If you are a foodie in any part of the country, you have probably heard about Le Pigeon. Gabriel Rucker's French inspired, Northwest centric food has been praised in several publications, both local and national. PDX Magazine voted him Top Chef of the Year and he received a similar award from Food and Wine. Willy Week and the Mercury were all over it, naturally, as was the Oregonian. So were Bon Apetit and Gourmet.
My lovey love Tim and I celebrated our year anniversary last night with a meal at Le Pigeon. We made reservations to eat at one of the three community tables (a friendly and clever solution to the problem of a very small dining room space), but ended up eating at the bar facing the open kitchen. When we first arrived, a few minutes early, they weren't ready for us and sent us out to have a pre dinner drink. The bar tender at Ron Tom's assured us that it was well worth our wait, saying that Le Pigeon is one of truly wonderful treats in Portland. Oh how right he was.
In all the times I had walked by Le Pigeon I had imagined it as a sort of hushed and quiet affair, a few young people, mostly middle aged people enjoying their fine food in a mellow dining room, and that the chef just happened to be one of the young and hip of Portland. I was wrong.
Sticky Fingers was playing at near top volume when we walked in. There were three chefs behind the bar, one wearing a sweatband with a meat clever pictured on it, and another wearing a baseball had with a silver skull and cross bones on it. Oh, right, we're in Portland, duh. Nothing is that fancy.
Oh, the food. Sigh. Sooooo good. Amazing. Worth all the hype. We started with a fois gras (because we are only unethical on our anniversary, we decided) so rich we couldn't finish it. On top of the fois gras were shaved black truffles, with toasted brioche and homemade fruit jam to accompany. I tried not to fill up on the bread and delicious salt sprinkled butter. Because there was more meat to come.
For dinner we ordered Beef Cheek Bourguignon and, because nothing goes better with liver than more liver, the Duck with liver stuffing and marmalade. Both were excellent, but the duck was just a teeny tiny bit more excellent. The house made marmalade was not too sweet, not to tart, and a nice counter to the richness of the best thing I've ever put in my mouth liver stuffing. The Beef Cheek was flavorful and tender and easily fell apart into the vegetables and sauce surrounding it.
If you know absolutely nothing else about Le Pigeon, you probably know about The Dessert. I do believe this dessert has been mentioned in all press that Le Pigeon has received, and rightfully so, for it's delicious and unusually paired ingredients. Naturally we ordered The Dessert. Bacon apricot cornbread topped with maple ice cream and bacon bits. Uh huh, that's right. Bacon on ice cream. Again, worth all the hype.
Obviously, I loved the food at Le Pigeon. But I also loved the experience of dining there. The wait staff was casual and friendly, and so were the chefs. The open kitchen created a connection between chef and diner, and the chefs were more than happy to answer questions and chat. They were the ones to hand us most of our dishes, over the bar right after they finished making them. All of the dishes and silverware were mismatched, a look that I personally love. My other favorite detail were the jars of pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables lining two high up shelves, interspersed with other eclectic odds and ends, like a pigeon skeleton in a glass case.
So, if you have not yet been to Le Pigeon, save your pennies and go, soon. Unless of course you are a vegetarian, in which case you should do some thinking and reading, and seriously reconsider that dietary choice. Then start eating meat so your stomach will be ready for Le Pigeon.
To visit the Le Pigeon website, click here.
Note: We did have wine which was delicious, but I didn't write about it because a) I can't remember what it was and b) I know nothing about wine and am therefore not at all qualified to say anything about it.