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Melanie Wong | Sep 8, 201801:24 PM     7

Post the local cheese tasting https://www.chowhound.com/post/cascad... , a little shopping and a brief rest break, we soldiered on to Quaintrelle for dinner in a cozy booth. A round of craft cocktails while we studied the menu earned our praise. The teetotaler enjoyed and recommends the housemade ginger beer. I asked our server how many plates would make sense for our party of four. She suggested six dishes would be plenty . . . and we managed to restrain ourselves and only ordered seven savories plus dessert. The servings turned out to be full-size, ample enough to share four ways plus revisit favorites. I also asked about a few plates to start and then more later to pace the service. She said we could order all at once and that she would course them for us.

In order of service:

Squash, Beauregard sweet potatoes, purple broccoli tempura, chili honey, smoked pecorino, $16. What's not to like about vegetables captured at the height of freshness in a light and greaseless tempura treatment? The chili honey was not so much of a sweet signature (thankfully!), more a rounding out bridging from one taste sensation to the next.

Burrata, coppa, melons, nectarine, basil, zucchini, orach, almonds, $17. A fanciful best-of-the-summer-garden presentation with what's at peak at the moment pulling together fruity sweetness, savory/salty cured meat and herbal greenery set against the richness of creamy burrata and crunchy almonds.

Sheep cheese dumplings, mushrooms, chard, cherry tomatoes, $22. My favorite dish of the night, a simpler statement of fragile gnocchi in an umami-bomb mushroom essence brightened with sweet-tart tomatoes.

Octopus, cranberry beans, tomato, nardello, verde, $17. Low on the promised octopus, but the optics of the pair of curled cephalopod tentacles balanced by the curvaceous Jimmy Nardello pepper delighted. Incredible fresh shell beans cooked to perfect creaminess absorbed the delectably sweet juices of the surrounding seasonal vegetables.

Albacore, charred peaches, masa, tomatillo, squash, aioli, $23. Maybe I was starting to slow down, but this was the one dish that did not come together for me. Each element was fine but synergy was absent. This was also one dish not finished with any cheese or crema.

Beef tartare, peanut, favas, celtuce, wasabi, yolk, $16. Served with shrimp chips, the heavy dressing washed out the flavor of the beef itself though a tasty mouthful nonetheless.

Chicken hearts, green chili baked beans, cornbread, $12. Shriveled down to rubbery nubs of heart, I wondered if this texture was intentional or a mistake, as technique had been so flawless throughout.

Olive oil cake, peach sorbet, peach buttermilk ice cream, basil, $7. So full from this repast, we ordered but one dessert that the birthday girl had to share. The heavy, coarse-grained slab of cake formed just the right base for the frozen elements and fresh fruit.

In the cocktail realm, I can recommend the Big Thief for fans of bourbon in non-sweet formats. Sensuously silky with browned butter, a touch of citrusy highlights and balancing bitters.

2014 Scott Paul "La Paulee" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, $44, caught my eye on the wine list for having a some bottle age. Even at four years old, the sharp acidity's still quite pointed, and this wine definitely needs food and plenty of aeration. The wine list is organized into two parts. The first page offers wines by the glass and selections that are nearly all $45 or less per bottle, a practice that I wish other restaurants would emulate. The rest of the list is worthy studying as well, if one wants to spend more.

Quaintrelle's vegetable-forward cuisine, now under the direction of new Chef de Cuisine Ryley Eckersley, was impressive, as was the service. We had a wonderful time and closed the restaurant that night. It was the ideal spot to celebrate my favorite quaintrelle's birthday.

3936 N Mississippi Ave.
Portland, OR


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