Showing posts with label German. Show all posts
Showing posts with label German. Show all posts

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grüner - Portland, Oregon

the check

"New Alpine Cuisine" - is that a "thing" yet? If it's not, maybe it should be.[1]

With the meteoric rise of Noma to prominence among most lists of the world's greatest restaurants, there has been plenty of talk of the "New Nordic Cuisine." No doubt, the ultra-local and ultra-seasonal cooking at Noma is far more radical and ambitious than what's going on at Grüner, Chef Christopher Israel's restaurant in downtown Portland, Oregon. But Grüner makes a good argument that "Alpine Cuisine" deserves greater attention.

What Grüner calls "Alpine Cuisine" is the foods of a stretch of Europe including Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania starting in the Alps, and meandering along the Danube River out to the Black Sea - an area which Chef Israel claims, with only some poetic license, bears a resemblance to the geography of the Pacific Northwest. This is fare that typically is more hearty than haute. While the food at Grüner is not exactly precious, and still retains the gutsiness of its inspiration, it is done with a skilled hand; it is not so much Alpine food "reinvented" as it is "refined."

The look of the restaurant is more bauhaus than bierhaus: black-stained wood and glass frame the exterior and interior, while bare maplewood tables lighten things up a bit. The menu is simlarly modern: it offers a selection of small "snacks" (many of which are also available on a bar menu at some very friendly happy hour prices), roughly a dozen options for appetizers and salads, with a shorter list of about a half-dozen entrées, all of which stay more or less faithful to the theme.


Dinner starts with a pretzel twist and some rough-textured seeded bread. Both had their charms, but the clear favorite was the pretzel - dense, chewy, crusty and salty (recipe here).

liptauer cheese

Both were welcome vehicles for this "snack" of liptauer cheese, a creamy, light-textured house-made product punched up with paprika, caraway, shallots and herbs, which was equally good on fresh crisp radishes and celery. Right here was evidence of how this cuisine paints with a different spice and herb palette than much of the rest of Europe, to great effect.

(continued ...)