Image of Castagna courtesy Avila/EPDX
The Oregonian's David Sarasohn finds mixed messages at chef Justin Woodward's Castagna, where the tasting menu oscillates between impressive bursts of creativity and dishes where "imagination outruns outcome." Sarasohn opens with a rave for Castagna's aged duck dish, praising its "Scrooge-like richness" as an exemplar of Woodward's skill. (A dish of rib-eye with oxtail and oyster receives similar praise, again for richness.) More experimental dishes prove challenging: some courses, like a beet chip with maple yogurt, don't quite connect and "just give you the feeling that the kitchen received a dehydrator for Christmas."
Sarasohn writes, "Castagna remains a showcase for powerful creativity. Sometimes it lands with a dramatic impact and sometimes it seems just a little bit off — and at this price point you might want a little higher batting average." But ultimately, the menu's high points merit future visits. [OregonLive]
WWeek's Matthew Korfhage practically makes a pilgrimage to Trent Pierce's back-room restaurant Roe, contemplatively described as "like passing into the Egyptian afterlife" — "where jazz plays softly enough you might mistake it for a memory." Pierce's always-changing chef's menu sings: a carpaccio of Alaskan spot prawns earns two paragraphs thanks to its "rich intensity" that elicits an experience "somewhere between Frenchified cream coma and childlike delight." Kaiji toro infuses one solitary bite with "the essence of 300 years of clam chowder," while sashimi and marlin tartare both pleasantly surprised.
Pierce's "recipes, as well as his plating, often have the theater of old-school nouveau cuisine, with its characteristic mix of Jackson Pollock expressionist solemnity and Jackson Pollock piss-in-a-fireplace whimsy." And that's a wonderful thing. [WWeek]
Meanwhile, Portland Mercury's Chris Onstad misses the tasting-menu-review-memo and heads to NE Alberta's Via Chicago, where "fundamental kinks" pop up across its deep-dish menu. Among them: bland salad dressing, a "greasy" Italian beef sub, and aggressively over-cheesed pizza. Debate has ensued in the comments over what constitutes true Chicago-style pizza, but Onstad's review notes that "slices averaged nine ounces in total weight, with approximately five ounces of the dense mass consisting of pure cheese. It's no surprise that this half-pound wedge makes for a brief, one-note meal that's curtailed out of boredom and self-preservation." [Mercury]
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