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Right on Q – Spring 2018



— May 30, 2018

Right on Q – Spring 2018


PLENTY OF RESTAURANTS IN Portland, Oregon, boast the freshest hyper-seasonal, locally and regionally sourced ingredients, including Q Restaurant & Bar. But that wasn’t the only reason I couldn’t wait to go back there.

For starters, Executive Chef Annie Cuggino brought more than two decades of experience at one of the city’s finer restaurants, Veritable Quandary—along with much of its unique, ever-changing menu and a loyal following. After nearly 50 years, VQ closed for good in September 2016. Just weeks later under different ownership, and four blocks up, right downtown, Q opened.

The spacious foyer welcomed my friend and me into the 100-seat restaurant’s casual-yet-elegant, hip and buzzy ambiance, and Craftsman-inspired decor. From there, it’s a straight shot into the bar, with an impressive list of craft cocktails, draught and bottled beers, and more than 100 wines—20 of them Oregon Pinot Noirs.

But for us, it was a trip straight to the dining room, with its chef ’s counter and open kitchen. My friend clinked her Sazerac at my Negroni-like Live & Let Die, and we dug into the Bacon Wrapped Dates, with Marcona almond, Marsala and a dab of chèvre. The Duck Confit Spring Rolls, paired with pickled carrot and wasabi, rewrote the story of Asian cuisine for me. And the house-made Rabbit Pâté with its prune jam, two mustards, house pickles, and toasted baguette embraced French tradition with chic rusticity. Q’s generous portions made it even easier to share.

My Roasted Wild Mushrooms & Baby Spinach salad, with chanterelles foraged from Oregon’s Mt. Hood area, teamed up well with my friend’s Poached Egg & House Bacon butter lettuce salad, lightly dressed in buttermilk and white cheddar, with cornbread, pickled onions, and fresh chive. The two set the stage for the Grilled Hanger Steak with black pepper crust that arrived piping hot and at just the right degree of rare. I also dipped my fork into my friend’s fish entrée, the succulent Nori-wrapped Hawaiian Walu with Coconut Sticky Rice, and we raised our glasses to the dish’s citrus-and-miso vinaigrette accents, avocado, and jicama snap.

Too bad we didn’t have room for the Seared Sea Scallops with Warm Pancetta Vinaigrette, with creamy root-vegetable purée and crispy Brussels sprouts, pomegranate and preserved mustard seeds. Then there’s the house-made Sunchoke Tortelloni with Shaved Oregon Black Truffles, served with spinach, buttery leeks, and chèvre. If I was stricter about being gluten-free, I’d have to turn it down! But Q gladly accommodates people’s food restrictions, where they can.

For several hours we basked in the flavors and aromas—and the visual feast of colors, textures, and design. By now, I was feeling transported, maybe even a little disoriented. And we still had dessert to go. For a change of scenery, we headed into the bar, sultry in its rosewood-coffered ceiling, stained-glass sconces, burl tabletops, and black granite bar top. Rain streaked the large corner windows, which in warm weather open wide enough so one can pass through to sidewalk tables.

I knew the Chocolate Abacela Port Soufflé was a must. Our server set down the order-ahead signature dessert (with port from the Roseburg, Oregon, winery, Abacela), and drizzled warm chocolate sauce on top. We scooped away, between sips of Portland’s well-loved Stumptown coffee.

The following week for lunch, I sat at the chef ’s counter. I couldn’t resist the Pecan Crusted Catfish: So crunchy and perfectly moist, it rested on a pillow of braised collard greens and cuboids of crispy, pan-fried cornbread. The Q standout was nutty and slightly sweet from a touch of apple-spiced honey, made with fruit from Kiyokawa Family Orchards in Mt. Hood. From my VQ days, I knew I had to have Q’s tiramisu. Stacked high in the center of a chocolate moat with a crumbled pistachio-biscotti bridge, the layers lounged in a boozy swoon, sending my taste buds over the edge. Next time for me it’s the weekend brunch and the Veggie Benedict with house-made English muffin and hollandaise. Or maybe the Blackened Catfish with two poached eggs, crispy potatoes, sautéed veggies and, again, hollandaise. Meanwhile, I’ve been telling everyone to go to Q. Here, the spotlight shines on the food, but it’s the whole dining experience that makes this Portland favorite the star of the show.

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