Heathman Restaurant and Bar

by Louis & Annette Bignami

The Heathman Restaurant, like it's namesake hotel which has been listed in the Conde Nast Traveler as one of the 100 best places to stay in the world, reflects the kind of understated quality found in the best European restaurants and hotels. Pale walls in yellow beige, recessed lights just bright enough to read a menu, and tables and comfortable high-backed leather chairs spaced with room even for the rotund hint at the wonder that wait. Andy Warhol's "Endangered Species" series add color at the main room's end to the understated decor. An exhibition kitchen presents lively culinary acitivity.

Service, like the food, defines perfection without pretense for Chef Philippe Boulot who, before he was lured back to Portland by both his pastry chef wife Susan, a Portland native, and his mania for fly-fishing, worked both service and food sides in Jole Pobuchon's legendary three star Chez Jamin in Paris.

Chef Boulot was chef at the Mark in New York where he won a Best Restaurant of the Year award from Esquire magazine in 1992. His approach combines French techniques and his Norman background with "the best local and seasonal ingredients."

Last visit we started with their special squab and I move to "crispy sweetbreads" that offered small juicy slices of moist sweetbreads with a crisp outer coating on tender strips of sautéed leeks. Sweetbreads, like plain roast chicken, do test a kitchen and Andrew Nordby, the Sous Chef, clearly had things under control while Chef Boulot, combine rod time with cooking seminars in Southern Oregon. Experts agree that the best test of a kitchen is when the chef's gone!

My wife hoarded her salad that combined pear poached in red wine and pomegranate. Presented with thin, crisp and sweet slices of fry, cooked pear, this dish rate, "the best pear salad ever." She followed this with properly poached lobster crisped on the grill, topped with a tarragon emulsion and served with a dab of marvelous mashed potatoes moistened with a lobster reduction and a side of tiny grilled asparagus. This went nicely with a glass of Oregon wine from the extensive list of Oregon and Washington wineries that complements and even larger list of wines from California and Europe.

I opted for a Norman rabbit dish that combined a fillet of the back saddle with a boned hindquarter. Perfectly crisp and buried under a sauce with finely diced apples that hinted of Calvados it precluded my ordering dessert. That turned out to be fortunate as it took two to finish my wife's Chocolate Gormandise, a warm chocolate cake with slightly sweet chocolate sauce and Susan Boulot's vanilla ice cream.

Salmon and SW Broadway/503.244.4100