After moving back to Oregon, chef Joel Stocks — known for his exceptional, now-closed tasting menu restaurant, Holdfast Dining — met winemaker Jeff Vejr at Alu Wine Bar, where Vejr was working. Years later, when Stocks started Holdfast as a pop-up with fellow chef William Preisch, he tapped Vejr to pick out the wines, which Vejr continued to do throughout the restaurant’s tenure. Vejr and fellow winemaker John House went on to open a wine bar, Les Caves, followed by sibling Les Clos. Meanwhile, Holdfast closed in the heat of the pandemic. Now, it’s Vejr opening the restaurant, and making the call to an old friend and collaborator.
L’Orange, opening at the end of the month in the former Willow space on Southeast 11th, will not be a replica of Holdfast Dining; rather, the restaurant is meant to feel more similar to the restaurants Stocks and Vejr came up in — a la carte restaurants where one can sit with a glass of wine and a single plate on a Wednesday night. “It’s geared toward my parents, my friends, who maybe don’t have the time to sit down for a full tasting menu with me,” he says. The Oregonian broke the news of the restaurant’s opening, calling L’Orange a “wine-focused restaurant.”
L’Orange’s menu items often pull inspiration from the Mediterranean, particularly a trip Stocks took to the French Riviera before the pandemic started. Much of the menu will incorporate seafood. A bowl of mussels and clams will bathe in a tarragon-mussel butter with roasted tomatoes and marble potatoes. Various fish will hit a small Binchotan grill in the kitchen, like corvina meagre. For one of the restaurant’s rotating crepe preparations, Stocks will pair crab with bay shrimp. “A lot of people pooh-pooh bay shrimp, but I think they’re delicious,” he says. “We’ll do the bay shrimp with Dungeness, so it’ll be that high brow, low brow thing.”
The menu will also include Duroc-Berkshires pork raised by his cousins in Grants Pass, including sausages and pork chops; a dish teased on Instagram pairs pork with black olive caramel, for instance. Stocks is excited to offer rare or specialty cuts of meat on a specials board, allowing things to sell out naturally. “I want to have the flexibility of having a few of one thing a night, something not consistent enough to have on a menu for a full month,” he says. “I’m also on the list for a whole dairy cow, so when she gets retired, a lot of that will be coming to us.”
Some of those treats will be saved for a weekend tasting menu, which will begin in the fall; the tasting menu will consist of around eight or nine courses, some pulled from the a la carte menu, others specific to the prix fixe.
Obviously, the wine list will be a big draw at L’Orange, with an emphasis on wines from the Coastal Mediterranean and France; the restaurant will also sell wines from the owners’ labels, Ovum and Golden Cluster. “Jeff and I have worked together for so long, he’s done my pairings for a decade now,” Stocks says. “He knows what my food is, and I know his wine style. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I have to build a dish around this wine.’ It’s a constant conversation about where the dishes are coming from.”
L’Orange will open at 2005 SE 11th Avenue.
Correction Thursday, June 15, 2023: This story has been corrected to show that Jeff Vejr never worked at Noble Rot, and that Joel Stocks moved from Chicago, not New York.