I know it’s not cool to say this, but here I go anyway — the three-hour time difference between the East and West Coasts can sometimes knock me out. You would think it wouldn’t be the case, considering that I’ve crossed oceans and the International Date Line several times, but it is simply the plain truth. In these situations, I can get bleary-eyed and stupid-mouthed, as well as suffer from what Keith calls “Baby-Head Syndrome.” Such was the case last night, when we sat down to dinner at Le Pigeon a few hours after flying in.
The evening started out great: we had a drink down the street at Doug Fir while we waited for our table, the night was cool and balmy, and we were both excited to eat. When we had been discussing this trip a few weeks earlier, Keith and I had made a list of the restaurants we wanted to hit, and Le Pigeon was amongst our top choices. We decided to stop by on a Monday with the hopes of being able to walk in and sit down without much of a wait; not many of Portland’s eateries seem to take reservations for small parties. Le Pigeon is one of these places, so make sure to plan accordingly. Keith and I waited for almost an hour before being seated at a long wooden table (Le Pigeon seats its guests family-style).
Once I had my menu in hand, I immediately became torn — as always — between two appetizers: the foie gras, served with waffles, rhubarb and almonds; and the beef tongue, served with horseradish, potato and arugula. Though I’ve been wrapped up in a long-standing love affair with foie and its friends, I decided that I would give the beef tongue ($11.00) a go. I had only had tongue once before, to my recollection, and that most likely had been when I was in grade school, or at least junior high. I don’t recall any details of my inaugural taste but I do remember liking it quite a bit, so I figured I should just go for it.
I’m so glad that I did.
To some, the idea of eating tongue can be a bit off-putting. I urge those people to get over it. The tongue was actually really delicate, in spite of its size. This could have easily been a stomach-filling dish, but instead it was quite light, even considering the heft of the meat and the creaminess of the potatoes. The horseradish gave everything a nice zing, and the arugula added a pleasant bite.
When it came time select entrées, I again was divided between two options: duck with spätzle, bacon and tomato, and sea bass with leeks, snails and more potatoes. Before our drinks arrived — I got a cool and refreshing kumquat Dry Soda — I thought I would opt for the duck since I love spätzle, but once our server began answering our questions about the choices, I knew I would have to order the sea bass ($27.00). I’m sorry for the terrible picture (did I mention I was tired?) so perhaps it’s not quite clear that the fish is sitting atop a bed of sautéed leeks, snails, tomato, potato and frogs’ legs. It was that last component that really caught my attention; I had never had frogs’ legs before. These were tender and tasty, particularly when speared on a fork already heaped with the ratatouille-eqsue mixture. The earthiness of the snails and the subtle flavors of the fish were an interesting combination, but an absolutely delicious one.
I was really curious to try dessert, particularly the profiteroles filled with foie gras ice cream — yes, you read correctly — but by this point it was past eleven o’clock local time and my travel-weary body kept on trying to launch a coup d’état against me. After all, it felt like two in the morning. Here’s where the stupid mouth comes in, though: when a server asked us if we wanted to try a dessert, I blurted something like “I’m too sleepy!” Then I think I mumbled something that hopefully explained I was sleepy from travel and time changes and not from boredom, which was most certainly not the case. Our dinner at Le Pigeon was an awfully exciting meal, and it most certainly set the bar high for the rest of the restaurants on our list.
738 East Burnside Street
Portland, Oregon 97214