Thursday, October 08, 2009

The "new" Castagna

as kind of a teaser to the preview dinner I'm going tonight, I just got the following press release from Castagna's PR flaks detailing a few of the many changes at the restaurant (as owner Monique Siu told me "we are basically opening a brand new restaurant"), a bio of new chef Matt Lightner (who at just 28 has got to be under more pressure than any cook in town), and the new menu which will debuting this Saturday the 10th. I'll be reporting on tonight's dinner tomorrow....stay tuned!
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PORTLAND, Oregon – (October 8, 2009) – Just back from Castagna’ s new garden, Executive Chef Matthew Lightner sorts his treasures of herbs, flowers and produce to consider the best way to bring out the natural flavors of each ingredient. Sometimes appearing more like a detective than chef, Lightner looks to the ingredients to tell the story, drawing from a vast history of cooking traditions as well as modern techniques as he creates each new dish. He puzzles over the perfect technique to use– from grilling or brining to smoking or curing, and even welcomes more modern innovations like sous vide, which uses braising to bring out the intense flavors of certain cuts of meat like leg of lamb and pork cheeks.

“I want the flavors to be clearly in focus in each dish,” said Lightner. “The cooking technique needs to be the right one to coax the authentic flavors from each ingredient.”

Menu Brings out Flavor of Place
With Lightner’s new menu debuting on October 10th, diners at Castagna can expect a close connection to the local farmers and foragers who passionately oversee our food source. The dining room menu will change often in respect for what is available on the local farms and in the Castagna garden.

Seasonal Menu

oysters, preserved tomatoes, horseradish
Crab dungeness crab, amaranth, lemon, cardamom
Matsutake mushrooms, pine nuts, roe, garlic
Fall Harvest vegetables and greens of the season, parmesan
Beets scallops, grapefruit, beets, walnuts
Leeks mussels, char grilled leeks, cream, charred hazelnuts
Tubers potatoes, sunchokes, carrots, pancetta, aioli
Salsify marrow, roasted salsify, bread crumbs, brown butter
Chestnuts agnolotti of chestnut, pecorino, prosciutto,
Duck egg seeds, grains, rye crisp, slow egg and jus
Cabbage halibut, fresh ricotta, whey, savoy cabbage, mustard
Onions salt cod, pickled, grilled and smoked onions, garlic
Celery root oxtails, celery root in ash, apples, cress
Potxas lamb, beans, toasted seeds, peppers, onions
Beef aged rib eye, smoked fat, oxali

cream tart, apple, caramel, fresh cheese
Hazelnuts ice cream, frozen meringue, pears
Chocolate mousse, almond streusel, frozen white chocolate
Elderberry prune, coconut,st. germaine baba
Sorbets carrot, apple, banana in ginger brew

From Iberian Pig Farms to Portland’s Food Scene
Matt Lightner, 28, oversees the kitchens at both Castagna and Café Castagna after his recent immersion in Spanish culture and cuisine, including an 18-month stint at Mugaritz, one of the most esteemed restaurants in the culinary world. While in Spain, he met with some of the country’s artisan producers and growers – from a tour of olive presses in Andalusia to Iberian pig farms and cheese caves in the Basque region. During his tenure in Spain, Lightner studied with Ferran Adria, Andoni Aduriz and Juan Mari Arzak through the Icex program, a culinary program for select chefs to visit Spain’s modern restaurants and artisan producers.

As the new executive chef at Castagna Restaurant in Portland, Oregon, Lightner, will take over one of Portland’s most respected kitchens -- known for its sustained commitment to locally grown ingredients. “I hope to bring Castagna’s menu even closer to the farmers and foragers and create dishes using a variety of techniques I studied in both the kitchens of Europe and closer to home in the Pacific NW and California.”

At Mugaritz, Lightner was immersed in a Spanish culture passionate about pure and true flavors and found a new love for the botanical side of food. “Working at one of the best restaurants in the world has elevated my connection to food and how to celebrate one single ingredient to allow for its true flavor to emerge. I also want to honor the sourcing of each ingredient and make the activity of finding the herb, flower or seed part of the overall dining experience.”

Prior to cooking in Spain and spending a month at Noma in Copenhagen, Lightner held many positions up and down the West Coast. In 2006 he was the chef de cuisine at L’Auberge in Del Mar, California where he worked alongside James Beard award-winning chef Paul McCabe. He also learned French culinary techniques from French Master Chefs Philippe Boulot of the Heathman Restaurant and Francis Perrot of Fairbanks Ranch.

“We are all excited to welcome Matt into our Castagna family,” said owner Monique Siu. “Matt shares our philosophy of creating food that is the cleanest, clearest, most natural expression of our local ingredients. His modern-natural cuisine coaxes the most flavor from the best ingredients using both ancient and modern techniques.”

Dining Room Gets Fresh Look
Castagna’s dining room received a fresh new design by local architects Jeff Stuhr and Kevin Valk of Holst Architecture. As the original designers for the restaurant, Holst remains true to the earlier concept of a minimalist, clean dining room void of clutter. “We wanted everything to be about the food and the people and let the room design enhance the flavors and presentation found on the plate,” said Siu. “The updated remodel still allows for the food to be in focus, but we have added warmer hues and more intimate spaces within the dining room.”

About Castagna
Located adjacent to the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood in Southeast Portland, Castagna has been a culinary destination for more than ten years offering sophisticated dishes prepared simply with seasonal ingredients and influences from France and Italy. Monique Siu and Executive Chef Matt Lightner collaborate on recipe and menu development. Castagna is open 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday at 1752 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. For more information call 503-231-7373 or visit


LadyConcierge said...

That is a very exciting menu. All the best to Monique and the new chef!

bb said...

It was really impressive last night. See next post.