When Mike Siegel was chef and co-owner of Compass World Bistro, customers became so enamored of certain dishes that four couples once boycotted the restaurant until Siegel returned hazelnut chicken to the menu.
You won't find the filbert-encrusted chicken in the offing at Siegel's new venture, the Dining Room Restaurant. But die-hard fans who recall the thin-sliced meatloaf sandwich that last appeared at Compass six years ago will be happy to learn that it's back.
The Dining Room, set to open Saturday, Feb. 1, is replacing the Northeast location of Marco's Cafe. Instead of featuring the cuisine of a different country every three months as he did at Compass, Siegel intends to prepare what he believes to be true American cooking: the dishes that immigrants brought with them from their native countries.
'I grew up on Long Island in a household that was half southern Italian, half Russian. When you'd go over to a friend's house for dinner, you didn't realize that someone's grandmother who just came over had made the meal, but that's what it was,' Siegel explains. 'To me, that mix of ethnic dishes is what American cooking is all about.'
To that end, Siegel will make such dishes as Oregon Country Beef pot roast, served with his grandmother's potato kugel and sautŽed wild mushrooms.
At brunch, customers can expect some familiar omelets and Compass' trademark corn pudding. And Siegel plans to take advantage of his enormous new kitchen by making breads and, of course, desserts and ice cream.
He will be aided by sous-chef John Nesby, a Compass carry-over who was assistant sous-chef at Paley's Place before working with Siegel, and by pastry chef Scott Wilson, who plied his craft at Genoa for a spell.
To match the family-inspired fare, Siegel says he has tried to create a setting that feels like home Ñ 'something that doesn't feel too hot and stuffy in the summer but is warm and inviting during winter.'
A key design element of the restaurant is a mahogany facade that Compass partner Chris Migdol persuaded Siegel to buy before he even had a new restaurant space.
Migdol, who handled design and front-of-house operations at Compass, isn't involved in the Dining Room, though Siegel says he was instrumental in helping Siegel achieve this goal.
As for the other players in the deal, Marco's Cafe retains its popular Multnomah Village location, and the old Compass spot on Southeast Hawthorne is up for grabs.
The Dining Room Restaurant is at 3449 N.E. 24th Ave., 503-288-5500. It's open for lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; dinner, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; and brunch, 9 a.m. through 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.