One of the great things about the dining scene in Portland is how pop-ups have thrived. It's a great way for chefs to experiment and to cook food that they really love. One such pop-up is DaNet, Chef Vitaly Paley's homage to Russian cuisine. I decided to check it out last month.
DaNet is held in the Portland Penny Diner. Gone is the diner seating, replaced by barrels, candles and Russian tchotchkes. Upon entering we were offered a choice of three drinks while we waited to be seated.
Waiters brought around trays of hors d'oeuvres like this deviled egg seasoned with anchovies
and little potato blini with smoked salmon, dill and sour cream. As delicious as these were one should limit eating them because the dinner ahead was no small feast.
At the table there were place cards for each reservation and two menus for the night's meal including one which listed the drink pairings. I sat with the family of a guy who was recently hired so I was able to sample a little bit of the wine pairings. I have to say they were innovative and very good. I would recommend this if one wants to drink with the dinner. Thomas Hebenstreit is the wine director for the restaurants and he is very knowledgeable.
First up were plates of pickles including potatoes and mushrooms.
Along with that there were platters of traditional blini with seawater cured salmon caviar, butter and sour cream with dill.
Plus cured meats
and bowls of Salade Olivier and also Ash Roasted Beet Pkhali which is a chopped vegetable dish. Due to taking photos in candle light mine did not turn out that well so no photo of that.
But I do have photos of all the buterbrod they served us.
This is still the first course. While the courses were served Chef Paley spoke about the dishes and his inspirations for the courses.
I tried to limit what I ate in the first course because the second was a Schi Bogatye which was a wildlife soup with sauerkraut along with a Nyanya Rastegai. That was a buckwheat stuffed hand pie filled with mushrooms. We were told to drip some of the broth into the pie and put a bit of the sour cream and onions and herbs on the soup. The pie was delicious and with the soup, since wild game and beef is not something I eat I focused instead on the sauerkraut which was amazing. Chef Paley said they pickle it with cranberries. I have now found another pickled food that I want to try making.
On to the third course which was this beauty. I found out later that Imperial's Chef de Cuisine Doug Adams crafted this Kulebyaka.
Topped with viziga cracklings (sturgeon) the flaky dough surrounded layers of morel mushrooms, king salmon and rice draped in a wonderful butter sauce. This was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my lifetime. It was as if nothing else existed while I enjoyed it's deliciousness. Really was perfection in a dish.
Being totally satiated we all sat around while Chef Paley set up our final course which included tea from this samovar.
Sugars and honey were set out for diners. The glass near this was pickle juice which came with the vodka flight.
Dessert was not lacking either. Plates of rhubarb jam filled donuts and bird's milk cookies
along with bake milk ice cream bon bons and mom's cacoa and sour cream layer torte were set out.
Which we enjoyed with cups of hot tea. I really could not eat another bite but the desserts were so good I did try each one.
Since there were a couple left I was able to take them home. Which was really nice that I could try them again. The donut was so good I think Pips would have a challenger if Chef Paley ever wanted to open a donut shop.
I also had a couple with a cup of Smith Tea Brahmin black tea. Even a day or two later they were still delicious, especially that torte.
Well that was an outstanding meal. I hope some day I can have another DaNet dinner, or at least kulebyaka again. It was truly worth trying.
If you are interested in dining at DaNet, information can be found at Imperial Portland Restaurant's website which is here. Reservations are needed and can be made by calling the Imperial. Right now the dinners are once a month. And if you go, try not to eat too much beforehand.