[INTRO TO GASTRONOMY] The collection of high-tech cooking techniques known collectively as âmolecular gastronomyâ have been foaming up the worldâs best kitchens for decades. But modernist restaurants are normally confined to the upper echelon, the sort of traveling foodies who consider Roeâs $65 tasting menu a steal. RaciÃ³n fits much better with the typical Portland budget. Anthony Cafieroâs West End restaurant presents the joys of sous vide pork loin and feta foam on small plates called raciones for $11 each. At happy hour, theyâre only $7, which means you can get what functions as an elaborate $42 tasting menu. Shared between a couple, it will come close to sating for $21 per person. The menu changes frequently, but Cafiero and his staff will explain everything about how a vacuum-sealed pouch inside the water oven allows meats to be ever-so-slowly brought up to the required temperature without danger of losing their juices and how tiny pearls of gelatinous truffle oil are made through the appetizing process of âsodium alginate/calcium lactate spherification.â Listen closely as you sip a cocktail. The drink program shines here, from a margarita ($8) made with sausage-flavored tequila and a salty foam that tastes like a wave perpetually suspended at the point of breaking to a mint julep served as a tall shot to be poured over a powdery herb-infused ice.
You won't go wrong with the $50 tasting menu, but you can approximate the experience at lower cost by just ordering one of everything. Oh, and get a cocktail or two.
All raciones are $7 during happy hour, from 5 to 6 pm.
Think of this as an experience, a chance to sample innovative fare without fully committing to the consumption of $100 worth of foam. Take picky and unadventurous eaters here. If they're still hungry later, you can plug their gullet with a big, greasy sandwich from Lardo next door.