Sunday, March 14, 2010
The best restaurant in Portland isn't even a real restaurant. It's kind of a café, a bit of a bistro. But it's actually more of a showcase for the products carried by the grocery store next door, albeit one of the better grocery stores in the city with a mix of imported foods and wine, as well as produce, a meat vendor and a cheese shop.
Kevin in the "kitchen."
Evoe doesn't even have a kitchen, at least one that most chefs would recognize or deign to work in. No big stove, no grill, no stations, no harried staff lorded over by a red-faced, screaming ogre, it just has a couple of plug-in griddles and hot plates, and only recently got an (electric) stove. Its main feature is a large wooden butcher block table with a few stools around it.
And it's not just the food that Kevin Gibson conjures from simple, seasonal ingredients that makes it the best in town, but also its unassuming simplicity and incredible value. The day's offerings are written on tall blackboards posted high on the walls, with Kevin basically standing at the wooden table and whipping out the smartest, most beautiful food you'll find anywhere.
If you're lucky you can sit across from him at that table, squeezed between the day's to-go sandwiches and within snagging distance of a gorgeous leg of serrano ham (hoof on), with a front row seat to watch Mr. Gibson as he slices, showers and mixes.
Endive pear salad.
This trip we started with a half dozen Kusshi oysters from British Columbia, their creamy texture and almost cheese-like taste afloat in a clean, salty brine. Accompanied by a shave of fresh-off-the-root horseradish and a few drops of Meyer lemon, these were sublime.
Then we watched as Kevin tore apart a head of endive, thin-sliced a little red pear, crushed a few hazelnuts and mixed them with his hands in a bowl. A sprinkling of vinegar and oil from the shelf behind him, a few crumbles of roquefort and our salad was done. Then it was time for an artichoke, fennel and pancetta salad made from baby artichokes that he peeled and sliced on the board and threw in a bowl with translucent shavings of fennel from his trusty mandoline, tossed with more dressing ingredients and topped with wafers of fried pancetta that shattered into a hundred pieces when touched with a fork.
The coups de grâce came with his signature duck confit on frisée (top), the bronzed and crispy skin giving way to the meltingly moist meat. This is duck you'll want to suck off the bone until every last little shred is gone, then long for until the next time you're wise enough to choose this place over so many other, lesser places in town.
Details: Evoe, 3731 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. Phone 503-232-1010.