How excited should we be about a baby lettuce and plum salad in Portland, Oregon, year 2019?
Possibly very excited. We’ll find out when G-Love, a new 50-seat “reverse steakhouse” and one of the city’s most anticipated openings, lights the burners on August 28. G-Love will be located at 1615 NW 21st Ave, on the ground floor of The Carson apartment complex, near New Seasons, in fast-booming Northwest Portland. The roughly 2,000 square-foot restaurant will have 50 seats, a wide-open kitchen, and a chef’s counter in a well-windowed space that mixes lots of raw concrete with amber and surf-blue shades and Benedict’s own homemade concrete plates. Outside, expect 24 patio seats.
As Eat Beat first reported last spring, San Francisco chef Garrett Benedict, 32, recently moved to Portland to cook his dream food: light, super fresh, very accessible and planet-friendly. The idea is to put quality vegetables—many delivered daily from Olde Moon Farm in the Willamette Valley—in the spotlight while treating proteins as a special treat, a side dish, to be indulged in small portions.
It’s not a groundbreaking idea. If anything, it’s a direction in which more restaurants are heading. But Benedict has some aces in his pocket, hence the excitement. G-Love has that sense of possibility, of potential to break out in Portland’s competitive pack.
For one, Benedict brings a wealth of experience to the table. Most recently, he worked his way up the ladder to chef de cuisine at Al’s Place, under star chef Aaron London. The quirky, veg-creative San Francisco eatery nabbed Bon Appetit’s No. 1 Best New Restaurant award in 2015 right before Al’s won a Michelin Star. Two former AL’s cooks have migrated to Portland to join Benedict in the kitchen. Another boon: while farm-fresh produce is all but given around Portland, Benedict has established a close partnership with the farm, collaborating on what specialty produce and unusual herbs will be grown for the restaurant. The daily produce will be the jumping-off point for creativity. To begin, roughly half of the fruit and vegetables will come from Olde Moon Farm.
Based on a sneak peek, the opening menu juggles 20 dishes in five categories: Little Things, Cold Goods, Hot Stuff, Robata skewers, and Protein Sides. Dishes will change frequently, but a few things that caught my eye: a seasonal chirashi bowl of sushi rice, crowned with crispy shallots, blistered Padrón peppers and optional albacore tuna; bucatini pasta, with everything made to order, including the Early Girl tomato sauce; a crispy pork belly that’s air-dried and roasted until the skin puffs up like a chicharron; and charred steak, sided by an aged gouda fondue. But this being Portland, G-Love’s breakout hit will probably be the still-in-the-works 8-inch long “super tot.” Produce-inspired cocktails, local wines, and beers will round out the collection.
Everything looks simple on the surface. It’s when Benedict talks about his food that you realize there’s more than meets the eye. The dressing for that basic-sounding butter lettuce salad involves making an oil out of stone fruit pits (plums, nectarines, whatever), then poaching the fruit itself in the oil, adding raw garlic, ginger, and “some pineapple vinegar my cousin makes in Hawaii.” Next, he chars the fruit, chops it into a relish with preserved lemon puree, the pit oil, and fresh lemon juice and zest. “It just screams summer in your face as loud as it can,” says Benedict.
See what I mean? I’m calling it here: G-Love is the place the watch.
When live, reservations will be through Resy; one-third of the tables will be held for walk-ins. Hours: 5-10 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday.