The other day I had a chance to finally visit Departure Restaurant in Portland. Known for it's roof top view which lived up to their reputation. Sadly the outside was not open but still pretty darn amazing even from inside.
The reason for visiting was the chance for more fine Japanese dining. At a one time seating for the first of a series of dinners called Compass which feature food from different locations in the world.
This was the first dinner which featured Japan. Eight courses put together by a chef in Portland who is rather well known.
Chef Gregory Gourdet, current Top Chef participant who likes to bring the heat.
There was a sake pairing with the meal but since it wasn't stated that it was a separate price prior to the event I just went with a glass of Sakemoto Jumai.
The first dish was a soft egg topped with sake cream and caviar and sprinkled with katsuobushi which is dried bonito. This dish was inspired by Chef Gourdet's cooking days in New York. It was really delicious and a great way to start this meal.
Next up was Oysters Three Ways. Buckley Bay oysters were paired three ways. I believe left to right is pickled cactus and jalapeno juice, trout roe with lemon and dried chili, last iswasabi granita, kyuri and shiso. The salty roe with the fresh oyster made the middle oyster really stand out in flavor.
Nigiri followed the oysters nicely. The toppings were anago, sawara, tako, hiramasa. The anago was simmered in tamari, sake and mirin and was amazing. Softest tako I have eaten and the little bit of chili paste on top actually worked well with it. Excellent nigiri.
This was the either the hiramasa (yellowtail) or sawara (Spanish mackeral). Usually I can tell but both lighter fish were tender and delicious plus I was a bit overwhelmed by how amazing everything. By looking I think it was sawara.
Chef Gourdet came in with each dish to explain what was in each one. Way more ingredients than what I am listing. This was a great dish of Chicken Yakitori. It included chicken skin, spicy chicken liver, Kushiyaki wing & heart with tare. Togarashi which I think was in the liver, yuzu salt, and black rice which was used for the forbidden rice crisp.
Boneless wing or kushiyaki which I really liked. I noticed the guys at the table loved the forbidden rich crisp. If they weren't so fragile I bet they would sell well as a snack at stores. This dish along with the others showed how a chef can add heat to a dish without overwhelming everything. That is something a lot of chefs do not know how to do which is a shame. It really is about balance. Chef Gourdet focus on the components of a dish really stood out here.
Chef Gourdet brought the heat with his Spicy clam broth. Created with smoked pork, scallion, nori and chili paste this was the hottest dish of the night. I really enjoyed the clams which had been seasoned separately from the soup before going in. The pork was well done also. I know several people enjoyed this. The broth was so flavorful it reminded me of ramen.
Saikyo Miso Black Cod with braised walnut in ginger and cider and grilled orange. Chef Gourdet definitely can do fish with fruit. This was the dish of the night. I noticed how quiet it became at our table. Everyone was too busy eating and enjoying. Black cod is one of my favorite fish and next time I cook it I will be using orange or tangerine with it. I'm converted. I can't say enough how wonderful this was. The cod was not overwhelmed by miso yet the skin had a nice saltiness. Everything paired wonderfully.
Following the black cod was Wagyu Beef Sirloin with leek, sunchoke, bourbon barrel aged soy from Bluegrass Soy and I believe a bit of beet. I really do not eat beef but I did just for this. This was quite good but I think the black cod was a tough act to follow plus we were getting a bit full at this point.
Chocolate & Miso Mille Feuille with hazelnut, ginger, and summer plum. Oh my. Along with the black cod, this was a excellent way to end Chef Gourdet's first pop-up meat at Departure. Light pieces of pastry with the hazelnut cream and the chocolate and plum sauces was amazing. I think if we could we would have licked the plates clean.
Overall it was an excellent meal with lovely people and I am definitely impressed by Gregory Gourdet's cooking plus he is a genuinely nice guy. This was a great start to the Compass dining series and I totally recommend it. There are at least two more dinners planned in the coming months. Next is China and then Haiti which is the food Chef Gourdet grew up with so that will be amazing too. I think if they throw in Egypt at some point I would be very much tempted. The Autumn Harvest Vegan dinner also sounds great.
If you want to try one of these dinners or just dine at Departure their website is here.
They are located at 525 SW Morrison St in Portland, OR
If you can't get to Portland you can still see Gregory Gourdet shine on Top Chef right now. Include me in Team GG. Hoping to see him make it to the end because he definitely knows food and how to make it taste great.