Journeyman chef Dave Farrell came to Portland to live the dream—after cooking in France and on the Northern California coast, he move someplace where he could afford to open his own restaurant. Six years later, he's still lying low, like the sculpin for which his Rose City Park restaurant is named.

Tucked next to cult favorite Hogan's Goat Pizza, Cabezon is decorated with dark wood and glass lamps that look like jellyfish.

Photo: Hilary Sander
Photo: Hilary Sander

Like so many personal projects, there are some blind spots. Both of the cocktails we had were dreadful—the margarita was like old honey with bee stingers stuck in it, cloyingly sweet but also sharp and somehow stabby. Two salads were competent, but nothing you couldn't easily do at Fred Meyer. A bowl of olives ($5) was notable only for being mountainous.

But Farrell and his crew have an uncommon touch with both fish and pasta. Perfectly al dente housemade tagliatelle was sauced with a wonderfully gamey and stewy lamb in a thin ragout, then topped with a sprinkle of salty pecorino.

A honkin' huge steak of Hawaiian ono was perfectly pink in the middle and just a tad overcooked on the edges, owing only to its generous bulk, a hiccup I'm very happy to forgive.

Photo: Hilary Sander
Photo: Hilary Sander

Pro tip: If you see two types of oysters on the menu, ask specific questions about their characteristics—on our visit one variety was very huge and the other was very salty.

GO: 5200 NE Sacramento St., 284-6617, cabezonrestaurant.com. 5:30-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-9:30 pm Friday-Saturday. $$$.