Today's lesson in "Enjoy it while it's here because you never know when it'll be gone" is brought to you by FIN, the sadly soon to be closing restaurant at 1852 SE Hawthorne Blvd. When I first visited FIN about 3 or 4 months ago with friends we were all blown away at chef Trent Pierce's grasp, actually more if a gift, of how to handle fish. The experience was repeated last night when w and visited. The piscatorial presentation and creativity Pierce brings to almost every plate coming out of the kitchen is unmatched in Portland. It is cooking on a level as good as anything you'll have anywhere in town. Especially impressive when you consider that in this city of unequaled access to fresh fish and seafood, it is shocking how mediocre and played out most dishes are that you'll be served. Pierce's style isn't flashy or excessive, just a remarkably understated, but at the same time palate popping, matching of ingredients.
We perhaps overindulged last night, brought on of course by the realization that this was most likely the last time for some time we'll be able to experience Pierce's particular skill set. The highlights were many. For starters we had his always amazing Spicy Octopus (pictured), a spoonful of oceanic goodness that has so many flavors and textures happening, but with everything in perfect harmony. Also standout starters were the Ceviche which was filled with bright spice; and the Carpaccio, a plate of 1+ grade big eye tuna that had us swooning.
We moved on to section two of the menu and enjoyed perfectly cooked Cuttlefish. There were tender slices of this difficult to prepare fish which only served to remind how many chefs overcook it if they attempt it at all. The hand cut Squid Ink pasta was also wonderful. Then two final plates which were FIN's Scallop with blue prawn mousse and the Butterfish Agrodolce. The scallop was one dish that missed, the sweet blue prawn "mousse" which was a bit stiff and overwhelmed the scallop. The butterfish, however, was perfection and beautifully presented on two pillows of puréed currants and golden raisins. Spread out in front of the fish were dots of varying liquefied flavors; gaeta olives, Calabrian chilies, and two others that are escaping me. Agrodolce means sweet and sour, and this dish perfectly represented that ideal. A true wow moment, and only served to rue FIN's absence.
By the time we were done at 9:30 the place was empty, so unfortunately the word seems to be getting out and, not unexpectedly, business will undoubtedly suffer. With the he said/she said going on between Pierce and business owner Joan Dumas not helping the public relations mess this is becoming, being there was kind of like watching a slow death. It did make me all the more appreciative of Pierce and floor manager Israel Morales' ability to keep things focused and professional under what must be extremely difficult working conditions. FIN will be missed, but hopefully Pierce and his tight knit crew will surface sooner than later to continue moving the PDX seafood dial forward. I for one can't wait!