Le Pigeon in Portland

Portland is a city famous for many things :: beer, weirdness and awesome food.  I was surprised at the number of excellent restaurants in the small Northwest city and, frankly, overwhelmed when it came to picking places to eat during my short three-day weekend there.  Several people recommended Le Pigeon, a New American restaurant with French flair, and after discovering that it has a tasting menu (one of my favorite things), I signed right up.

The menu at Le Pigeon changes weekly.
The menu at Le Pigeon changes weekly.

Le Pigeon is an intimately tiny restaurant in downtown Portland with an open kitchen, cozy communal tables and large open windows allowing for watching people walking down the street.  Executive Chef Gabriel Rucker focuses on simple dishes exquisitely arranged with an eye-catching style–and taste.  My friend Ian and I ordered the five-course tasting menu ($65/person) to get a true feel for Le Pigeon’s cuisine.  (A seven-course option is also available for $85/person and a la carte entrees range from $21-$29/plate.)  Each course was moderately sized but intensely flavored, leaving us craving for more.

Course #1 :: Beef Bourguignon Le Pigeon Beef Bourguignon

The evening started with a light, salad-style version of beef bourguignon.  The entree counterpart of which was named as one of Portland’s 18 most iconic dishes by Eater.com.  An orchestra of red onions, shallots, horse radish, oysters, oyster foam and broccoli accompanied the beef, adding a delicate crunchiness to the overall texture.  The acidic vegetables created a wave of spiciness that evolved into creamy richness with each bite.  A wonderful start to the evening.

Course #2 :: Rooster-stuffed Shell Le Pigeon Rooster-stuffed Shell

The second course was a rooster-stuffed pasta shell with pickled cremini mushrooms and radicchio in a black walnut truffle oil sauce.  The server explained that while rarely seen on menus, rooster is actually much more flavorful than chicken.  I completely agree.  Overall the dish was incredibly rich and savory, with a hint of smokey nuttiness to it.

 

Course #3 :: Trout
The third course was a mixture of ocean trout, red onions, savory pancetta, mushrooms and clams over a light pasta and topped with parsley and cilantro.  The pasta, in little ball-like shapes, provided an interesting chewy texture that contrasted well with the crunchiness of the rest of the dish.

 

Course #4 :: Venison
The fourth and main course was venison blanketed with a venison parsnip chutney on a spicy potato cake in a bone marrow vinaigrette.  I loved the savory saltiness of the dish and the added richness from the bone marrow.

 

Course #5 :: Miso Coconut Cake & Foie Gras Ice Cream
The final dessert course was a light miso coconut cake made with Pâte à Choux (a light pastry dough used to make eclairs) with pineapple alongside foie gras and salted caramel ice cream.  The cake was light but sugary and the crunchy coconut added a fun kick.  The foie gras flavor in the ice cream was incredibly subtle, mostly overshadowed by the caramel flavor.  (And having had a foie gras flavored macaron cookie, I think that was a wise choice by the chef!)  The foie gras ice cream was my favorite, a great signature of Le Pigeon to end the meal.

 

Le Pigeon tops the list of 38 essential Portland restaurants by Eater.com and after having dinner there, it’s no surprise why.  The article compliments the chef, who is a James Beard Rising Chef winner, as being able to create inventive dishes that are still accessible.  I love the aspect of familiarity in every dish with sparkles of tastes and textures that I couldn’t quite pinpoint.  Each bite kept me on my toes, anxious to dissect what I was tasting, but getting too distracted by the wonderfulness to do so.  A perfect introduction to Portland’s diverse and incredible food scene.

Le Pigeon on Urbanspoon

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