At Erizo, the new restaurant from the team behind Bar Casa Vale, dinner may include 12 different kinds of foraged seaweeds, an assortment of grilled and raw bay clams, retired dairy cow ribeyes, and seafood caught by chef Jacob Harth himself. As Harth prepares to open Erizo, which will begin serving diners February 1, he’s planning several visits to the coast — last-minute foraging and fishing trips, a little bit of coastal inspiration.
Harth is letting himself geek out. Instead of focusing on a party-grab-bag of flavor combinations, the chef is keeping dishes minimal, submerging himself into obsessively meticulous sourcing: tackling oddball bycatch (the random fish gathered in nets), foraging for sea snails and scuttering rock crabs, and seeking out invasive species like the focal point of his signature dish — the purple sea urchin. For him, it’s not just about the quality anymore; it’s about accelerating the sustainable sourcing movement.
“It has to start at the restaurant; it’s not just about the activists anymore,” Harth says. “Chefs look through the lists (from suppliers) and check off what they want to buy, and they don’t even consider where it’s coming from or how it’s caught.” In Portland, this line almost sounds tired — responsible sourcing has been a huge part of the local culinary conversation for years now. But for Harth, it’s about more than just buying organic or Oregon-grown products; the chef is literally getting in the boat himself, catching the fish he’ll serve.
Consider the urchin: Harth get his from Port Orford, in Southern Oregon. 80 percent of the world’s uni gets shipped to the Japanese fish markets; even if someone is harvesting local urchin, some suppliers are buying it directly from those markets, doubling its mileage. Meanwhile, purple sea urchin is taking over local ecosystems like an invasive species.
Harth serves his purple sea urchin with flint corn from Ayers Creek, the haute local farm for sourcing nerds — Both Joshua McFadden and Cathy Whims are Ayers Creek evangelists. He then finishes it off with lardo from another big name in sourcing, Karl Holl: Holl, the chef behind Park Avenue Fine Wines, uses pigs from the family farm at his restaurant, now sharing the wealth with Harth.
Other dishes are even more sparse. The chef serves a kohlrabi dish in which he simply cooks the turnip over embers for three hours, so the interior becomes custardy and texturally diverse. He steams massive four-year-old oysters slowly in their shells. He ages fish seven to 14 days using traditional Japanese techniques. “We have this idea that fish should be served right out of the water, but it’s actually really delicious if it’s aged and handled properly,” he says.
Erizo isn’t all Harth, however; the restaurant, which he owns with partners Nick Van Eck (St. Jack) and Nate Tilden (Olympia Provisions), will finish its $125, 20-course dinner with desserts by Lauren Breneman (Coquine), who won a Rising Star Chef award this year from StarChefs. Beverage director Treva Willis (Per Se, Sushi Nakazawa) is designing wine, non-alcoholic, and mixed beverage pairings, incorporating things like Cascade Locks’s Son of Man Sagardo.
Tilden designed the restaurant himself, as he does with all his spots, mimicking the minimalism of Harth’s cooking style with a neutral dining space. Hickory walls and cork floors keep the space looking natural, with a white accent wall for brightness. Touches of cobalt and cerulean evoke images of the ocean. Even the plants, sitting on mounted shelves overlooking the tiny l-shaped restaurant space, are local — one of his favorite farmers on Sauvie Island, Vibrant Valley, grew them for him special. Scroll down for a look inside Erizo, which opens February 1.
• Erizo [Official]
• Erizo [Instagram]
• Erizo tickets [Resy]
• The Team Behind Bar Casa Vale Is Opening a Super Sustainable Supper Club [EPDX]