Eat Beat has learned that chef Patrick McKee and Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom’s Pine Street Market project, Common Law, unceremoniously closed last night. But the space won’t stay empty for long. Common Law co-owner Ninsom, the Thai-wunderkind behind Langbaan and Hat Yai, plans to plant a new collaboration between Kim Jong Grillin’s Han Ly Hwang and Smokehouse Tavern’s B.J. Smith in September. It's called KJS, a.k.a. Kim Jong Smokehouse.
The Pine Street Market is already a hot topic for local eaters and hungry tourists, who flock to its crowded rustic-chic space to sample dishes from a wild variety of Portland restaurateurs, from John Gorham’s Pollo Bravo and Marukin Ramen to Salt & Straw’s soft serve project Whiz Bang—with mixed results. Open since April, the ambitious multi-restaurant hub’s service and dishes are still shaking out, leading to often excellent, often exasperating meals depending on the day, time, and order during your visit.
Common Law’s lovingly executed French-Asian fare, from tender beef tongue banh mi with five-spiced potato chips to a Shiitake-Smoked Tofu Soup that PoMo food critic Karen Brooks called the Market’s “meat-free sleeper hit,” were some of the standouts at Pine Street. But, according to McKee, the concept just wasn’t a good fit for the Market.
“I’m more used to a fine dining, sit-down establishment,” says McKee, who ran the kitchen at Portland fine dining pillar Paley’s Place for four years before opening his own spot at Pine Street. “The market is more suited for a faster pace. We do 150–200 covers a day in here.” Suffering from staffing issues and citing the mismatch of pace and style, McKee closed Common Law for good Wednesday night. The chef isn’t finished with the sophisticated project just yet; he’s interested in finding a better-suited location for Common Law in the coming months.
Co-owner Ninsom, who is keeping the lease on the Common Law space, says it’s a bittersweet day. “It wasn’t how we hoped it to be,” he told Eat Beat. The restaurateur quickly regrouped, recruiting Hwang and Smith. KJS (Kim Jong Smokehouse) will launch in September with a menu of bibimbap, smoked meats, bone-in short rib to crispy pulled pork, and sauces like smoked kimchi and miso-apple. The remodeled nook will hold room for 20 seats, and plans include frequent guest chef appearances. Says Hwang: "We want this concept to be fast simple and, most importantly, fun!"
Pine Street Market
126 SW Second St