There is a newly opened establishment on 39th Avenue in Southeast Portland, it’s located in a building that used to serve coffee, just around the corner from a place that still does. Turn left on the street with the broken sidewalk and take the next right on the sidewalk soaked with rain. Wander aimlessly (don’t trip), you’ll likely make it in the front door.
Geographic placement is the only piece of homogeneity that pertains to The Kingdom of Roosevelt. It is not at all reminiscent of dining out for dinner in Portland. Oddly, Roosevelt is doing everything that usually equates to ‘Portland’: locally sourced ingredients, taxidermy and antlers, waitresses who look like they were birthed full-grown from the pages of a J. Crew catalog, but there is a shocking lack of pretension in this room that seats only 20 people and 4 of them can saddle-up to the finest, thickest bar I have ever laid my grubby hands on. Carved from Black Walnut, this length of wood is cool to the touch and visually stunning.
Roosevelt belongs to Eric Bechard and you’ve probably heard stories about Eric. ‘Hailing from the old Alberta Street Oyster House…he beat up a fellow chef in front of Magic Gardens…yep, they were fighting about pork.’ Far more interesting is the fact that Bechard hunts and forages the ingredients for this Kingdom. The Roosevelt Elk informs the dining room, the guests eat what the Elk eats, the eater becomes the Elk.
Be the Elk. Transform.
As is the case with many great tales of evolution, this one starts at the sea.
Raw Razor Clams from Seaside. Five Sea Vegetables. Radish. Cucumber.
My date and I ordered the 6 course tasting menu. Choosing between poetic menu items such as:
Fallow Deer Heat Tartare with His Marrow
Soft Cooked Egg and Smoked Steelhead Roe
Duck Broth with Her Poached Egg
Overwhelmed. We couldn’t decide.
I ruminate about plate settings far more often than I admit. On a recent visit to a purported 5-star restaurant I spotted a steak knife with a plastic handle and I sank into a deep despair. I collect and use sterling silver at home not because I am a high-minded bourgeoisie (though I have my moments) but because it actually makes food taste better! Try tasting your favorite ice cream with a plastic spoon and then try a sterling spoon (ideally with the first initial of your last name engraved on the end). Tell me I’m wrong. Say Uncle.
This is raw duck breast, it melts with the cheese, has a crunch of the cabbage, and marks the halfway point of your Elk Evolution. You are growing hooves. The woman behind you gasps a bit as new antlers begin to show through your hair. You are not afraid.
This was SO INTENSE. A pungent game-y flavor with a hint of grassy sweetness from the greenery, the warmth of the elderberry. The supremely earthy mixture spreads on Little T Bakery bread unlike any…spreadable I have ever spread.
Pickled beets AND salt roasted beets, the most divine pickled Elk Tongue in existence, horseradish, a scant brush of fresh yogurt, wood sorrel. This is a special concoction from the kitchen because I am a gal who loves beets AND tongues. I guess that’s the kind of treatment you get when you’re wearing your t-shirt from the Abbey Bar in New Orleans, the one that says, ‘Repent, You F’n Savages! Repent!’ Turns out this sentiment takes you pretty far in a wild game restaurant. Now you know.
Rye berry porridge with nettles, rabbit confit, soft cheese, black trumpets. This was very much like eating a risotto in a ditch deep within a forest that is far away from civilization.
The way The Kingdom uses small amounts of dairy is exceptionally brilliant. Now that your Elk Evolution nears completion you won’t have a taste for much milk and cheese but you will probably enjoy the rare delicacy in your overland travels. In case you’re curious, even Elks can drink wine…
This winery is one to watch. It’s owned and operated by two PNW brothers who come from a long line of winemakers. They actually work for other wineries full time, Coattails is their passion project. This is a huge pinot noir, the perfect libation for your new Elk self.
What a meal. You will enjoy this very much. Before you scamper off into the wild take a glance at your emerged proud tail.
You’re an animal.
I’m an animal too.