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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.
In a dish emblematic of chef Katy Millard’s elegant-yet-comforting style, curlicues of pasta catch tender braised pork and crispy bits of fried sunchoke.
Katy Millard (trained in multiple star-spangled kitchens in France) and her wine-geek husband, Ksandek Podbielski, have polished Portland’s best “everyday” restaurant, and one of the best overall. Any neighborhood in the country would be happy to have it. Behold the revelations of a year of eating at Coquine.
Every year, Oregon takes a few steps closer to total Northwest domination, as evidenced by our state’s 18 James Beard Award semi-finalists, announced February 17. Best New Restaurant: Coquine
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.
Given its serene surroundings, coupled with the gentle pricing, Coquine feels like a hidden gem (for now anyway, until word spreads). Millard’s cooking is rooted in French techniques, but it’s also influenced by global cuisine. In her porchetta sandwich, the rich meat and cracklings are balanced by refreshing lemon, mint and basil. The confit duck wings are quickly fried, then bathed in a bracing lemon and Calabrian chili sauce. And don’t forget to save room for the addictive chocolate chip cookies, studded with artisanal chocolate, sea salt and smoked almonds.
Sometimes, as a critic, you gamble on a new restaurant, and it can go either way. Shortly after it opened, PoMo named Coquine the city’s next Rising Star, and it turned out to be a good call. Ten months in, Katy Millard (trained in multiple star-spangled kitchens in France) and her wine-savvy husband Ksandek Podbielski have evolved Coquine into Portland’s best “everyday” restaurant. Mornings deliver make-your-day buckwheat biscuits, beautiful salads define lunch, and an evening’s haul might include addictive shrimp toast crowned in pistachio biscotti crumbs or beautifully seared fish, backed by one of the city’s best wine lists.
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.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Earlier this year, all signs pointed to pedigree-loaded Italian spot Renata as a sure bet for best new restaurant -- so much so that a certain old-school paper in town named it such after two weeks, raising the hype to a degree that didn’t even allow the kitchen to work out its kinks. Renata’s doing fine, but amid all the hullabaloo, Coquine snuck in out at the base of Tabor and managed to become the city’s new darling not via hype, but by quietly making some of the city’s best food.
Coquine Is a French-Infused, Lady-Helmed Gem on Mt. Tabor
We sat, menus in hand, at a shaded sidewalk table at Coquine, gawking at the parade of plates brought straight from the kitchen by chef/owner Katy Millard and her mostly female cooking team. Plates of New York strip steak piled atop olive oil mashed potatoes; multi-colored tomatoes with fromage blanc and a flaky olive oil pasty; and clams with white beans, their open shells holding fennel broth and a summer shower of ice plant.
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.
Unlike the weather that day, there was no indecision around our 2016 Restaurant of the Year. Coquine is exactly what Millard and Podbielski hoped it would be: warm and comforting, equally perfect for a lazy Wednesday dinner or a 25th-anniversary celebration. It's a restaurant designed to serve its neighbors, but a must-visit for out-of-towners, too.
And that pasta? When we visited, it was plump girella (an elaborate noodle named for a child's top) with milk-braised pork ragu, a scattering of sunchoke chips and a shower of Parmesan. It was fantastic.
This comfy former supper club in the Mount Tabor neighborhood specializes in rustic, globally-inspired plates. Husband and wife co-owners Ksandek Podbielski and chef Katy Millard take care of everything, from managing the front of house, to the kitchen’s seasonal offerings. Upon first glance, the menu looks fairly straightforward, but is full of subtle surprises. Millard’s carrots, for example, are both raw and roasted, then topped with shaved hard-boiled egg and breadcrumbs for richness and crunch.
In the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, the new Coquine from chef Katy Millard is a narrow, accessible-wine-and-sandwich spot by day. Do yourself a favor and order the porchetta on ciabatta with cabbage, basil, mint, and lemon; sip a crisp white wine; and indulge in the perfect chocolate-chip cookie. In the evenings, the menu features dishes like black cod with fresh coco bianco, sweet pepper sofrito, and pancetta.
A chef trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in France opens an overachieving neighborhood restaurant on Mount Tabor.
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
In opening Coquine, Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski brought a new style of cuisine to Portland: upscale neighborhood casual. Through refined French cooking techniques, creative sourcing, and an expert wine list, Coquine has forced even hardcore urbanites to drive to its cozy Mount Tabor location.
It’s no longer a secret, but Coquine, Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski’s popular Mt. Tabor neighborhood restaurant (and Eater Portland 2015 Restaurant of the Year), keeps daily cafe hours. The morning menu’s a slim one, but it does offer a pork hash, a cheesy egg sandwich, and a variety of pastries, coffees, teas, and morning cocktails. Plus, you can try one of Millard’s signature chocolate chip cookies.
A visit to Coquine is like traveling to a vacationers' town in the center of Portland. High up in the tree-canopied, winding streets of Tabor, the little bistro may as well be up in the French countryside near where chef Katy Millard learned to cook from Michelin-starred chefs.