COQUINE—The Oregonian's Michael Russell has a secret, but one that he wants to share with you: He likes Coquine, giving it a 3-star review. So what so impressed him at Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski's globally (and locally) inspired dishes? "It's probably the only restaurant in America that serves both a $55 tasting menu (at night) and a two-bite, $2 mortadella sandwich (at lunch)." He then ponders, "Is Coquine a polished, destination restaurant that globe-hopping food tourists visit straight from the airport, where soups are poured tableside and meals can end with dainty candies chosen from a tray? Or is it a neighborhood hangout, a place you can drop by for granola in the morning, chicken salad sandwiches and addictive chocolate chip cookie at lunch and a simple bowl of pasta and wine by the glass at night?" Turns out, "[R]ight now, Coquine is comfortable being both."
SORELLA—Also from The O, Samantha Bakall recently made the drive to Nye Bay to drop in at Justin Wills' Sorella, the Restaurant Beck chef's latest rustic Italian joint. His pizzas, she says, "need more tinkering. On a recent visit, the tomato sauce on the margherita was spread so thin, it brought images of trying to scrape butter over too much bread to mind. But the housemade mozzarella, which oozed and pulled into creamy strings with every bite, helped provide much needed moisture." But, she concludes that his pastas, like the "[p]erfectly al dente bucatini carbonara...tossed in a silky, porky sauce and finished with an aromatic dusting of pecorino, parsley and lemon zest" were on point.
LECHON—Over at Willamette Week, critic Martin Cizmar expressed mixed feelings about LeChon, the "Argentine-slash-Chilean restaurant" that opened late last summer. His review includes the words "slathered," "oily" and "mushy." He seems to have enjoyed the caramelized figs—"The figs themselves had a paper-thin layer of sugar over their supple flesh, which was nearly invisible until you took a fork to them, cracking the paper-thin clear coat like an old factory window." But, the "bacon cheeseburger with provolone and a generous slathering of aioli was notable only for the on-bun branding," before adding later that "a pile of cold, mushy purple potatoes...drowned in a foam that tasted like frothy skim milk" were an "ill-fated experiment with modernist cooking." His verdict: "[T]here's some work to do."
MAMA SAN SOUL SHACK—"Corn Dogs and curried green beans on the same menu is a little WTF, but know what?" asks the Mercury's Amanda Damewood, before promptly answering, "I'll take well-executed bastardization (AKA "fusion") over mediocre authenticity any day." She says that Mama San is at its best when it blends together its Far East-meets-Deep South flavors, specifically citing the banana leaf braised pork, "a heaping helping of tender pork piled with collard greens, kimchi, pickled veggies, and nori, topped off with a runny egg. It's savory, sweet, and surprisingly complex for a dish that comes out of a kitchen the size of most food carts." She also says that it's "reasonably priced and kid-friendly, just like St. Johns in general," before taking a playful dig at her friends' (and tablemates') presumably noisy but nonetheless "cute-as-fuck one-year-old."