Market PDX Guest Chef: Naomi Pomeroy

Update: Market restaurant has closed since my visit

Looking to bring in dinner guests when there isn’t a show across the street at the Keller Auditorium, Market (which replaced the previous occupant French bistro Carafe) has been doing a guest chef series. I haven’t visited the location since its slight renovation and new conception into its new modernist northwest cuisine incarnation from Carafe’s final breath in June to Market Restaurant’s first opening in August this year. But when I saw Naomi Pomeroy was guesting, I decided it was time.

I hope that when I entered the restaurant the slight blush to my face was interpreted from the new cool weather, versus glancing over the young Asian men who now man the kitchen and bar (Executive Chef Troy Furuta – the bar manager is Alan Akwai). It also seems Naomi is trying the straight versus sideswept bang look- or she just got them cut. The $5 happy hour had the entire bar area packed and happily busy. Dinner-wise, with no show that Friday evening, the seating area there was maybe 1/3 full- seems like Market is still finding its audience.

For the guest chef series it is a prix fixe menu ($40), though you can also opt into a drink pairing, which I did at the steal of only $20. The meal started out with an amuse bouche of a black mission fig torched until caramelized and a bit of crispyness on the outside, then topped with delicate and decadant foie gras mousse. This was paired with a glass of Stephane Tissot Cremant de Jura from France. What an auspicious start.

1st course was a delicata squash tart with shaved watermelon radish and frisee and radicchio salad. This was paired with a cocktail of London Dry Gin, Vin a la Chataigne, Cap Corse Mettei. When I first had this cocktail, I started to worry about the other pairings as this as a pretty strong drink, but fortunately it began to mellow out after this. Admittedly, the strength of the drink was a good cleanser for the buttery richness of the tart, while adding to the frisee and radicchio which otherwise tasted like just the greens with a spritz of oil, nothing special- the watermelon radish was beautiful as garnish but offered no flavor.

2nd course, went into the more seafood exploration, an aromatic steamed link cod in smoked tomato broth, cannellini beans, leeks, tarragon, and sliced late summer grape tomato paired with Maestracci Reginu Rouge, Grenache/Syrah from France 2010. This was the most subtle, layered dish of the courses, with the broth being the equivalent of an andante second movement of a symphony and tomato being the melody because the steamed fish was on the bland side from being overcooked.

3rd course was what I had been anticipating all dinner. It was pork belly porchetta, pickled parsley, calabrian chiles and crackled green olive salsa, roasted market potatoes, pork and veal jus, paired with a cocktail of Agricole Rhum, Verjus, Amer Picon, Campari, pineapple and bitters.

As you would expect from Naomi who is famously photographed holding a whole pig about to be butchered (and presumably enjoyed at her regular restaurant Beast), this was a triumphant dish of multiple textures and robust meaty flavor. I enjoyed the hard crackly crunch of the slightly salty skin and the oozy thread of luxurious fat and moist but dense layers of tender sausage and pork,  and then a bit of fire and tangy sour distributed from the fine mince of olive and chili on top. It really taste as wonderful as it looks.

The cocktail was the best matched pairing of the night, cutting through the richness and ramping it up a notch with its bit of acidity and brightness. I made sure to save a potato piece to mop up all the delicious jus so the bowl/plate was clean.

4th course of mascarpone, Italian plum tiramisu, honey syrup, and dehydrated lemon was a light little layered cake that tasted airy and melty with its creamy texture without sitting heavily after all these courses, an appropriate finish after the porchetta just before.

I think I will have to try Market again on an evening without a Keller musical or ballet performance (or maybe arriving when the show has already started). I can’t believe they lined up Greg and Gabi Denton of Argentine grill and cocktail hotspot Ox the very next day after Naomi- I want to go, but I think my arteries can one take so much rich dining in a short time span.  Next on deck for Oct 20 is Nong Poonsukwattana of her Nong’s Khao Man Gai cart, followed the next evening by Chris DiMinno and Jeffrey Morgenthaler (the mixologist Prince of Portland in my opinion) of Clyde Common. The list of guest chefs only goes to the end of October, and I can only hope Market will continue this idea after the upcoming busy holiday Nutcracker performances of December.

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