Since moving back to Portland about a year ago, Le Pigeon is where I've enjoyed one of my best meals. Spot on, sophisticated meals. But, rumor has it they serve one of the best burgers in town, too.
The setting oozes Parisian bistronomy, the new term for the young French chefs of the city who train with the masters such as Ducasse and Gagnaire, then continue that ambitious level of cooking at bargain prices in cramped, Ikea furnished quarters. Le Pigeon’s atmosphere is a step up in elegance from those dining rooms, with luxurious silk curtains at the windows facing busy Burnside to one side, a communal table that seats most of the diners leading to cupboards holding various knick-knacks and the bottles of red wine poured by the glass. The wall is composed of exposed brick with a gigantic mirror, giving the room an industrious effect counter to the elegant curtains, candles, and soft lighting that makes everyone look ten years younger.
We were actually able to get a table for two when we walked in one day, but it is highly recommended that you make reservations. Foie all the things. California put a ban, and so we fled to another state where serving foie isn't a problem. In fact, at Le Pigeon that one evening, they had foie in every course, so we ordered all those courses (yes, even dessert!).
Rucker didn’t need the C.I.A. or any cooking schools for that matter, opening Le Pigeon a little over six years ago. Like so many of Portland’s outstanding restaurants, Le Pigeon is on the OTHER side of the Willamette River from Downtown, where destination restaurants and world class microbreweries alternate blocks with regular residential homes. It’s a strange feeling to have such an urbane, top-notch meal and then walk away through dozens of homes. Last year Rucker opened a more traditional French bistro Downtown called Little Bird (no Le Quail?) that received a nomination as best new restaurant from the James Beard Awards. Rucker trumped that by winning the James Beard last year for the Best Chef: Northwest. Having eaten many meals at his competitors’ restaurants the past few days, I would give him the vote too.