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The sprawling dining room at Kachka Dina Avila/EPDX

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Inside the Sprawling New Kachka, Combining Slavic Glitz and Comfort in Southeast

The restaurant features everything from a model of Baba Yaga’s house to a glitzy-glammy private dining room

Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

To some, local Russian dining darling Kachka is a place to party over shots of horseradish vodka and bites of salty fish. To others, it’s a space for feasting, a celebration spot for several courses of zakuski and dumplings and a plate of its star dish: a regal purple herring under a fur coat. And still, it remains a comfort food destination, where anyone can order a bowl of steaming pelmeni after a long day. The point is, Kachka is many different things to many different people and none of that is going to change when the restaurant reopens on July 23 in Southeast Portland.

At the new Kachka, a multi-story paradise of Russian eats, all of these experiences find their home: As you enter, an industrial lounge with metal tables and proletariat posters shifts into a homey dining room reminiscent of the original space, festooned with colorful wallpaper and tchotchkes. Then, there’s a separate dining room that serves as a kitschy take on the traditional Russian banquet hall.

Upon entering Kachka, what’s immediately noticeable is the newfound light: While the old space was dark and narrow with just a few windows, the new Kachka is swimming in sunlight during the day, which chef Bonnie Morales says influenced her decision to begin serving lunch starting July 30.

The lunch menu comes with a full section of blini, including a street food Caesar wrap made with smelt instead of anchovy. “When we took our staff to Russia last summer, it was something everyone loved,” Morales explains. “We haven’t had the space to make crepes, and this was the thing everyone said, ‘We really want to do this when we have more space.’”

A larger selection of grab-and-go items will add to the lunch program starting this fall, at the Kachka Lavka deli on the second floor. At dinner, the menu includes a larger selection of shashliki (skewers) cooked over the kitchen’s new grill, house-baked breads, and a new dessert menu from the restaurant’s new pastry chef, Julie Cogley.

Lounge at Kachka
Dina Avila/EPDX
The bar at Kachka
Dina Avila/EPDX

Like all of Morales’ work, the restaurant is informed by her personal history and heritage. The proletariat posters come from Belarus, her grandmother’s home country, where she took employees for a research trip. On a visit to family outside Minsk, the group scavenged through an abandoned distillery to find the posters. The distillery itself served as inspiration for the space, from the tables to the art.

Her family’s influence also extends into the dining room, where guests sit under a looming model of a house with talons emerging from its base. The house itself is modeled after Morales’ great-grandparents’ home, with its blue shingles and diagonal paneling. But the talons are a reference to the chicken leg stilts that support the home of mythical Slavic grandmother, Baba Yaga. Morales commissioned the stilts from a side-of-the-road wood carver out on Highway 30.

Part of the dining room at Kachka
Dina Avila/EPDX

Like the original space, this portion of Kachka is meant to feel like the interior of someone’s home, with framed photos and art. The large tapestry on the back wall is actually a Turkish rug, a nod to an essential piece of Russian home decor. “Russians put rugs on walls. I don’t know why, or where that came from,” Morales says. “A dozen people had told us to put a rug on the wall. When we moved into the space and had this huge empty wall we weren’t sure what to do with, I thought, ‘I’m going to find the largest rug I can find and put it on the wall.’”

The final room is available to rent out, a private dining room that also works as overflow dining room space. “It’s kind of like you’re at the hermitage, but also intentionally kind of kitschy,” Morales says. The chandeliers are plastic, the Russian masters paintings are prints, and the gold tablecloths are oil cloth. Still, it feels sultry and celebratory — “glitzy-glammy,” in Morales’ words — while retaining its accessibility and fun. In other words, it matches the restaurant as a whole.

Kachka is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch will begin July 30 and will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Update, July 23, 2018, 10:46 a.m.
This story has been updated to include the new delayed start date for lunch service.

Kachka [Official]
All Kachka coverage [EPDX]
One Night at Kachka [Eater]
Baba Yaga [Wikipedia]


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