Several months after vacating its former space on N Mississippi, Quaintrelle, highly praised by PoMo critic Karen Brooks, finally has a new home in Southeast Portland, where it'll continue to serve seasonal, artistic food and drink from chef Ryley Eckersley and bar manager Camille Cavan.
The restaurant opens for dinner August 29; reservations are available now on OpenTable, with limited availability for walk-ins. The new space is located at 2032 SE Clinton St, the site that formerly housed Burrasca. For those who are familiar with Quaintrelle, the format will be the same: a choice of a 5, 7, or 9-course tasting menu as well as the option to order a la carte, plus thoughtfully paired poetically-named cocktails from Cavan and small-producer Oregon wines. Important in these tumultuous times: the restaurant also has a patio, and according to Eckersley, they’re also planning to check proof of vaccination to dine indoors at their bar or tables.
The restaurant is getting a whole new look. For Eckersley, who took over as the restaurant’s chef in 2018, and Cavan, it was a chance to create the restaurant space they’d always dreamed of: a giant chandelier, a 22-foot long butcher block along the open kitchen, plenty of natural light, plants, and a constantly changing art installation. Music ranging from Wu Tang to Hot Chip will play on the restaurant’s record player.
But the ethos that drives the menu will largely be the same. Eckersley’s cooking style is hard to describe in just a few words. It’s an amalgamation of the many places the London-born chef has lived since his mother passed away in his adolescence, sending him ricocheting between London and the south of France with frequent trips to Barcelona, and later, moves to Belize and various parts of the United States. Instead of butter, he leans on pungency and vibrancy from ingredients like fish sauce and fermented foods made by Quaintrelle’s sous chef. The menu is seasonal, leaning toward lighter proteins like seafood in the summer and more toward beef in the winter. Eckersley changes the menu constantly, inspired by what he finds at the farmers markets he visits three days a week.
There’s also an artistic element to the food—Eckersley has created many monochromatic dishes based on color themes, like what he calls an “herbaceous” green curry salmon, a study in green. Other times he’ll play with presentation, serving seafood like freshly shucked live scallops in their shell, large-format dishes like whole fish, and serving salmon ssam in individual cups for the tasting menu, as seen above. When tomato season comes this summer, he might celebrate the occasion by serving tomatoes five ways.
“In a tasting menu, you can’t just provide people with food—it has to be a show, it has to be something that draws the nostalgia strings, the intellectual strings,” Eckersley says. “It’s a very versatile medium.”