One of the most exciting and fraught periods in Portland’s food history centered around a group called Ripe and its magical supper club, Family Supper. One of the talented cooks who helped put Ripe (and Portland) on the national map was Troy MacLarty, fresh from Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. He was a latecomer to Family Supper, but according to a 2009 Portland Monthly article, “MacLarty helped incite a near conflagration of press, including an eight-page spread in the January 2006 issue of Food & Wine.”
It all blew up pretty spectacularly, but MacLarty still remembers the sense of people gathering around tables to experience the unexpected. Now, Bollywood Theater's MacLarty tells Eat Beat he hopes to recreate that energy with Churchgate Station, an intimate Indian supper club, with MacLarty as chef, collaborator, and experimenter. Over the weekend, he inked a lease at 3150 SE Division Street. A build-out will soon commence at the corner space inside the D-Street Village complex, next door to his Bollywood Theater, which combines ephemera, Mumbai street food, and market shelves into one cinematic package. If all goes well (and one never knows with Portland’s labyrinthine red-tape process), the 30-seat Churchgate Station—named for the southernmost train station in South Mumbai—will open this summer.
MacLarty plans to get back into the kitchen—an unusual move for a successful restaurateur. The game plan, for now, is family-style dinners Friday and Saturday nights to start, with changing menus composed of thali trays and/or passed platters. It’s a chance to experiment with ingredients not feasible at Bollywood’s price point, such as crab, duck, or quail. “We do 1,000 covers a day on weekends during the summer,” he says. “It’s hard to buy a case of something at the famers market.” MacLarty also hopes to bring in admired Indian chefs from around the country for collaborative dinners. Classes might figure into the mix, or perhaps a Sunday Indian breakfast.
“I want it to be organic,” says MacLarty. “I want to make a meal that makes sense. But I want to take people out of their comfort zone.” That includes MacLarty, who confesses, “I still have a bazillion things to learn.”