It took a spin from a milanese, crusted in a thick golden shell and littered with a festive scatter of herbs, pickled carrots and cukes.  These brightened the richness of the crispy coat, but the surprisingly dense, sweet trout was almost enough of a balance on its own.  A side that didn't go particularly well with anything we order was appreciated on its own worth.  A side dish of wild mushrooms sauteed with chunks of mild chicken and marrow sausage could've served as a small lunch if you paired it with a crusty hunk of bread and a cool Lambrusco.   The sausage was mild and sweet, like a weisswurst, whereas if I'm going to have sausage I prefer it wish a meatier kick, so most of this got doggie-bagged- somebody would like it in a sandwich. And speaking of sandwiches, you mustn't visit Little Bird without meeting its burger.  It's the same  burger that ranked #37 in the nation (that may not sound so notable, but only 50 were even mentioned), that Le Pigeon used to offer in only limited quantities (smartly, they recently lifted this quota).  At Little Bird, too,  they'll make them as long as you order it.  It's an impressive sandwich, impaled with a steak knife and paired with a lemony dressed salad or fries (if you decide for fries, peanut allergies be damned.  The canola oil
 version offered pales in comparison).  The chips held over from the mussels jumped in at this point to provide that classic fried potato partnership.  The bun is a chewy, flour dusted roll so superior to those squishy brioches upon which burgers are too often mounted.  This one holds up to the house-ground burger and its luscious slaw of iceberg lettuce, pungent melted aged white Tillamook cheddar, and aioli, mustard and ketchup, all made in house.  It is a thing of wonder; it is Rucker's baby.

Dessert had us torn between an ile flottante and a dainty sounding apricot givre , but I was enticed by the former's elderflower so we went with that.  Like a tiny, s'more-ish Baked Alaska, the soft, marshmallow-y ile was flottante atop a crunchy sablee in a shallow pool of  fruity cream, filled with a marvelously fresh strawberry ice cream and topped with pristine, perfect berries that tasted height-of-the-season.  And with that, the torrential rains outside ceased and the last moments of sparkling sunbeams broke through the clouds before it set.  Nobody can rain on this parade.

219 SW 6TH AVE.
(503) 688 - 5952

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