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Inside Chris Israel's Corazón, Now (Softly) Open

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[Avila, 5/9/12]

Gruner chef/owner Chris Israel didn't take home the James Beard Award this year (in his second nomination for Best Chef: Northwest), but here's a decent consolation prize: The debut of his hotly anticipated Mexican concept, Corazón, which begins its abbreviated series of preview dinners tonight.

Corazón, which takes over downtown's long-vacant Pinot American Brasserie space, represents a collaboration between Israel and empire builder Kurt Huffman (ChefStable), and pair transformed the sprawling brasserie into a two-room, 110-seat dining room that's part upscale, part "urban taqueria-style cantina," according to a press release.

The Corazón menu, inspired by dishes from Israel's childhood, flaunts influences ranging from Baja Californian to Oaxacan cuisine. In addition to the long-promised $3 tacos (in varieties like barbacoa, tinga, and mushroom), the more casual cantina menu features small plates that pair well with the bar's $3 tequila shots and Michalado: oyster shots with pickled chiles, fried hominy, taquitos, and chips-and-guac. The main dining room's dinner menu — heavy on Pacific seafood — features dishes like spot prawn aguachile, fish tacos, and Dungeness crab tostaditos; larger entrees include a tripe and hominy stew and garnachas with beer-braised pork, chilito, pickled cabbage, and queso fresco. Mix-and-match "combination plates" include hearty options like enchiladas suizas and chile relleno.

After this weekend's preview dinners, Corazón officially opens to the public next week. Corazón's hours moving forward: In the cantina, 4-11pm, Sunday to Thursday; 4pm-midnight, Friday and Saturday. In the main dining room, 5-9:30pm, Sunday-Thursday; 5pm-10:30pm, Friday and Saturday. Plans to launch lunch service are still in the works.
· Corazón [Official site]
· All Previous Corazon Coverage [Eater PDX]
· All Previous Chris Israel Coverage [Eater PDX]