Monday, August 11, 2008

DOC: we're all in this (one room) together!

What I like best about DOC Portland's new Micah Camden-owned Killingsworth Street outpost (along with Beast and Yakuza Lounge): it's the first time I've never entered a restaurant through the kitchen, at left) to get to my seat in the dining room (right). But that is exactly what you do when you walk through the front door in this tiny jewel-box space, and it's a pretty cool, and unique, experience. DOC refers to the Italian wine appellations, which is the focus of Camden's menu and floor manager Austin Bridges well put together wine list.

I was invited to a multi-course media dinner there recently, where they get to show off their stuff and hope we all rave about it to others. Yeah it's free, but for myself and hopefully others there, it doesn't mean some built in obligation to say good things because, well, it's free. It also doesn't mean you're going to have the same experience. In the good ways, I hope you do. On the dish that missed, hopefully not.

Overall it was a really well done meal. It started with an anitpasta of purslane, torpedo onions, beef and bing cherry sugo. Very fresh and original, and paired perfectly with, and a first for me, a merlot based prosecco that was delicious. Next up was a gnocchi (left) with beets, corn, and chives. Not only delicious, but this was really pretty to look at, the gnocchi colored by the beets, perfectly pillowy and light. Excellent with the brilliantly fresh and crisp 2007 Branko Tocai Friulano.

Then came my favorite plate, a brilliantly executed piece of albacore (right) with paper thin slices of lardo laid across it, softly melting into the fish. All on top of a peach and padron pepper purée. Tuna and pork fat together. Of's like the ultimate surf and turf. Really, really good!

Then came the dish that just didn't quite click for me. A shared platter of slow cooked hen-of-the-woods mushrooms (good) with grilled Italian artichokes (not so good) and sliced cherry tomatoes (underripe with green stem ends, surprisingly since they are everywhere...and the markets). The stewed mushrooms with caramelized onions worked, but the artichokes were tough and hard to eat (and yes, I've had them nay times and know how to work my way though them). Also the tomatoes weren't near sweet enough, and the whole dish was a mish mash of contrasting flavors.

Luckily, our two finishing courses made up for it, as the kitchen rolled out a cheese plate, always an underappreciated thing at the end of a meal, as well as perfectly prepared cannoli with blueberries. This is the way to send people out, and the cannoli echoed the whole vibe of DOC. It was very comfortable, the servers were spot on, you get a chance to interact with the kitchen since you're literally all in one not-so-big room which adds to its homey..and yet in a way edgy...concept. There's a lot of promise at DOC, and I would definitely go back to see how things develop.

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