Decided since I have not eaten Chinese food in a long time I would throw my luck in with the November Chef Gregory Gourdet Compass Dinner.
Greeted by chop sticks in fabric we sat down to a family style dinner.
Three special cocktails were offered and since I have enjoyed all the ones previously I picked the Doong Tien which was Bacardi 8, persimmon shrub, lemon and angostura. Sweet yet very nice. Turns out Doong Tien means winter in Chinese.
First up were shrimp chips. Surprised I was able to get a photo of them since they flew into diners' mouths. I think I was able to get two for myself.
Next was Eggplant in chili garlic marinade. Another one I had a hard time getting a photo of because the guys where I sat loved this dish. I did try a little bit and the eggplant was nicely done with a really good texture.
Something I enjoyed was the Turnip Cake with mushrooms and scallions. Crispy on the outside, dense yet soft inside with a little zip from bits of red pepper coating the outside.
The Winter Melon Soup with scallop, chinese celery and goji berries was a nice break from the spicier dishes. Another winner with the diners which showcased how Chef Gourdet thinks things out. One diner thought the soup needed salt but then he had a bit of scallop in the next spoonful and realized it was just right. The goji berries added a fun bit of sweet and were a nice addition to this type of soup.
One of my favorite dishes was the Crispy Shrimp Dumplings with dipping sauce. They were just right.
However my absolute favorite dish of the night was the Pork belly in rice noodle rolls. I don't know if the reason for the rolls was because Aaron kept trying to make noodle rolls on Top Chef. Doesn't matter because these were excellent. The pork inside was amazing with flavor that would not quit. Seasonings included fermented bean paste and a lot more that I could not remember. I would order these again if I ever see them on the menu.
I really wanted to try the Smoked Ham Hock Congee because I have never had congee plus there was the Top Chef competition between Chef Gourdet and Chef Mei Lin. I don't know how hers taste but this one was good. With so many dishes on the menu I didn't finish this but another time I would eat more. I thought the little crisps on top were a nice touch.
Time for the poultry! Crispy Five Spice Chicken which was delicious! Tender and juicy with a little bowl of spices to dip in or sprinkle. I wish we would have know at this point we could take home left overs because I would have made them leave this on the table. No fowl this time. Makes me wish I had someone here to share a Departure Peking Duck in December with.
One of the things I like about cuisine from China is the number of vegetable dishes that are available. In part I would guess the reason is Buddhist teachings which forbid the eating of meat. These were very fresh Long Beans with preserved radish, chili and jicama. Spicy which the guys at the table loved. Besides the chili there was garlic and ginger and a hint of anise or another similar spice. The standout of this dish was the jicama which held it's own against all that chili. I definitely would consider using it when cooking besides salads. It was still crisp but gained a little tenderness without the fibrous quality it sometimes has when eaten raw.
At this point I think we were hitting overload with the food but each dish was so delicious we all tried a bit. Steamed Cod with ginger and scallions was good but even better the next day when it has soaked up a bit of that soy marinade.
Nice that Vegetable Fried Rice made it to the table. Bits of salted duck egg and mixed with xo sauce it proved that fried rice could be made even better. Now I'm going to have to try using difference sauces when making fried rice. I could say this was an inspiring dish!
Finally we reached dessert and an interesting dessert this was. Left were Sesame Balls with date and orange and a spicy sauce. Middle was Taro Root Ice Cream with goose berry and sesame brittle which I liked and appreciated since I didn't have to deal with lactose intolerance afterwards. It's one of the reasons I like trying dinners like this. The experience of having something familiar but made differently.
The dessert on the right was a delicious Egg Custard Tart with caramelized banana and peanuts on top. This seemed to be the favorite with everyone.
So there is one more Compass Dinner to happen this year and that is Haiti this month. Although don't be surprised if there are more to come. It looks like this is a very popular concept and Chef Gourdet is enjoying creating these meals. To find out when Haiti is happening try following Departure PDX on Twitter or Departure Restaurant on Facebook. They have other meals in the future and also their Peking Duck dinners for December which need to be reserved in advance.
Departure Restaurant is located at 525 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR 97204
Some day I will have to go and try dishes from the menu. Just really enjoy the Compass Dinners. Thank you Chef Gourdet and hoping you did well on Top Chef.