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2017 JAMES BEARD AWARD NOMINEE: Best Chef: Northwest
What makes a great neighborhood restaurant? Well, there has to be not-too-complicated, always satisfying food—the kind you can eat three nights a week and never get tired of. This is precisely the type of cooking that comes naturally to Coquine chef Katy Millard, who serves a juicy roast chicken family-style and prepares rustic craveable pastas, like curlicues called girella, coated with milk-braised pork ragù and topped with bits of crunchy fried sunchoke. The food also must be served in a comfortable room, like this corner space, decorated in the subtle earth tones and woven tapestries that tend to show up in the homes of people who’ve lived in Portland a long time. In a truly ideal scenario, the homey food and room are rounded out by a surprisingly ambitious wine list, and here that is most certainly the case, thanks to Millard’s husband, Ksandek Podbielski, who oversees the fun, funky, but still super-friendly selection.
We listened to the hum of night falling and marveled at our good fortune as chef Katy Millard, a veteran of Maison Troisgros in France and Coi in San Francisco, composed plainspoken poems with greens and fava beans and squid. The meal crested with a roast chicken, its skin crispy and glazed. If things got quieter at that point, it’s only because we were speechless.
Before they opened, chef Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski knew exactly what they wanted from Coquine.
The restaurant would be a reflection of themselves, a place to deposit all their passions and quirks, a second home for friends and an outlet for the farms where they held their first pop-ups. It would be formal enough for special occasion meals, yet not so fussy you couldn't drop by for a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta.
This bite-sized spot, from wife-and-husband team Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski, opened last summer to instant success. They focus on hyperseasonal ingredients paired with a constantly evolving list of wines from small producers, 30 percent of which are made in Oregon.
A small, French-style restaurant with sensational bostock: a little-known, much-deserving pastry made from day-old brioche and almond frangipane.
Portland highlights? Dinner at Coquine – where we had one of the most fragrant and subtle soups I’ve ever experienced. Really. Its haunting flavor drifted through my dreams last night. The main theme was matsutake (they’re everywhere in the Northwest at the moment), with pear – a brilliant combination. Just the right note of sweet crunch. But what made this memorable were little pearls of finger lime, adding tiny, tantalizing citric pops with each spoonful of soup. Music in the mouth.
Katy Millard is petite and doe-eyed, with a smile that zaps you like a ray gun. Don’t be fooled: She’s a kitchen beast. The girl requested artichokes for her grade-school birthdays and survived the fiery trenches of multiple star-spangled kitchens in France before earning “second in command” stripes at California’s famed Coi. Her wine-savvy husband, Ksandek Podbielski, is a host supreme and a logistics dynamo—Batman’s butler Alfred has nothing on him. In mid-July, they planted their first food flag on, of all places, a sleepy residential corner beneath idyllic Mt Tabor Park.