Ración has crafted its own recipe for the friendliest molecular gastronomy around: a hide-nothing kitchen, a chatty, food-loving staff, and a great chorizo-infused margarita topped with clouds of sea salt foam.
From addictive salt cod chicharróne dressed with malt vinegar powder to house-made marshmallows infused with ginger, these “modern tapas” from 31-year-old Anthony Cafiero pack plenty of molecular punch. But the former Tabla chef uses highbrow edibles as playful flavor and textural flourishes for lusty, Spanish-inflected food—a balancing act that makes Ración’s high-low eating accessible and fun.
While the food is sleek, the vibe is relaxed. Shelves backing the open kitchen are crammed with powders, beakers, and a five-volume copy of Modernist Cuisine. Nearby, an immersion circulator swirls with baggies of pork tenderloin. A wraparound 15-seat chef’s counter hugs the workspace—a wooden table topped with induction burners and a planter full of microgreens—ensuring an eyeful of behind-the-scenes action.
1205 SW Washington St
You can order small dishes à la carte ($11), but the real deal is the five-course, $50 tasting menu (tack on $30 for wine pairings). Offerings careen from a sous-vide egg sided by crunchy chickpea gnocchi to almond gazpacho packing briny bits of razor clam, Dungeness crab, and those fanciful marshmallow icebergs. The four-person staff (chef included) encourages diners to split a tasting menu, which means you can supplement as you like with raciónes like deep-fried sweetbreads (the “best Chicken McNuggets, ever,” boasts Cafiero) and octopus a la plancha as you go.
Despite its sleek décor, Ración is not a typical white-tablecloth experience. On any given night, you might get to eavesdrop on the chefs gabbing about Rambo movies and how to “cook” a negroni cocktail before tasting dishes from their laboratory. They’ll talk your ear off about how tapioca starch explodes in a deep fryer, and they’ll even rattle off recipes. Or, they’ll let you sit quietly and eat if you prefer to keep your meal a mystery. But what’s the fun in that?
This article appeared in the July 2013 issue of Portland Monthly.