James Beard award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker is set to open a third restaurant in Portland this year, it’ll be right next door to his 12-year-old East Burnside staple Le Pigeon, with that restaurant’s co-owner and wine director Andy Fortgang also in as an owner. (The pair also own Little Bird, downtown.)
Willamette Week broke the news, reporting that the new project, named Canard (French for “duck” — the noun, not the verb), will be a far more casual affair than its big sibling. And it should be far more easy to visit than the perennially-packed Pigeon, since it’ll be a day and night operation. It’s also set to be a little bigger, with room for 40 to 45 people, including standing room for those just looking to have a drink.
According to Fortgang, the duo is opening to provide something of a contrast to the formal (and nationally-renowned) offerings next door at Le Pigeon.
“It’s more about being more approachable and having a little fun with it... a little bit of that ‘high-low’ thing, so to speak.”
As Pigeon’s wine director, Fortgang seems excited by the oenological opportunities that a new venue opens up — especially one where people may not be coming by for lengthy full meals.
“It’s a venue to go a little bit deeper and broader, and to have a lot of fun with wine...we’re going to have great cocktails too, which is something we don’t do at Le Pigeon because there’s no room for a bar.”
The wine list will skew French (but won’t be dominated by any one focus), with a solid number of by the glass options.
For food, an 8 a.m. opening puts breakfast and lunch on the menu at Canard (brunch on weekends), and by night, it’ll be small plates. The menu is still in the works and details are scarce at this stage, but it’s described as “French bar food”, and Fortgang says it’ll easily translate into full meals, if need be.
“I would say it’s a great menu for snacking but it’s going to be set up so that if you sit down and turn it into a two hour meal, it’s all going to make sense too.”
WWeek teased one confirmed item from Rucker: “ducketta”, a porchetta-like creation that combines foie gras and plenty of duck into one rather rich item.
It’s been over five years since Fortgang and Rucker opened Little Bird, and with two eminent successes up and running, some might wonder why it’s taken so long for something new to come along. Fortgang says that’s because the pair are committed to staying involved in their restaurants, rather than working as hands-off principals.
“We like to be in the restaurants, we like to know our employees…neither of us is the restaurant empire-minded type person. That said, you do want to experiment and try different things, but for us it’s about being a part of it and being present. Maybe a year and a half ago the same space came up, but it just wasn’t the right time.”
That time is in a few months: expect Canard to open up sometime in early or mid-spring.