Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Walk in the Park (Kitchen)

I am so glad I chose to write about farms, farmers' markets, gardening, seasonal eating, Northwest travel and (thanks for your patience on this) my dogs. I can't imagine having one of those restaurant blogs where there's constant pressure to keep up on the latest who's-smashing-dishes, what's-the-hottest-table, what's-opening-where-and-when gossip.

Sprout salad, carrots, hazelnuts, quinoa.

So when a friend asked where we should meet for dinner recently, my head started swimming. Should we go check out a new place of the too many I hadn't been to yet? What kind of food? I froze up.

When I hadn't called back for several hours, she wisely took matters into her own hands, suggesting that we meet at Park Kitchen. My brow immediately unfurrowed, my death grip on the phone relaxed. I'd run into PK's owner Scott Dolich at a lunch at Raptor Ridge winery, where he kindly let me watch him make quenelles (cool!). And David Padberg, his Chef de Cuisine, was a pal of Clare and Brian of Big Table Farm, as well as filming a video on cooking with wasabi with my friend Rebecca at Cooking Up a Story. I knew we'd be in good hands.

We arrived to find our table ready, its copper top gleaming in the intimate (but not dim, thank you) lighting that makes the small dining room feel cozy rather than crowded. I had a great view of the unfussy open kitchen where Scott, David and the crew were cooking and plating the orders of the diners already seated, and watching the plates sail by only confirmed the decision to come here.

Flank steak and blue cheese salad.

Nettles, beets, wild mushrooms and spring greens, along with wild salmon and local meats populated the simple menu comprised of small hot and cold plates, large plates and desserts. After ordering a Boulevardier for me and a French 75 for my companion, we opted to share a couple of small plates and an entrée.

The baby octopus arrived topped with crusts of light bread, the better to sop the broth below, and the tiny barely blossoming rapini and small, tart chunks of pickled celery gave this plate a nice balance of tang and texture. The flank steak, blue cheese and sherried onions turned out to be a lovely salad of butter lettuce, with shreds of the medium-rare meat mixed with the other ingredients and tossed in a simple vinaigrette. The kitchen then sent out a complimentary salad of quinoa and carrot purée topped with crunchy housemade crackers.

Our large plate was a hefty slice of salmon on a bed of potato horseradish gratin, topped with watercress and trout roe and with a lightly creamy wine sauce underneath (top). The salmon had a perfect, clean flavor that only the freshest fish carries, and the soft, almost gravlax-like texture practically melted in my mouth. On the recommendation of our server we chose to pair it with a pinot noir from the always-satisfying Athena Pappas and Stewart Boedecker of Boedecker Cellars.

Love the dots!

Normally not a big dessert person, I was glad we'd shared our plates since we weren't too full to order the ricotta fritters with preserved blood oranges and little dots of bay leaf panna cotta. My friend said the fritters reminded her of beignets, those airy Southern specialties, and the bay leaf panna cotta went on the "gotta figure this out at home" list. Stay tuned!

And I have to remark on the service that, even though the restaurant was busy and the kitchen humming, made us feel very well cared for. For its focus on locally sourced, sustainably produced food, perfect execution and the aforementioned attentive service, Park Kitchen should be high on your list of the best restaurants in town.

Details: Park Kitchen, 422 NW 8th Ave. 503-223-7275.


Anonymous said...

I love that place, too...the setting and the food, so fresh! Nice review (and nice blog)! Nick

Kathleen Bauer said...

Glad to find a fellow admirer of PK, Nick, and thanks for reading!