Portland Restaurants Boast New Menus and Approaches
(Portland, Oregon) – Two restaurants in Portland's nationally renowned culinary scene have made some big changes. One boasts a new menu, while a cutting edge Indian restaurant keeps a popular prix-fixe feature.
At SE Hawthorne hotspot Castagna, Executive Chef Matthew Lightner has dug into their own garden of herbs, flowers and produce to create a new menu.
With Lightner’s new menu having debuted in October, diners at Castagna can expect a close connection to the local farmers and foragers who passionately oversee food sources. The dining room menu will change often in respect for what is available on the local farms and in the Castagna garden.
“I want the flavors to be clearly in focus in each dish,” said Lightner. “The cooking technique needs to be the right one to coax the authentic flavors from each ingredient.”
A seasonal menu includes oysters, preserved tomatoes, horseradish, Dungeness crab, amaranth, lemon, cardamom, mushrooms, pine nuts, roe, pecorino, prosciutto, duck egg seeds, grains, rye crisp, slow egg and jus. There is also halibut with fresh ricotta, some lamb features and aged rib eye.
Lightner, 28, oversees the kitchens at both Castagna and Café Castagna after his recent immersion in Spanish culture and cuisine, including an 18-month stint at Mugaritz, one of the most esteemed restaurants in the culinary world. While in Spain, he met with some of the country’s artisan producers and growers – from a tour of olive presses in Andalusia to Iberian pig farms and cheese caves in the Basque region. During his tenure in Spain, Lightner studied with Ferran Adria, Andoni Aduriz and Juan Mari Arzak through the Icex program, a culinary program for select chefs to visit Spain’s modern restaurants and artisan producers.
At Mugaritz, Lightner was immersed in a Spanish culture passionate about pure and true flavors and found a new love for the botanical side of food. “Working at one of the best restaurants in the world has elevated my connection to food and how to celebrate one single ingredient to allow for its true flavor to emerge,” Lightner said. “I also want to honor the sourcing of each ingredient and make the activity of finding the herb, flower or seed part of the overall dining experience.”
The dining room has also received a fresh new design by local architects Jeff Stuhr and Kevin Valk of Holst Architecture.
Castagna is open 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday at 1752 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. Adjacent to Castagna is Café Castagna opened daily at 5:00 p.m. for dinner and lunch Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 503-231-7373 or visit www.castagnarestaurant.com.
East India Co. Grill & Bar has extended its popular prix-fixe menu now available for $20 per person from 5 p.m. to close Monday to Saturday. The menu will rotate with the seasons and offer a wide range of Northern Indian specialties.
The downtown eatery opened in December 2007 offering classic Indian cuisine from northern and western India prepared with a contemporary flair. Culinary Director Pradeep Chandrana remains true to his classic Indian recipes and offers a dinner menu as varied as kebabs grilled over hard wood charcoal, Biryani, an assortment of entrees from Goan Jhinge ka Salan (Goan Shrimp Curry) to Begam Bahar Ratan (Scallops & Asparagus) and a variety of breads and sides. For reservations, please call 503-227-8815.
“The prix fixe menu encourages first time guests to try our Northern Indian cuisine,” said Pradeep Chandrana, culinary director and general manager. “The wide range of dishes is the perfect way to sample the menu and let your taste buds explore new flavors and ingredients.”
The menu includes items like marinated chicken, peppers and onions on a skewer; spiced potatoes in a pastry shell on garbanzo beans, seasoned with Bhel spices; Garlic Methi Naan topped with fenugreek greens; Goan fish curry and more.
East India Co. Grill & Bar features classic Indian cuisine from northern and western India prepared with a contemporary flair. It was recently mentioned in both the Willamette Week’s Restaurant Guide (October 09) and Portland Monthly’s Restaurant Issue (November 09). East India Co. welcomes the after work crowd with a long, narrow bar that draws attention to the list of tropical cocktails and Indian beer and a popular happy hour from 5-7 p.m. A $20 prix fixe menu is available from Monday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to close.
821 SW 11th Ave. Portland, Oregon. (503) 227-8815. www.eastindiacopdx.com.