A few of us from PortlandFood.org, most of whom are also Chowhounders, met at Basta's last night for their game dinner.
Here's a rundown of the courses:
* Emu carpaccio with a lemony sauce
* Squab and squab liver crostini
* Roasted quail with balsamic, honey, nuoc nam glaze
* Pigeon soup with jook
* Pheasant ragout with tagliatele
* Braised elk short ribs with potatoes, carrots, and daikon
* Hazelnut flourless torte with ice cream
Anyone else who was there, please speak up to expand on these descriptions. Since they weren't very good about telling us what they were and since they don't hand out a menu, it's tough.
Here's my take:
With a couple of the dishes, I think I was hurt by not being a wine drinker. The two squab dishes, eg. (Well, one was reportedly pigeon, but, um, did they like raid the birdman's coup or something? Though I don't know that there's technically any difference between sqaub and pigeon.) Both were extremely rich, even for me, and the soup, while it had a nice flavor, also had a greasy aftertaste and left an oiliness in your mouth. With the crostini, I would have liked a tart accent to balance the richness, like a drizzle of aged or reduced balsamic. But then, maybe if you were drinking wine with these, it wouldn't have been such a big deal.
The preparations were a bit boring for the most part. While the elk short ribs were quite good, it was just meat and potato stew. No special braising liquid, nothing particularly interesting about it. (And actually, I didn't find the dish especially "elky" and I imagine they were using beef or veal stock for the dish.) I felt similarly about the tagliatele and pheasant ragout. I'm not sure I would have noticed if it had just been chicken.
The emu and the quail were the best dishes, imo. The emu was a good carpaccio and the lemon sauce was a nice touch. It was easily the most exotic meat and most adventurous preparation. The quail was roasted nicely and the glaze while not being strong, added a very nice and interesting flavor to the meat that matched perfectly.
The hazelnut torte was a bit dry but tasted fine. Desserts aren't Basta's strength.
Fair amount of food and style of food, probably, for $35, although the need for the amount of food was diminished by the fact that the dinner took so long. And boy did it take a long time: 3 1/2 hours for 7 courses. Ugh. Worse than San Francisco. I drank so much water waiting between courses I had to get up and pee twice, and each time I thought I was going to explode. (Beware of Basta's water in the bathroom. It can scald. I even turned on the cold and there was still hot in the pipe and I got a little burnt.) And the chairs aren't comfortable enough to sit for that long. And the acoustics are such, the noise can wear on you.
I like Basta's special dinners, but this one was a bit disappointing. I think it would have been helped a lot by being about 2 hours. (Most of the preparations seem pretty simple with most of the stuff made ahead and a guarantee on the number of orders, so unless they were just slammed by normal customers or trying get people to drink more, I don't understand the waits.) But the interest level of the dishes could have been raised and the flavors of the game could have been accentuated more. Still a decent deal, but I don't know that I'd want to wait 3.5 hours again for it.
Link to pictures are below. (btw, the quail and crostini pictures are of plates that were then shared. The rest are single portions.)
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