Castagna has been in business for 19 years with the kitchen under the control of Justin Woodward for the last 6 years, who has been nominated for numerous awards. They offer 2 tastings with optional wine pairings or you can order from their reasonably priced wine list. The tables are nicely spaced with soft background music and fairly low lighting. It is a pretty small place but located right next door is their sister restaurant offering more casual fare from the same kitchen. Service is terrific and super friendly and the food is wonderful and memorable for the lovely aftertaste of most of the courses. Be prepared to have numerous courses not on the menu, but all small so portioning is not a problem even with the larger tasting.
Both tastings start with a rapid succession of dishes. The menu is available when ordering so it is easy to see what you would miss by going with the smaller tasting. We chose the larger tasting and ordered red and white wines to make our own pairing.
Snacks start the tasting. An English biscuit was topped with chicken liver mousse and then crowned with a little bit of seaweed. It was yummy It was served with a small radish with a dot of tarragon cream that was nicely strong. The radish was slightly pickled and very crisp.
Beet chips filled with smoked beef tartar that left a wonderful aftertaste. The tartar was almost fruity with an absolutely thin, crisp chip on top.
Green beans were served blistered with tiny seabeans with a dab of citrus butter. Incredibly delicate and totally fresh the flavor of the beans was really enhanced with the lightly salted butter. As tender as you can image it was wonderful.
A Blue Pool Oyster from Washington state by Hama Hama was served with a bay leaf and some purslane. It was a soft and velvety pillow of sweet oyster flavor. Not too briny and the herbs were a perfect accent.
Olive oil and rye rolls were served with browned butter and smoked pork lardo with hazelnuts. The rolls had a lovely crisp bottom and a nice doughy interior, so good they really didn’t need either spread, but it you did the lardo was nicely smokey and the butter rich.
The tasting’s first course was Dungeness crab with celery root and fermented garlic alongside a cup of fresh pressed cider. All mixed together for great combinations. The celery root and garlic were perfect mixed with the crab. The garlic had been soaked in buttermilk to draw out the strong taste and was just lovely in the dish. Delicious and so was the fresh apple cider.
The Fish Box course included sashimi of Japanese grouper with opal basil and ginger oil. The mackerel was served with tomato water and seaweed. The mackerel was nice and firm and the tomato water was a nice contrast with it. The grouper was less firm but was great with the ginger seasoning. The course is called fish box as its content is determined by what the kitchen gets in their shipment from Japan. They never know ahead of time and so must plan a new dish every other day when the shipment arrives.
Geoduck was mixed with bay and capers. It was tossed in a clam emulsion made from locally sourced clams. The geoduck was firm but chewy, perfect with a good aftertaste. It was a treat as it’s not always available here.
Seared squid was served with baby fennel and pickled and then grilled garlic scapes. The squid was tender and well complimented by the strong tastes of the other ingredients. Everything mixed well and the grilled taste of one blended into the others. Another wonderful aftertaste to the dish.
Lightly cherrywood smoked trout was accompanied by a Valencia orange and heirloom carrot sauce and some wilted sorrel. The sauce was sweet was studded with some trout roe and worked perfectly with the trout. It was another good dish.
Poached halibut was served with a porcini and hazelnut sauce and broccoli leaves. The halibut remained nicely moist as it was lightly cooked and the mushroom sauce was outstanding. This course was not as “in your face” as the others but nevertheless quite good.
Foie gras was served with hibiscus leaves gel alongside a nectarine muffin. Both were completely yummy. The muffin was soft and sweet; the foie gras was mild but wonderful mixed with the muffin.
A purée of pocha bean (white bean) was mixed with infused cream and used to cover sungold cherry tomatoes. The bean mixture didn’t have a strong flavor but it did have a wonderful texture and was a perfect accompaniment for the good tomatoes.
A nicely rare piece of rack of lamb meat was served with chicory. It was tasty and tender.
Zabuton, allium and opal basil was a piece of beef flap meat with oxtail juice served alongside red shiso and opal basil pesto in an onion cup. The tender and buttery meat must have been cooked in a sous vide to keep it so perfectly rare. Very nice but not so sure about the onion cup.
A palate cleanser was sake ice and a spoonful of melon gelee with salsify vinegar. The latter was tastier one.
The first dessert was spruce ice cream with raspberries served on a really cold stone. The ice cream was totally creamy with excellent little raspberries – a nice combo. It was served with an almond sponge cake topped with raspberry dust that was nutty and chewy and a cream puff that was filled with Meyer lemon and dusted with green tea.
Sourdough ice cream with white chocolate was served with caramelized grapes. It was quite good.
Potato and coriander ice cream was made with potato skins and aged buttermilk and topped with meringue. It was killer! Very good with a nice textural crunch contrast. It was sweet and a perfect combination.
The last treat, coconut and almond ice cream was a play on an Almond Joy candy bar. Lots of coconut in the texture but not as strong a flavor as you’d expect and the almonds had very little taste. Nice but not nearly as good as the previous offering.
2 thoughts on “Castagna, Portland, 10/13/17”
Helen, this was a great blog! I would not have been able to eat a lot of those foods, especially right now, lol, but you did and do a fantastic job! I love the pictures and the explanations of the food, and Frankie is a very good companion, too! Great job!
Thanks Dana! Hope you’ll be feeling better soon and off for more dining adventures ( or maybe dancing too in your case,)