Thursday, January 15, 2015

Going Gourmet at Le Pigeon

Le Pigeon is one of those aspirational Portland restaurants I've been dreaming of going to for a long time and my mom's recent visit presented the perfect opportunity to check it out.  The fact that I had an Opentable gift card from my lovely co-workers didn't hurt either - so off we went on our gourmand adventure.

On a typical rainy Portland evening, we found the restaurant dimly lit by candlelight, which immediately gave it that charming, intimate feel. The space is also quite modest, further making it feel cozy, as its filled mostly with communal tables.  This type of arrangement reminded me of our meal at Beast, which I enjoyed but it isn't for everybody.  Luckily, my mom and Dan were open minded about it all and seemed to appreciate everything.

Another aspect about the vibe I like here is that you have access to an open kitchen and can take a look at the talented chefs who are preparing your meal.  I always admire this kind of transparency and marvel at the experience and skill that go into each beautiful dish.  Next time, I may even sit at the bar to take a closer look.

Since we were pretty much eating the whole day (and because we had a huge dinner at Mother's the night before), we decided to go lighter this evening and shared everything.  Happy with our strategy, we got to enjoy a variety of foods without getting too full.

Ricotta Gnocchi - Everything about this dish spoke to me including the duck bolognese, the homemade, fluffy gnocchi and the duck fat croutons.  Even though the dish wasn't too large, each bite was mighty filling and flavorful.  My mom seemed the most impressed and said that she was surprised by the onslaught of deliciousness that came with each bite.  I couldn't agree more - although I have to say that the ricotta was very subtle.

Smoked Mackerel and Crispy Potato Salad - This dish was a total visual juxtaposition, as it presented both a rustic and a sleek aesthetic.  As you can see, the ingredients were roughly cut and chopped but placed beautifully and quite strategically on the wooden slab.  Each piece complemented the other and I especially loved the saltiness of the mackerel with the heartiness of the hard boiled potatoes.  It was a total visual feast, as you can see.

Pekin Duck Breast - I couldn't walk out of here without trying the duck and luckily my dining companions were into it too.  Consisting of a beautifully seared duck breast that was cooked to a nice medium rare, it was then jazzed up with vibrant flavors of a silky blood orange bernaise sauce, bright green leaves of Brussels Sprouts as well as little bursts of pomegranate seeds.  Freshness, surprise and vibrancy were the key elements here, and I'd highly recommend this dish to others.

Beef Cheek Bourguignon - In the mood for something hearty, we also went with Le Pigeon's rendition of this French classic.  It delivered everything we expected and more, as the beef was perfectly braised and broke apart without effort.  Resting on a luxurious bed of creamy risotto that was also dressed with oyster mushrooms, pickled onion and sweet herbs, it was no doubt a fantastic food marriage made in heaven.

Blood Orange Tarte - We managed to save room for dessert and ventured to try the tarte of the day, which ended up being a huge winner!  A beautiful blood orange tarte, complete with fresh blood orange segments, a silky pastry cream and a vibrant pistachio mousse on the bottom, it provided a perfect last bite.  All three of us marveled at how simple yet sophisticated it was and how the pastry chef really let the natural ingredients shine.

Service and Cost:
Just like the rest of the experience at Le Pigeon, the service was most professional, unobtrusive and just generally excellent.  We felt well taken care of and our dishes came out in reasonable time.  Also, due to the intimate nature of the restaurant, the waitstaff offers to hang up your coats, which made us more comfortable.

Costs are on the high side but in my opinion justified for the high quality of food, atmosphere and service you get.  Our entire meal set us back about $144 in total, which included a glass of wine as well.  For a truly gourmet experience, I think this is just about right.

While it's sometimes tough to get a spot in Le Pigeon's intimate space, I highly recommend
making an Opentable res.

3 Mmmms

Le Pigeon - 738 E Burnside Street, Portland OR 97214

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