Article written by Yvonne Gill, a former expat now embracing the burbs of Portland.
Booked in advance, we acquired back stage passes for a show like no other. While music was not on the menu, an organic spread composed of the finest ingredients, was presented in the chicest way possible. Dining like nobility, course after course was laid out, allowing novel flavors to entice our appetites.
Tucked away in the Commissary Kitchen at Renata Restaurant, chefs Gabriel Pascuzzi and Alex Ditton showed off their raw talent in both flavor and presentation. Greeted in the front of the venue, then exclusively escorted to the back, our group embraced the uniqueness as we crossed through the double swing doors, where most diners never venture. Seated around the large kitchen block island, centered in a rustic kitchen, it allowed front row seats for a full view of the masters at work.
PN26’s pop up restaurant debuted this recent spring, allowing a culinary duo to showcase their gifts. Combining their individual culinary backgrounds after a career jaunt at Portland’s renowned Multnomah Whiskey Library, they later joined forces and now exert their upmost precision to exhibit a knowledge from which all can benefit.
Serving nine people that evening, we all gazed as nearly a dozen plates lined the butcher block. Both chefs bent over each serving and intricately placed each course’s elements. They moved about the dishes attempting to capture a 360-degree view, assuring its aesthetic appeal. Meanwhile, they shared amicable banter with their guests, while narrating their culinary journey. As final touches were perfected and placed in front of foodies, senses were fully ignited.
They kicked off the night with the most unsuspecting of dishes. While peas may resound like a nagging dish from mom, when paired with apple granita and ricotta, its summer freshness will make one, demand seconds. A surprising cold mouthful mixed with icy crunch cleansed the palate as we moved to more robust flavors. Duck terrine with pickled mustard seeds was up next and its distinct and delicate flavor made for slow, savoring bites.
Quickly working their magic for newly acquired fans, I closely followed the displayed menu. “Parisian Gnocchi” was third on the list and the name alone seduced our taste buds. Comprised of lobster, I predicted this could be the showstopper. My eyes absorbed the pillows of dumplings, pops of lobster, and sprinkled with fresh fennel. I lingered over each bite; acknowledging flavors such as these are whimsical in nature, therefore need coddling.
Lastly, the savory courses were rounded out with steak au poivre. Melting in my mouth, a unanimous silent applause manifested. Laid on a spoonful of pomme purée, it was the perfect culmination. Allowing our sweet tooth to indulge, giddiness rang as éclairs were neatly sprinkled with a dusting of powdered sugar. The pastry cream was elegantly dense and chocolate note tuned to perfection, leaving us showering the chefs with compliments.
During each course, customers were wowed with drink pairings, marrying flavors with each dish accordingly. In addition, any allergies or sensitivities to anything on the menu were accommodated by a concoction equally as delicious.
As the bill was paid prior to the meal and tip included in the fixed price, this left guests to casually chat and leave on their accord. Pop up restaurants welcome exposure to chefs to debut their savvy before hitting a larger stage. Until then, we enjoyed the exclusivity of the name PN for Pacific Northwest and 26 for the number of menus they set out each year. Meanwhile, Alex and Gabriel invite us to tour our corner of the USA through their menu’s personalized flavors, channeling Oregon’s terrain.
PN26 is currently on pause for several months as they work towards moving to a new location. Stay tuned on their website, http://www.pn26pdx.com for updates on their new venue and more captivating menus.
Yvonne Gill is a former American expat who spent time in Brisbane, Australia and Lyon, France. Her experiences ignited a wanderlust mentality, which keeps her dreaming about where in the world to explore next; or more realistically, how to travel at home through a book, movie, restaurant, or activity and she writes about it all onybexpat.com. She currently resides just outside of Portland with her husband and two young children.