When I went down to Portland, and actually spent time downtown for the first time, I tried to make my way to Little Bird with my co-workers. I made them walk the half mile or so from our hotel to the restaurant sans any type of reservation figuring we could grab a seat in the bar. I was wrong, and we ended up at Higgins which was a bit of a let down to say the least (my coronaries are still mad at me from all of the oil that I ended up consuming while I was there). So when I made my next trip down to Portland, I was determined to get back to Little Bird and give it a try; it was a top Talk of the Town restaurant after all.
After a quick workout, I packed up my computer and headed out on my half mile hike. Had I learned my lesson about calling ahead? Nope, but I figured finding room for one was a lot easier than finding room for three. And I was right this time. When I got to the restaurant (pausing for a moment to take a picture of the kitchen which is actually visible from the street), I made my way to one of a couple empty seats at the bar. The restaurant itself is pretty small and quaint, a bit of a French bistro feel (side note…seriously all it took was three days in Charleston and I can’t get “quaint” out of my frickin’ vocabulary!). The bar is tucked all the way in the back, under a balcony with some extra seating, but affords a nice view of the entire restaurant which is great for people watching.
I took a look at the menu and immediately honed in on a couple of things. But before ordering, I asked the bartender his recommendation. For the appetizers, the first thing he mentioned was the steak tartare which was perfect because that was the first thing that caught my eye. So I went ahead and ordered that, though I had to fight hard not to order the marrow bones (honestly, I could have made a meal out of about 4 appetizers). Then on the main course, he had a couple of different recommendations, but the only real non-beef (can’t duplicate appetizer and entree…) option was the glazed pork. Well, it’s not the only option; I was eyeing the duck after all. But it was the only one that he mentioned. I went with it. Sounded good and meant I didn’t have to make my own decision. Double bonus.
The tartare came out pretty quickly, and looked so delicious. There was a nice egg yolk sitting on top of heaping amounts of finely chopped beef. I broke the yolk into the steak and put a heaping scoop on the baguette. It was fantastic. The creaminess from the egg yolk working with the cool high quality steak. Then there was the great crunch from the nicely grilled baguette. Add to that a little bit of this creamy almost tomato sauce that added just a hint of sweetness to everything, and it was just a wonderful appetizer, though I will say it could have used just a touch more salt and pepper to really round it off.
Shortly after finishing off the tartare and starting into my second glass of wine, the pork made it’s way out. The aromas hit me immediately…first the smell of a sweet glaze followed by the smells of roasted pork and sauteed onions. Absolutely mouth watering. And the taste lived up to the smells. The pork was fork tender, moist and succulent with the little sweetness from the glaze. The apple added a nice crunch as a textural element and a tad more sweet that was balanced out nicely by the onion. Then there was just the perfect amount of acidity from the sage vinaigrette on the plate. Just a wonderful plate that had me using the bread to make sure I didn’t miss a single drop of flavor from the entire dish.
I was definitely glad that I made the trip back to Little Bird after not being able to get in the first time. It was easy to see why it was a talk of the town restaurant on Urbanspoon. It was the perfect example of a place that didn’t try to overdo things. It was just good quality ingredients cooked well. Apparently this is what real French cooking is about…who knew? (Ok, I’m sure plenty of people knew, but I was not one of them). Absolutely worth the trip if you find yourself in downtown Portland. Just be sure to call ahead if there is going to be more than one of you or you might be waiting until 9:30 for a table.