Imagine you’re creating an A Team of Portland restaurant talent. You’d probably grab a talented restaurateur, someone with a knack for opening successful restaurants — Earl Ninsom of Hat Yai, Eem, and Langbaan, for instance. Then, you’d need a few talented chefs, ones that aren’t busy with their own businesses; you’d probably want to nab talent from proven, beloved spots, like Ava Gene’s, Le Pigeon, and Beast. It’s Portland, so you’ll need a good bartender — Didn’t Michelle Ruocco just leave Han Oak? And then, finally, you’ll need someone to create a really good wine list for the whole place, maybe someone who’s worked at a restaurant known for its wine — it’s pretty hard to beat Le Pigeon on that front.
This restaurant, with its all-star cast of front-and-back-of-house talent, is opening in Portland this March in Montavilla. Lazy Susan, opening in the former home of the Country Cat, comes from Ninsom and Andrew and Nora Mace, a culinary power couple who spent years at Le Pigeon and Ava Gene’s, respectively. They’ve brought on a handful of their friends, who also happen to be pedigreed in their respective fields: Ruocco will cover cocktails, Le Pigeon alum Danny McGeough is handling the wine, and former Beast chef de cuisine Julian Calcott will collaborate with Andrew Mace on the savory side. Nora Mace, on the other hand, will do what she does best, making layer cakes and pies for the restaurant, as well as ice cream for banana splits and floats.
If the laundry list of aforementioned talent evokes images of tweezer-plated dishes and tasting menus, it shouldn’t. Lazy Susan will be more like a neighborhood restaurant with simple, well-made food: In the Portland Monthly piece that broke the news, the team teased dishes like chilled seafood, dry-aged steaks, pork chops, and seasonal vegetables. The team ordered a charcoal grill for the restaurant which isn’t quite ready just yet; once it’s up and running, the kitchen team will start digging into the menu. “A lot of things will evolve very quickly in the final weeks as we get open,” Andrew Mace says. “There’s still some work to be done, in terms of what works in the space and the feel.” Once the restaurant opens, the team will start working on brunch, serving things like steak & eggs and buttermilk pancakes.
The restaurant itself looks something like a mid-century diner, with banquettes and checkered design touches. “We keep wanting to say it’s like Bennigan’s, but not Bennigan’s,” Nora Mace says. “It reminds me of a place my grandparents would take us, somewhere they’d feel comfortable.” The namesake lazy susans will appear on a handful of tables, as well.
Ninsom was the one who spun Lazy Susan into action. When Country Cat closed, he felt compelled to nab the space while he could. “This space is right by my neighborhood. I’ve seen Country Cat, I ate there, and to be honest, it was a good restaurant. It felt kind of sad,” he says. After traveling through London, he decided he wanted to open a new restaurant with a lot of simple comfort food done well, and he thought the Maces made the most sense. His influence won’t appear directly on the menus; rather, he’s championing the restaurant team at large, and letting that A Team do its thing. “I’ll be quiet,” he says. “I want to put the right person in the right place, and hope for the best.”
• Andrew and Nora Mace to Open Lazy Susan with Earl Ninsom in the Country Cat Space [PoMo]
• Montavilla Institution the Country Cat Will Close in August [EPDX]
• A New York Culinary Hotshot Is Moving Into the Beast Kitchen [EPDX]