Longtime Wildwood chef Adam Sappington consummates a marriage of Northwest ingredients, slow-cooked swine and traditional American cuisine. There are both gems and duds on the menu (the unsalted butter on the tables must go), but the new restaurant is moving in a positive direction. He butchers a hog every week, renders the fat, cures his own ham and bacon, and uses every last bit of it. His Manila clams, smoked country ham and sugar peas aren't done justice by a mint-heavy, not-so-sop-worthy broth, but the bacon-wrapped trout is a beautifully prepared fish wrapped in a house-cured pork tuxedo. Sappington finds God in a chowder pot pie that floats a faultless biscuit in a musky seafood brine teeming with life aquatic. Tragically, those biscuits don't appear elsewhere. Sappington's great-grandma cooked fried chicken at a Missouri state prison, and while he tweaks the family recipe by de-boning the buttermilk-soaked half birdie and finishing with spunky Tabasco vinaigrette, his cast-iron-skillet-fried chicken is worthy of its Bible Belt roots. Dessert features a peerless baked-to-order rhubarb pie, chocolate pudding and other creations, while the short yet well-rounded beer list won't leave you thirsty. (MT)
Signature dish: The Carlton Farms "Whole Hog" pig-parts sampler commingles fork-tender shoulder, a head-cheese croquette, a brined chop and a fatty belly in a puddle of swine reduction atop the best damn grits in Portland.
Standouts: The molasses-and-hickory smoked duck leg is Country Cat at its best. The smoked, confit-style, Viking-sized drumstick is gorgeously sweet and spanked with fennel. And add the "Heritage Burger," served on a squishy onion bun alongside a molehill of onion rings, to Portland's A-list.
Regrets: Country Cat can be noisy—really, really noisy. It would be nice if a place that charges nearly 20 bucks for fried chicken would figure out a way to ease up on the ear damage.