Eater's newly crowned Chef of the Year is on the move. Metrovino chef Greg Denton revealed to the Oregonian yesterday that he and wife/fellow Metrovino chef Gabrielle Quiñonez Denton are leaving the Pearl District spot to open their own restaurant. OX Restaurant, set to occupy the NE MLK space that once housed Echo, will focus on an Argentine-inspired grill concept, though Denton's quick to point out that the food will not necessarily be Argentine. "I want to avoid the Argentine label," he says. "We'll stick with tradition in some sense, but we never like to put ourselves in a box."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, ChefStable's Kurt Huffman also happens to be behind the project, which is scheduled to open in spring 2012. "We're very excited about moving forward with all our own concepts and ideas," says Denton, who will stay in the Metrovino kitchen until February. Eater chatted up Denton to grab some quick thoughts about the upcoming project.
So how did the concept of OX come about?
Gabrielle and I have been developing this concept for close to three years. Right after Lucier closed, Gabi and I were talking about next steps, and that's where the concept began. The inspiration really comes from the wood-fired grill. I've cooked on mesquite at Terra in Napa Valley, [but with the wood-fired grill] you can take the most basic elements and make them delicious, with the caramelization of sugars and smoke.
How did you settle on the location on MLK?
We really liked the area and thought there was a lack — of course, there's Toro Bravo and Russell Street BBQ, and they've proven that location can be popular — but on MLK itself, there's not much around there. And what we loved about it the most was the parking lot, which to us, is a huge [bonus]. The interior is just wood, brick, and cement right now, but it's got a really warm feel to it, even without much in it. We're definitely doing renovations — the grill is going to be in the dining room, with bar seats around the grill so people will be able to watch the grill in action.
How did the name — OX — come about?
The ox is the animal that pulls the plow that tills the soil; it's a hard-working animal. It's a mature animal, and we feel that we're mature in opening our first restaurant at a mature age.
And finally, will be there some equivalent of your Metrovino charcuterie board, or should we start hoarding those now?
There will always be a charc board. It's basically the utilization of meat and pieces that you have to work hard at to make taste good. And there's — I'm a huge proponent of utilizing things that could potentially be waste. Without a doubt, there will be a charc board... not necessarily like Metrovino's charc board, but there will be something equivalent to that.
· All Previous Greg Denton Coverage [Eater PDX]