Its ripe for discovery
- Christina Melander
- Portland Tribune - Features
Using exquisite ingredients in its deliciously modified menu, In Good Taste's bistro is a precious Pearl find
Although the bistro at In Good Taste has been serving breakfast and lunch for a couple of years and is situated on busy Northwest Everett Street in the Pearl District, it is still something of an overlooked ruby in a tangle of blazing diamonds. For unless your passions include food Ñ not just consuming it but studying and cooking it Ñ you might never amble into the handsome, light-filled In Good Taste, which also incorporates a cooking school, catering business, kitchen goods store and wine shop.
That would be a shame because you don't need to be a foodie to appreciate the perfectly browned frittatas, salty salami panini and unerring desserts. And you need not possess even a passing interest in the sorbet-colored silicone spatulas or Microplane graters within reach of the casually integrated cafe tables to go gaga over the roasted halibut with onions agrodolce.
The halibut, offered frequently at In Good Taste as a brunch and lunch special, raises the question as to whether the fish seems so unexpectedly incredible because it's served at this understated cafe for only $12 or because it really is that good. A couple of bites of the downy fish Ñ only delicately browned to create toffee-colored edges Ñ and any suspicion that the setting is responsible for enhancing its flavor disappears. The crown of onions lives up to its Italian description, agrodolce, or sweet-and-sour; it is lightly caramelized but also peppery, with hints of anise. A thin moat of bell pepper reduction introduces yet another captivating, wonderfully complementary flavor.
Preceded by a tidy plate of sliced fresh fruit and followed up by dense caramel cheesecake or puff pastry with lemon curd, it is an ideal, moderately indulgent, lazy Sunday meal. And since there are no queues of hungry customers shooting poisonous looks your way, enjoying a fourth cup of inky Illy coffee is a guiltless endeavor.
A firm but moist frittata with asparagus, mushrooms and goat cheese corrals some of spring's most anticipated ingredients with enviable results. Eggs Benedict is another success, paired with crispy apple-smoked bacon and a sprightly hollandaise sauce that leavens the open-faced twin eggs rather than smothering them.
Pleasingly golden french toast has a satisfying eggy flavor and is embellished by warm pear and apple compote and cinnamon-honey butter, not to mention pure maple syrup. But it also is one instance in which the trusty baguette lets you down: This crusty bread is too tough and chewy when soaked in the egg mixture and pan-fried, making it difficult to cut into bite-sized pieces. Employing spongy brioche instead would solve that problem.
The half Cornish game hen also is a bit tough and, frankly, unexciting. Though it's roasted with honey and thyme, its flavor is weak, and its flesh dry. And remember, game hens are small, so, to some appetites, half a bird is more like an appetizer than an entree.
The Bistro Burger, served on a fresh roll with sharp cheddar and fried Yukon potatoes on the side, is a more substantial choice. Juicy and sweet with uneven edges, it's the kind of masterpiece burger that is mercifully becoming the norm at Portland's savvier cafes and bars.
With a recently revised menu, In Good Taste can hold its own among this esteemed group of bistros Ñ restaurants that depend upon seasonal, local products and top-shelf ingredients, which allow true flavors to shine the brightest. It may exist under the radar because it steers clear of the dinner game (except on First Thursdays), but the herd's lack of attention to In Good Taste is the informed diner's gain.