Katy Millard is petite and doe-eyed, with a smile that zaps you like a ray gun. Don’t be fooled: She’s a kitchen beast. The girl requested artichokes for her grade-school birthdays and survived the fiery trenches of multiple star-spangled kitchens in France before earning “second in command” stripes at California’s famed Coi. Her wine-savvy husband, Ksandek Podbielski, is a host supreme and a logistics dynamo—Batman’s butler Alfred has nothing on him. In mid-July, they planted their first food flag on, of all places, a sleepy residential corner beneath idyllic Mt Tabor Park.
Their blueprint for Coquine: thoughtful everyday food and drink, day and night. Vegetables get top billing, rigor is a given, and yet you never forget you’re in laid-back Southeast Portland. How down-home does it get? In the mornings, you might catch Millard, 35, breast-feeding baby Hugo in a corner banquette, while the “lead barista” (yes, Coquine has that, too) frets over the perfect latte.
But Coquine is best defined by crazy commitment. Here’s what happened today before you even sat down: Podbielski worked 20 contacts for a drinks list that doubles as a directory to Who’s Next in Oregon wines, vermouths, and teas. Millard pondered finds from 10 farms for the day’s menu—perhaps a salad that digs into squash (wide, raw curls above, jewel-cut cooked chunks below, with sunflower pesto spackled in between) or crackling-skinned guinea hen heaped alongside eggplant-apple purée and buzzsaw cuts of green cauliflower roasted to the heavens.
Meanwhile, beautiful buckwheat biscuits marched out of the oven, waiting for a date with hand-cultured butter twirled with thyme. Desserts are whirling and rolling, daring but grounded, the handiwork of another rising talent, Portland newcomer and French Laundry pastry vet Liz Kennedy. Every dish embodies the house ethos: light, naturalistic, and spot-on seasoned, yet underpinned by an iron framework of fundamental technique. It’s Michelin around the corner, a high-end homey cuisine that stands in beautiful contrast to Portland’s usual bacon-heavy, stoner-dude munchies. It’s only the beginning for Coquine, but this star is already shooting.