Portland’s food scene is in an experimental mood. While brick-and-mortar openings have slowed to a trickle, cooks on all levels of the food chain are unleashing little passion dives into favorite cuisines. Joining the pop-up/tasting menu wave: Departure’s Gregory Gourdet, who is currently bringing a little OG swagger and Portland-style clutch to Bravo’s Top Chef Boston.

Gourdet’s new Compass Dinner Series—20 communal seats only, once a month—will allow Portland’s premier Asian food innovator to put risk-taking ambition on the plate on a far smaller scale  than that of his big, hectic, futuristic 15th floor restaurant inside the Nines Hotel. (Well, not that far; dinners will be held in the “State Room,” a few steps from Departure’s main dining room and overlooking the Hollywood-worthy deck.)

Gourdet says the idea has been a year in the making. While Departure is known for large-scale events, the multi-faceted Gourdet longed to break away and do something on a much smaller sale based on details and execution. He sees these dinners as a chance to go “small and careful, based on flavor, culture, and technique.”

Up first on Oct. 26: Japan; 8 courses, 7 sake pairings, $95. Gourdet has been burning to put his stamp on Japanese cooking since a visit to Japan earlier this year. “I’m open to seeing where we go with this new outlet,” he says. “I’m excited to slow down and carry out some flavors and techniques I’ve been toying with. A pop up-one off dinner is a great place to express ideas in a less formal setting, take some risks, and have fun.” For reservations, call 503-802-5370.

Dates are not yet set, but Chinese food will take center stage in a future dinner. And watch for Gourdet’s Haitian evening, a riff on the foods of his youth. Recall Top Chef Episode 1, where Gourdet’s stewed chicken with fried bananas and Scotch bonnet relish produced “love/hate/love” swoons from the judges, and helped land him in the night’s Top 3 winners of the week. “I’ve never cooked an entire meal of the food I grew up with in a professional setting,” says Gourdet. “I’m quite excited.”

Some menu highlights from the upcoming Japan dinner:

Gregory Gourdet's Japanese homage to Jean-George Vongerichten's famed "egg caviar"

← SOFT EGG, BONITO, SAKE CREAM, CAVIAR

“Everyone who goes through the kitchen at Jean-Georges has to perfect this egg,” says Gourdet of the New York restaurant where he worked before coming to Portland. “This is definitely an homage and a nod to what I do now. The very soft and runny egg scramble filling is flavored with bonito and mirin, the whipped cream with sake.” 

CHICKEN SKIN, LIVER, KUSHIYAKI WING & HEART (with tare, togarashi, yuzu salt, and black rice)

This is Gourdet’s take on the yakatori grill: “I absolutely love the complex and sweet flavor the kushiyaki grill gives to foods. Cooking over binchotan coals (Asian white charcoal, that burns slow, low and very clean) builds great umami in foods. For this dish, I am inspired by the great grilled chicken parts of Japan and very savory flavors with bright yuzu and Japanese chili for pop."

SAIKYO MISO BLACK COD (with braised walnuts and grilled orange)? Can’t think of three ingredients that sound better together.

CHOCOLATE & MISO MILLE FEUILLE (with hazelnuts, ginger and plum)

“I’ve wanted to combine milk chocolate and miso for some time and this dessert is a result of that: a great mix of sweet, salt, crispy, nut and fruit,” he says. “I saved the last plums I found at the market for jam and love the mix of Oregon and Japanese flavors in this dish. Oregon ingredients pair really well with Japanese flavors due to the likeness of some of our regions.” 

In addition to the Compass Series, Gourdet continues to push vegan creativity. Up next: Departure’s Autumn Harvest Vegan Dinner, six courses, $65, and always one of the most talked about menus of the year. For reservations, call 503-802-5370.

Departure
525 SW Morrison St
503-802-5370

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